“If we turn our attention to how the infrastructure of our civic and political life could be improved—how the rules could work for us, institutions could be revitalized, systems could be modernized, and frustrations could be eased—we will find that every attempt makes every other more plausible and that the ethic of our political culture can gradually be mended and made whole.”

—Yuval Levin, “Make the 2020s a Decade of Reform,” Governing Priorities

 

Faced with intense challenges and threats to our free society, we have to recommit to the core ideals of liberty, order, family, community, constitutionalism, and human dignity, and we have to search for ways to revitalize our society's institutions in light of those ideals. The scholars of AEI's Social, Cultural, and Constitutional Studies research department are working to do just that through scholarship that articulates the principles that ought to underlie American life and aims to strengthen and renew the institutions that make such vitality possible.



Charles Murray examined academic dogmas through the latest scientific discoveries in neuroscience, biology, and genetics in his latest book, Human Diversity: The Biology of Gender, Race, and Class (Twelve, 2020). The book was released at a January event at AEI, featuring Murray in discussion with Princeton University's Dalton Conley, which was broadcast live on C-SPAN's Booknotes. Murray also appeared on Fox News' Fox & Friends, several podcasts and radio shows, and published an op-ed about the book's themes in the Wall Street Journal.

▮ Eight AEI scholars—Michael Barone, Arthur C. Brooks, Nicholas Eberstadt, Jonah Goldberg, Yuval Levin, Ramesh Ponnuru, Naomi Schaefer Riley, and Ian Rowe—contributed essays to How to Educate an American: The Conservative Vision for Tomorrow's Schools (Templeton Press, February 2020), spanning topics such as history, civics, citizenship, character and purpose, schools and families, and the conservative education agenda. AEI held a release web event for the book featuring several contributors in May.

Karlyn Bowman's contributions to public opinion were recognized with the Warren J. Mitofsky Award for Excellence in Public Opinion Research. Given by the Roper Center for Public Opinion Research at Cornell University, the award recognizes important work on public opinion and survey methodology.

▮ AEI's Election Watch, the longest-running election analysis event in Washington, marked its 20th season. Featuring insights and commentary from Michael Barone, Karlyn Bowman, and Norman J. Ornstein, as well as John Fortier (Bipartisan Policy Center) and Henry Olsen (Ethics & Public Policy Center), Election Watch covered the fundamentals of the 2020 contests over four gatherings in February, September, October, and the day following the election in November.

Thomas Chatterton Williams joined AEI as a nonresident fellow in December. He is a contributing writer at the New York Times, a columnist at Harper's, and most recently, the author of Self-Portrait in Black and White: Unlearning Race (W.W. Norton & Company, 2019). At AEI, Williams will pursue his next book project—an exploration of the sources of illiberalism on the left and right.
Andrew Ferguson, a staff writer at the Atlantic and former senior editor at the Weekly Standard, joined AEI as a visiting fellow in October. As an AEI fellow, he will be working on a book on President Richard Nixon's cultural footprint, among other projects.
Robert P. George, the McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence and director of the James Madison Program at Princeton University, joined AEI as a visiting scholar in the fall. In his AEI role, he is coordinating the "E Pluribus Unum: Sources of Our Unity" lecture series.
Kevin R. Kosar joined AEI as a resident scholar in September specializing in the study of congressional operations and capacity, budget policy, oversight, and electoral reform. At AEI, he will examine the barriers to Congress' ability to carry out its constitutionally designated role, propose reforms that might restore the first branch of our government to its proper place, and track Congress' work along key measures.
Philip Wallach joined AEI as a resident scholar in September. His work at AEI centers on America's separation of powers with a focus on the relationship between Congress and the administrative state. He also studies a wide range of regulatory policy questions and fundamental issues in American constitutionalism.


▮ AEI partnered with the University of Dallas and Princeton's Robert P. George for a quarterly event series designed to find unity across lines of difference in American society. Titled “E Pluribus Unum: Sources of Our Unity,” the series connected leading public figures with Yuval Levin, University of Dallas President Tom Hibbs, and George.

