Commentary

The Fed Soc Debate Turns Inward

| Nov 19, 2021

The Federalist Society’s National Lawyers Convention is an annual homecoming that matches the most loyal university’s affair in zeal and affection. The Mayflower Hotel in Washington fills with tenured law professors fleeing starstruck 1Ls, federal judges holding court about baseball around coffee stations, and warm reunions for friendships begun in student and lawyer chapters around the country.

Fed Soc’s founding by conservatives who felt isolated, adrift, and unwelcome in elite law schools has instilled the organization with a spirit of camaraderie and mutual support, and the national convention is a testament to the home the conservative legal movement has built for itself. A quick glance through the themes that have keyed the convention in recent years yields a greatest-hits list of the issues that have united and spurred the movement’s efforts: the rule of law, agency accountability, the role of judges, and the structural limits of our constitutional government.

This year’s convention was different. The theme, “Public and Private Power: Preserving Freedom or Preventing Harm?,” raises a question that conservatives are debating vigorously amongst themselves. Fed Soc deserves high praise for leaning into it, acknowledging the degree to which some of the settled orthodoxies on which it built its coalition in the 1980s may require rethinking.

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Wesley Hodges is the coalitions director at American Compass.

@wesghodges