Tag Archive for Finn

Finn in The Conversation: How the Alt-Right Corrupts the Constitution

John Finn

John Finn

Wesleyan faculty frequently publish articles based on their scholarship in The Conversation US, a nonprofit news organization with the tagline, “Academic rigor, journalistic flair.” In a new article, Professor Emeritus of Government John Finn shares his research—as featured in his new book, Fracturing the Founding: How the Alt-Right Corrupts the Constitution—showing how the alt-right and a wide variety of extremist organizations advance a comprehensive—if not entirely comprehensible—vision of the American Constitution.

How the alt-right corrupts the Constitution

About 10 years ago, I spent a sabbatical on the Maine coast writing a book about the Constitution.

One afternoon, an eager reference librarian who knew about my interests invited me to a talk at the library. The featured speaker was a woman who proudly called herself a “Constitutional Patriot.”

The speaker was self-educated and her message was simple: Liberal elites – judges, politicians and academics – had perverted the meaning of the “True Constitution.”

Getting the Constitution “right,” in her view and in the view of a great many far-right conservative groups and organizations, all of them constitutional patriots of a sort, means understanding the Constitution as the Founders understood it.

In New Book, Finn Explains How the Alt-Right Corrupts the Constitution

John Finn

John Finn, professor emeritus of government, is the author of Fracturing the Founding: How the Alt-Right Corrupts the Constitution, published by Rowman & Littlefield in 2019. Finn is an internationally recognized expert on constitutional theory, the rule of law and political violence, and the First Amendment. His public lectures include testimony before the House Judiciary Committee, as well as lectures in Bolivia, Canada, Chile, England, France, Italy, and Spain.

Many in the radical right, including the Tea Party, the militia movement, the alt-right, Christian nationalists, the Oath Keepers, neo-Nazis, and a host of others, brand themselves as constitutional patriots. In Fracturing the Founding, Finn argues that these professions of constitutional devotion serve an important function in mainstreaming the radical right’s ideological and policy agenda: to camouflage its racism, bigotry, and sexism to appeal to a broader audience.

According to the publisher:

The constitution the extreme right holds as its faith is an odd admixture of the forgotten, the rejected, the racist, and the bizarre. Finn illuminates the central precepts of the Alt-constitution and shows how and where it differs from the (true) American Constitution. The differences are disturbing. The Alt-constitution emphasizes absolute rights and unassailable liberties (especially for freedom of speech and guns, no matter the public interest), states’ rights and a corresponding suspicion of the federal government, racial classifications recognized and legitimated by law, and privilege for white Christians. Finn’s book will appeal to all readers interested in contemporary American politics, the contemporary radical right, the founding and the history of America’s constitution.

Finn also is the author of three other books on constitutional theory and law: Peopling the Constitution (2014), American Constitutional Law: Essays, Cases, and Comparative Notes 4th ed. (2018), and Constitutions in Crisis: Political Violence and the Rule of Law (1991). Finn also has been published in several law reviews, including the Columbia Journal of Transnational Law, Constitutional Commentary, New York University Journal of Law and International Politics, and Georgetown Law Journal.

Finn Suggests Recipes Invite the Cook to Experience and Perform, Rather than Simply Reading Them

John Finn

John Finn

John Finn, professor of government, is the author of an article published in Table Matters, an interdisciplinary journal of food, drink and manners.

Titled “How Does a Recipe Mean: Interpreting the Recipe as a Text,” Finn makes the argument that recipes invite the cook to experience and perform them, rather than simply read them. Using the classic work “How Does a Poem Mean,” by John Ciardi, Finn draws a connection between poems and recipes through Ciardi’s idea that a “poem cannot be defined by dictionaries or understood simply by reading or memorizing it. It can be know only though experience. The question we should ask…is not what a poem means, but how it means.”

Cooking, writes Finn, is an active task. “One has to cook a recipe to know how it means … The recipe becomes yours, and you become the recipe.”

