Ideas with Consequences: The Federalist Society and the Conservative Counterrevolution

ISBN : 9780199385522

Amanda Hollis-Brusky
264 Pages
162 x 241 mm
Pub date
Feb 2015
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The Federalist Society, which has been in existence for three decades, is one of the most successful intellectual movements in modern American political history. It began as a relatively small organization of conservative lawyers dedicated to eroding the national government's power in virtually every arena except defense and enhancing the power of states vis-a-vis the federal government. It now has 40,000 members, including four Supreme Court Justices, dozens of federal judges, and every Republican attorney general since the 1980s. Indeed, when Republican presidents have nominated judges, Federalist Society membership has served as the seal of approval. The Federalist Society's influence on American politics is well-known. But how, exactly, does it exert that influence? In Ideas with Consequences, Amanda Hollis-Brusky brilliantly traces how the Federalist Society does this. Drawing on a database of over 2,000 original and primary documents, including personal interviews with Federalist Society members, archival data, and a complete database of transcripts from Federalist Society National Conferences, Hollis-Brusky constructs the most complete and social scientific narrative of Federalist Society influence to date. In doing so, she shows how the Federalist Society serves as the hub of a complex circulatory system and how the ideas it generates have become the lifeblood of the conservative movement. In the areas of gun rights, campaign finance, federalism, and state sovereignty, Hollis-Brusky demonstrates how the Federalist Society's investment in ideas, professional education, and networking has resulted in some of the most revolutionary Supreme Court decisions of the past three decades. Hollis-Brusky also illustrates the ways in which the Federalist Society network worked to help bring these constitutional revolutions about in the first place-by identifying, credentialing, and getting the right kinds of judges and Justices on the bench, and by reducing the stigma associated with once-radical constitutional theories. Not only a rich story of the conservative legal movement, Ideas with Consequences also develops a powerful social scientific framework for analyzing the ways in which interest groups and networks influence legal and judicial policy in America.


1. Understanding Federalist Society Network Influence
Part I: The State Exists to Preserve Freedom
2. The Right of the People to Keep and Bear Arms: Lost and Found
3. Judicial Activism, Inc.: The First Amendment, Campaign Finance, and Citizens United
Part II: The Separation of Governmental Powers is Central to Our Constitution
4. Federalism and the Commerce Power: Returning to "
5. State Sovereignty and the Tenth Amendment: The Anti-Commandeering Doctrine
Part III: It is Emphatically the Province and Duty of the Judiciary Branch to Say What the Law Is, Not What It Should Be
6. Saying What the Law Is: The Federalist Society and the Conservative Counterrevolution
Appendix A - An Agenda for Future Research: Looking Back, Looking Forward
Appendix B - List of Interviews

About the author: 

Assistant Professor of Political Science, Pomona College

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