ACS 2017 National Convention Plenary: Norms, Conventions, and Constitutional Governance

June 9, 2017

Historically, elected and appointed officials who lead American political institutions have operated under both legal constraints and non-legal but obligatory constitutional conventions, which are norms that guide officials in their exercise of political discretion. Among other virtues, conventions keep partisanship within reasonable bounds so that governmental institutions can function effectively and the public can hold officials accountable for their actions.

Recently, political actors have become increasingly willing to abandon longstanding conventions in pursuit of their own partisan or personal objectives. What role do conventions play in constitutional governance and how do they relate to duties and rights found in the Constitution? How do we know what constitutes a convention and, once identified, how do we determine its scope? What arguments can be made when conventions are breached, and to whom should they be addressed? And what are the consequences of such breaches for our democracy?