At Wesleyan, Finn teaches courses in constitutional theory and public law, as well as in cuisine and popular culture.
Finn’s scholarship and writing in the field of food studies lay at the intersection of food, recipes and politics. His other published works in food studies include an entry on “Measurements,” in The Oxford Companion to Sweets (2015), an essay on Julia Child in Gastronomica (2007), and articles on “The Perfect Recipe,” (2011) and “The Kitchen Voice as Confessional,” (2004) in Food, Culture & Society.

Professor Finn earned his BA in political science from Nasson College, a JD from Georgetown University, and a PhD in political science from Princeton University. He also has a degree from the French Culinary Institute.

Finn’s New Book Offers Moral, Philosophical Interpretation of Constitution

Book by John Finn.

Book by John Finn.

John Finn, professor of government, is the author of Peopling the Constitution (Constitutional Thinking), published by the University Press of Kansas on Feb. 24.

According to the University Press of Kansas, Peopling the Constitution outlines a very different view of the Constitution as a moral and philosophical statement about who we are as a nation. This “Civic Constitution” constitutes us as a civic body politic, transforming “the people” into a singular political entity. Juxtaposing this view with the legal model, the “Juridic Constitution,” Finn offers a comprehensive account of the Civic Constitution as a public affirmation of the shared principles of national self-identity, and as a particular vision of political community in which we the people play a significant and ongoing role in achieving a constitutional way of life. The Civic Constitution is the constitution of dialogical engagement, of contested meanings, of political principles, of education, of conversation.

Peopling the Constitution offers a new interpretation of the American constitutional project in an effort to revive a robust understanding of citizenship. It considers the entire constitutional project, from its founding and maintenance to its failure, with insights into topics ranging from the practice of deliberative democracy and the meaning of citizenship, to constitutional fidelity, civic virtue, the separation of powers, federalism, and constitutional interpretation. The Civic Constitution, in Finn’s telling, is primarily a political project requiring an active, engaged, and most importantly, constitutionally educated citizenry committed to the civic virtues of civility and tending. When we as citizens are unwilling or unable to tend to and sustain the Constitution, and when constitutional questions reduce to legal questions and obscure civic interests, constitutional rot results. And in post-9/11 America, Finn argues, constitutional rot has begun to set in.

Finn Records Audio Series on the First Amendment

John Finn, professor of government

John Finn, professor of government.

John Finn, professor of government, recently finished recording a 12 lecture audio series on the First Amendment for “The Great Courses,” which offers college courses by engaging professors.

Finn’s course on “The First Amendment and You: What Everyone Should Know,” is a practical guide to understanding the protections and limitations implied by this fundamental constitutional provision.

Finn, an internationally-recognized expert on constitutional law and theory, helps listeners grasp why we have a First Amendment, what and whom it protects, and why it matters. Finn is also an internationally-recognized expert on constitutional law and political violence. His public lectures include testimony before the House Judiciary Committee, as well as lectures in Bolivia, Canada, Chile, England, France, Italy and Spain.

This is Finn’s second course for the Teaching Company. His other course is on “Civil Liberties and the Bill of Rights.”

For more information or to purchase the recording, visit The Great Courses website.

‘ObamaCare’ Law Signed – But Is It Constitutional?

John Finn, professor of government, has written widely on constitutional law issues.

John Finn, professor of government, has written widely on constitutional law issues.

The national health insurance legislation, colloquially known as “ObamaCare,” passed recently by the U.S. Congress and signed by President Obama is historic. However, almost as soon as it became law, several pundits, journalists and lawmakers – as well as law suits filed by the attorney generals from 18 states – began asking the same question: is ObamaCare constitutional?

“If you are looking for a specific clause in the Constitution that explicitly authorizes the national government to regulate the subject of health care, then the answer is obviously no,” says John Finn, professor of government, who has written and commented widely on constitutional law issues. “But then again, most of what contemporary governments do is not explicitly authorized by the Constitution.”

Clearly, the writers of the U.S. Constitution did not foresee the onset of the modern welfare state and the types of services, regulation and economic oversight that has come with it. Yet, the broad construct of the Constitution’s language has allowed for expansive interpretations by both legislators and the courts since the document went into force in 1789.

“The Founders did not anticipate so many