Harvard Law School professor Adrian Vermeule’s work generally occupies the cell phone lot outside Fascism International Airport, but this week he took a spin through by the terminal just to check on the arrivals. Vermeule champions a model of government that he calls “common-good constitutionalism,” a sort of discount theocracy that mixes the social justice and anti-poverty concerns of old school Catholicism… with the draconian sexual and moral persecution of old school Catholicism.
Somehow, he’s usually way more upset that America isn’t doing more about the second half. And this week he’s really hot and bothered about a baseball team.
For the non-sports fans out there, the Los Angeles Dodgers hold a Pride Night event and had invited the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, a non-profit group the describes itself as “a leading-edge Order of queer and trans nuns,” to participate. The group uses religious iconography as part of its challenge to sexual intolerance. After the inevitable backlash — driven by a clutch of conservative Catholics claiming that the organization is a hate group because it wears outfits that most Catholic nuns gave up years ago — the Dodgers revoked the invitation. This precipitated the back-backlash where reasonable people pointed out that that’s not what the term “hate group” means and the Dodgers reversed course.
This got Vermeule so worked up you’d think they’d nailed 95 theses to the bullpen door.
Of course this guy pays for Twitter.
Anyway, Vermeule thinks it’s time to “make corporate entities feel the sting of political enmity.” Very cool, very normal way for law professors to talk.
Unfortunately, this talk is in line with the now fashionable right-wing bashing of ESG efforts — where investors use their dollars to encourage companies to pursue environmental and social goals — with Republican officials openly threatening law firms for advising private clients to privately act in ways that make the GOP sad. While Vermeule opens this Tweet by restating his ongoing beef with fellow conservatives as too “libertarian,” in actuality, he’s very much in line with the movement’s fascination with deploying state power to “sting” their political enemies — especially when those enemies make up the majority of the country.
Vermeule thinks that Originalism is an intellectually vapid fig leaf for imposing naked political goals… which is true. And there’s some value in calling out Originalism’s effort to Trojan Horse its way into the law. We’ve been doing that here for a while. But there’s also something to be said for the rhetorical shift from concocting pseudo-logical legal philosophies to advance a movement to openly calling for state power to mete out punishment without any grounding in constitutional reflects a dangerous shift in American political discourse.
Fascism is, for lack of a better term, fashionable. And that’s worrisome not because it could succeed — which is a risk — but because of the political violence it justifies along the way. Because once a group of people decide that state violence is good, when they don’t have access to the state there’s only one logical option left.
That’s the problem with this rhetoric. No one expects Vermeule to literally get the solution he proposes here.
On the other hand…
Earlier: Hey, Can Someone At Harvard Law School Check In On Adrian Vermeule?
Arch-Conservative Law Professor Starting To Suspect Conservative Legal Movement Just A Bunch Of Pseudo-Law Made Up For Partisan Goals