▮ House leaders sought out Norman J. Ornstein to prepare for the possibility of remote meeting and voting during the pandemic. He testified before the House Committee on the Modernization of Congress and worked with the chair and other members on possible congressional reforms.


A Time to Build

We must all accept the responsibilities that come with the positions we hold, and we must ensure the obligations and restraints actually protect and empower us. We need to inhabit these institutions, love them, and reform them to help make them more lovely to others as well.  
—Yuval Levin, A Time to Build

Yuval Levin's A Time to Build: From Family and Community to Congress and the Campus, How Recommitting to Our Institutions Can Revive the American Dream (Basic Books, January 2020) introduced a new set of ideas into the public conversation about America's contemporary problems to help policymakers and the public better understand the challenges the country faces and have a clearer sense of potential paths for renewal.

▮ Media Attention
A Time to Build was favorably reviewed by the Washington PostWall Street JournalCommentaryNational Review, and others. Levin published pieces on the book's key themes in outlets including the Atlantic, New York Times and National Review and participated in more than 30 podcast and media interviews.

▮ Public Events
AEI hosted Levin's book launch with a well-attended public event moderated by Timothy P. Carney and a private media dinner. Levin conducted 15 additional public events and shared the book's themes with members of the AEI donor community.

▮ Policymaker Briefings
Levin addressed the Senate Republican Conference on the book's themes as they relate to congressional reform. He also spoke on those themes to the annual retreat of Republican House of Representative chiefs of staff in February.

▮ Student Outreach
Levin incorporated the themes of A Time to Build in the Summer Honors Program course he taught to 15 students titled “Freedom, Progress, and Tradition.” He also delivered a virtual lecture on the book's themes to all 273 Summer Honors Program participants.

 

▮ Essays in AEI's National Affairs, the quarterly policy journal edited by Yuval Levin, spurred administrative action. The four issues of National Affairs published in 2020 included essays on a range of domestic challenges from scholars. National Affairs is distributed to every member of Congress, members of the cabinet, White House staffers, every governor's office, many state legislators around the country, and hundreds of journalists and academics.

Gary J. Schmitt published McCulloch v. Maryland at 200: Debating John Marshall's Jurisprudence (August 2020), which explored the pivotal Supreme Court case whose delineation of the constitutional scope of congressional authority continues to inspire debate today. A month later, Lynne V. Cheney released The Virginia Dynasty: Four Presidents and the Creation of the American Nation (Viking, 2020), detailing the entangled relationships among George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and James Monroe and how their arguments and alliances shaped the early Republic.

Jay Cost mined James Madison’s thoughts to help guide policymakers out of our current political morass. Cost published eight reports in his series on Madisonian republicanism, on issues including avoiding tribalism and the relationship between citizens and their representatives.

Center for American Constitutional Governance

"What does it take to 'keep a republic'? Nearly two and a half centuries into this experiment in self-governance, Americans tend to think that they keep their republic by relying on constitutional structure: separated powers, federalism, checks and balances. But constitutional structure, like any structure, does not maintain itself. Each generation has to maintain its institutions and repair any damage that its predecessors inflicted or allowed."
—Adam J. White, Atlantic, February 2020

Recognizing the need for scholarship dedicated to preserving and restoring the values and legal framework that have made our country the envy of the world, AEI established the Center for American Constitutional Governance. Building on AEI's long history of scholarship and influence in legal studies—exemplified by the work of Irving Kristol, Walter Berns, Christopher DeMuth, Antonin Scalia, Robert Novak, and others—the center is devoted to shoring up the theory, history, and legal scholarship that the rising generation of constitutionally minded judges and policymakers need to use their power effectively.

▮ On May 19, the White House released an executive order allowing for broad regulatory relief to encourage reopening where it is allowed and the economic relief that will follow. The order closely mirrored some of Adam J. White's work. White followed the order with a piece in the Yale Journal on Regulation explaining how the executive order could result in more permanent, structural reforms.

Adam J. White's February essay in the Atlantic, "A Republic, If We Can Keep It," reached third place on the Atlantic's "Most Popular" list upon its release. This essay tackles a significantly undervalued subject in the past four decades of conservative constitutional scholarship.

