Did you know if you vote Republican you are conservative and if you vote Democrat you are a liberal? Wait, do Sens. Manchin or Sinema know? Okay, that’s not fair. For the bulk of Democrats and Republicans, Democrat means liberal and Republican means conservative. Or so I’m told.

This is the foundation for the argument that law professors are liberal. Using voter registration records, campaign donations, and self-identification, we can determine that the bulk of law professors are Democrats. That makes them liberal because they vote and donate money to Democrats, and self-identify as liberal. So if I gave money to Manchin … never mind. That’s the same joke twice.

How about if I gave money just once? On this binary scale, does it matter if it is AOC or Hillary? Also, are professors more “liberal” than the rest of the population of people with similar levels of income and education levels? More so than people who grew up in their same zip codes? In fairness, some studies try to control for things like where law professors went to law school and expertise. But there are a lot that are left in the noise.

For some, that noise doesn’t matter. Law professors are liberal! And that’s bad.

But, I’m not sure the word means what people think it means. There is a lot of overlap between what Democrat and Republican groups do. Let’s try some test questions just for fun:

Which President engaged in an extrajudicial killing of a terrorist?’

  1. Donald Trump
  2. Barack Obama
  3. West Wing’s Jed Bartlett
  4. All of the above
  5. None of the above

Which President engaged in concealment of a health condition?

  1. Donald Trump
  2. Barack Obama
  3. Jed Bartlett
  4. All of the above
  5. Both 1 and 3

Which President has demonstrated fiscal responsibility by balancing the budget?

  1. Donald Trump
  2. Barack Obama
  3. Jed Bartlett
  4. All of the above
  5. None of the above

Which Democrat voted in favor of the Defense of Marriage Act?

  1. Joe Biden
  2. Chuck Schumer
  3. Harry Reid
  4. All of the above
  5. None of the above

Who closed Gitmo such that no prisoners are housed there?

  1. Donald Trump
  2. Barack Obama
  3. Jed Bartlett
  4. All of the above
  5. None of the above

Which President had the most drone strikes?

  1. Donald Trump
  2. Barack Obama
  3. Jed Bartlett
  4. Joe Biden
  5. None of the above

Which of the following Supreme Court Justice has had the most diverse group of clerks?

  1. RBG
  2. Thomas
  3. Sotomayor
  4. Roberts

Which Justice had another Justice friend who almost never hired a Black or Brown clerk?

  1. Roberts
  2. Thomas
  3. RBG
  4. Scalia

Which President opposed abortion?

  1. Trump
  2. Biden
  3. Bartlett
  4. Both 1 and 3
  5. None of the above

On average, which law professors are more likely to believe that Yale and Harvard are the best places to land an article?

  1. Republican law professors
  2. Democrat law professors

Law professors are:

  1. BLM supporters
  2. Not frequent hirers of Black law professors
  3. All of the above
  4. None of the above

What’s the correct answers to those questions? It doesn’t matter. What matters is that the answer is not necessarily what you think it might be if you think that registering as a Democrat or a Republican signals your “liberal” or “conservative” preferences.

And perhaps degree matters. But that would require some thought beyond the traditional “who plays for which football teams.” What practices make a professor extremely liberal or extremely conservative? Moderately so? Centrist? I doubt we could all agree on those terms. But until we do, the identification process is pretty useless.

But using voter registration and donations is a GREAT way to argue that more (white) conservative law professors ought to be hired. Because, after all, all those LIBERAL law professors won’t give the students the truth about the law and things of that sort.

But wait, you might say. People CLASSIFY themselves as liberal and conservative. And those law professors who are Democrats are more likely to self-identify as liberal.

I’m sure they do. But that’s like a liberal Dunning-Kruger effect. I can claim I’m more liberal and woke as I continue to believe in a hierarchical structure that perpetuates my greatness while establishing hard-core barriers to people who are poor and/or not white. I can claim being a liberal as I cheerlead for more faculty who graduated from three schools, ignoring other candidates. I can hire predominantly white and male professors based upon where they went to school, ignoring the inherent barriers to entry that those hierarchies cause. I can claim to be liberal while doing so! And I can do so by preaching that I voted for Obama and Biden!

Being liberal is my shield to any attack. One that, on a binary scale of liberal and conservative, a conservative might support because I am less conservative than they are.

Not that self-identification means much. One hundred percent of respondents self-identify as excellent drivers when asked about their performance on the highway.

As a conservative faculty member, I can claim that I’m discriminated against because, despite the fact there seem to be a lot of us, there are MORE Democrats who are liberal. So my climb to the top is MORE remarkable because the strikes are against me because of the liberal law professors inclined to vote against my tenure. And my speech is oppressed when I try to say a racial epithet in class and pretend it has to do with pedagogy.

Not being liberal is my shield to any attack. One “liberal” professors might support because of their self-perceived liberal identity.

Do you see the trap? Here, I’ll put on my conspiracy theorist hat for a second: By claiming the law professors are largely liberal, we can claim the need to destroy the liberal institutions. Install more conservative people.  Kill tenure. Because conservative tenured law professors love to write about how tenure isn’t needed.

It’s a trap for conservative law professors as well. Because to be identified as a conservative, I must engage in more extreme takes than the traditional academy.  As an example, a traditionally conservative take about fiscal responsibility or corporate structure or antitrust seems lost when you put it in the context of the political football teams. It’s easier for the academy to dismiss my ideas because of who I am and not because of their veracity. The more I play the “they are all liberal” game, the more I lose.

But: What if those “liberal” law professors are already conservative in many ways? Is it like when I was in soccer as a child and I identified as a “Falcon” (or whatever my team name was) but in reality I was scoring goals for the other team?

As always, the game is rigged. As are the labels people seek to put on the players in the game.

Addendum: As soon as I announced on Twitter that I would be posting this, there was pushback. In the sense of “I haven’t read your blog post yet but I can already tell it’s wrong.” But, in the discussion came some excellent additional points.

Claiming to be liberal, signaling liberal by voting for a particular party or making donations is not the same as being liberal. Thinking liberal thoughts is not doing liberal deeds. Ask any law student who has asked a law school for accommodations and got some level of shade for wondering if they are getting “the gift of extra time.” Or had a professor or dean suggest they did not have a disability.  Ask any law professor who has had terror in the face of overwhelming white colleagues. Ask anyone who has been overwhelmingly selected to be on a hiring committee to be the face of diversity. Ask any law professor who isn’t tenure track about all that talk of equality.

What would be liberal? Rejection of hierarchies that perpetuate race, class, and gender biases? Rejection of the notion that we consider the value of ideas based upon the anti-intellectual foundations of who said them and in which journals those ideas found a home? Perhaps embracing of differences instead of creating isolation and “academic terror” and an “unequal profession?” Perhaps discourse based on facts and veracity of theories instead of labels?

It boggles the mind.


LawProfBlawg is an anonymous professor at a top 100 law school. You can see more of his musings hereHe is way funnier on social media, he claims. Please follow him on Twitter (@lawprofblawg). Email him at lawprofblawg@gmail.com.





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