If the current Supreme Court had held comparable office in Weimar Germany, that is, its opinion in Trump v. United States would have rendered the judgment in this post’s headline. Never mind that the Weimar Constitution was different from the U.S. Constitution (importantly, in granting emergency powers to the President to rule by decree under Article 48). For, as Justice Sotomayor rightly observes in her blistering dissent, the majority’s decision that the President enjoys absolute immunity for his official acts has “no firm grounding in constitutional text, history, or precedent” (quoting Alito’s characterization of Roe v. Wade in Dobbs).

So let us set aside the law, which has nothing to do with how the Court majority arrived at its opinion. I am here to explore the majority’s mindset, which leads it down the path to utter lawlessness, and opens the door to dictatorship. Justice Roberts disparages this worry as overblown, much as Hindenburg imagined that Hitler was a mere blowhard, no real danger to the Republic. Never mind that Trump, like Hitler, habitually announces his malign intentions in advance–that he will not honor any election that does not place him in office, that he will abuse the powers of the President to wreak vengeance on his enemies, that he will rule as a dictator (on “day one,”–but now the Court has granted him a license for at least a 4-year term). Such announcements are the only times when it is prudent to take Trump at his word.

Roberts, like everyone else on the Court, knows that Trump conspired to overthrow the results of the 2020 election and stay in power by inciting a mob to shut down Congress’s counting of electoral votes. What could make him imagine that Trump’s actions were, if not lawful, then beyond the reach of any controlling law?

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Advice on faculty job application letters

by Eszter Hargittai on July 2, 2024

I’m hosting a couple of professionalization discussions for our PhD candidates and postdocs this summer, informal conversations to help them navigate the crazy academic job market. A few weeks ago we discussed job talks as the department had just had a bunch of candidates visit (very different schedule here in Europe than the US) and we’ve had quite a few such talks over the past few years. Debriefing seemed like a good idea. After that conversation, people requested that we have a session specifically about job application letters so that’s coming up next. I’m writing now to seek your input on what works and what doesn’t. I can imagine that some of this is field-dependent, but I also suspect many aspects are generalizable.

My experiences with reading letters are a bit ridiculous in terms of volume at this point. I’ve been at the University of Zurich for eight years and have served on as many search committees. These have mostly concerned my own department (communication and media research), but a couple of times it was a search in political science and now one in sociology. It is standard to have people from other departments (and even other universities) on search committees here, very different from US practice (in my experience). I had also served on several search committees while at Northwestern and have served as an external member on some committees elsewhere in Europe so you can do the math on how many letters I’ve read over the years.

One of my biggest pieces of advice is for candidates to show rather than tell committee members about their accomplishments. I always cringe when I read things like “I am a leading researcher in the area of” (especially since most of these positions are for junior scholars, but I don’t like to see this even from a senior scholar). Rather than stating that “I’m a very accomplished scholar,” applicants should list their tangible accomplishments such as “I have published in x, I have won award y, I currently hold competitive fellowship z.”

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