In a bridge to the broader university community, Cornell Law helped inaugurate the multi-disciplinary John E. Sawyer Seminar on Political Will with a talk by Sanford V. Levinson in the new academic wing. Based on a lecture published last summer in the Saint Louis University Law Journal, "Who Counts?" "Sez Who?" raised essential questions about the nature of political representation, beginning with the Constitution's three-fifths compromise and continuing into the present with voter identification laws and the referendum for Scottish independence.
"Every counting rule implies an exclusionary rule," said Levinson, the W. St. John Garwood and W. St. John Garwood Jr. Centennial Chair and Professor of Government at the University of Texas Law School, who has written extensively on American legal and political history, including the landmark Where the Constitution Goes Wrong (and How We the People Can Correct It. "Eligibility to vote is not a natural quality. Everyone is gaming the system, trying to manipulate the outcome."
In one example of counting, Levinson talked about the Founding Fathers' assumptions about who constituted "we the people," which deliberately excluded slaves, indentured servants, and Native Americans, and granted only virtual representation to women through their brothers, fathers, and husbands. In others, Levinson discussed resident aliens, felons, college students, fetuses, orcas, chimpanzees, Republicans In Name Only (RINO), American jihadists, Roman Catholics, and Jews whose mothers aren't Jewish. In between, Levinson parsed the distinctions between "who counts" in terms of the people doing the counting, the people being counted, and the people who feel they "count" in the political process.
Levinson was followed by two respondents: Richard S. Markovits, the John B. Connally Chair at the University of Texas Law School, who provided an economic interpretation of who does and doesn't count; and Phillip Bobbitt, the Herbert Wechsler Professor of Federal Jurisprudence at Columbia Law School, who focused on the emergence of twenty-first-century market states alongside extant nineteenth- and twentieth-century nation states.
In the coming months, the Seminar, with primary support from the Mellon Foundation, will continue at Myron Taylor Hall and Goldwin Smith Hall, with speakers coming from Columbia University, Harvard Law School, Kingston University, Stanford University, the University of California-Berkeley, and the University of Chicago. Organized by eight Cornell faculty members, including Associate Professor Aziz Rana, who moderated the opening event, the series will feature experts in anthropology, comparative literature, history, law, and political theory, each covering a different aspect of the over-arching theme of "political will."
The John E. Sawyer Seminar on Political Will is primarily sponsored by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, with additional support from Cornell Law School's Robert S. Stevens Lecture Fund and the Cornell Society for the Humanities.