▮ AEI scholars led a seminar on "The Future of Conservative Constitutionalism" as part of AEI's major virtual gathering, "America's Future." Yuval Levin, Kevin R. Kosar, Philip Wallach, and Adam J. White discussed where constitutionalists should focus their efforts and what controversies will shape the future of our system of government.

Philip Wallach and Kevin R. Kosar led the policy conversation on how Congress can work to restore its legislative authority and healthy functioning of our government. AEI cohosted a panel discussion with Claremont McKenna College's Salvatori Center in October featuring Kosar and Wallach discussing these issues with scholars from the Brookings Institution and University of Texas.

Adam J. White launched a new podcast, Unprecedential, making constitutional themes and ideas accessible to the general public. White's guests have included federal judges and AEI scholars. The podcast averages 3,500 downloads per episode.

 

Yuval Levin analyzed measures Congress needed to take to address COVID-19's impact in the Washington Post, the Atlantic, the Wall Street Journal, Politico, and National Review. Gregory S. Weiner provided an argument against the expansion of emergency presidential powers in the New York Times. In his regular column at the Washington Free Beacon, Matthew Continetti examined the coronavirus' influence on the 2020 presidential election, while Timothy P. Carney considered the effect of prolonged lockdowns on family and communal life in the Washington Examiner. Charles Murray wrote a three-part blog series exploring the disparate experiences cities, towns, and rural communities were having with the virus.

Ross Douthat's book The Decadent Society: How We Became the Victims of Our Success (Simon & Schuster, February 2020) defines “decadence” as economic, political, and cultural atrophy and recurrence that is singularly applicable to our modern age. The book was favorably reviewed in the New York Times.

John Yoo released Defender in Chief: Donald Trump's Fight for Presidential Power (All Points Books, July 2020). Rather than undermining the Constitution, Yoo argues that the Trump presidency has sustained the founding vision of the presidency as an office of “unity, vigor, and independence.”

Matthew Continetti frequently engaged with students involved in AEI's Academic Programs and taught a class at American University titled “Key Thinkers of the American Right Since 1945.” Continetti also provided a center-right viewpoint to millions of viewers through his television appearances.

▮ As voting by mail became a central issue of the 2020 election cycle, Kevin R. Kosar released a report in September that drew enormous media interest, setting the record straight on the Postal Services' finances and capacity for mail-in voting and offering ideas for reforming its structural problems.


Adam J. White produced a detailed, concrete agenda of reforms to guide policymakers in confronting the challenges presented by the tech sector. He convened an expert group to discuss the various policy issues posed by companies including Google, Facebook, and Twitter, resulting in an edited volume featuring essays by Christine Rosen (New Atlantis), Jan Rybnicek (George Mason University), and Klon Kitchen (Heritage Foundation).

Jonah Goldberg hosted numerous AEI scholars on his popular podcast The Remnant with Jonah Goldberg. His AEI guests included Timothy P. Carney, Matthew Continetti, Ross Douthat, James Pethokoukis, Derek Scissors, Oriana Skylar Mastro, Lyman Stone, Michael R. Strain, and W. Bradford Wilcox. Each episode of The Remnant with Jonah Goldberg is downloaded approximately 35,000 times.

Timothy P. Carney spoke more than a dozen times to community groups and college classes on the themes of his book Alienated America: Why Some Places Thrive While Others Collapse (Harper, 2019). He was also the speaker representing the right in a sold-out live taping of American Public Radio's Left, Right & Center.

Christina Hoff Sommers participated in a Radcliffe Lecture panel at Harvard University on the 19th Amendment's centennial, along with several prominent historians and academics. In September, Catherine Zuckert, Reeves Dreux Professor of Political Science at Notre Dame, delivered the 2020 Walter Berns Annual Constitution Day Lecture on the history of women's suffrage and the 19th amendment.

Ramesh Ponnuru helped shape the public debate on issues including the future of conservatism, the Federal Reserve, and the government's response to coronavirus through more than 70 articles and op-eds.