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Association of American Law Schools President Speaks on Cooperative Politics

Mark C. Alexander has always been interested in the realms of law, politics, and democracy. He said it was one of the reasons he went to law school.

To Alexander, the legal profession is ultimately about serving communities and justice.

“So much of my career I did my scholarship in the field of election law,” said Alexander, the Arthur J. Kania Dean and Professor of Law at Villanova University. “I find it very interesting, and I find it really important for our society. ... I think it’s important to look at the way the law and the Constitution govern our elections.” Mark C. AlexanderMark C. Alexander

Alexander leads Villanova’s Charles Widger School of Law, a role he has now held for approximately seven years. He has also been serving as the 2023 president of the Association of American Law Schools (AALS).

Alexander’s familiarity with elections is extensive and all-encompassing. He has been involved in local elections but has also been involved in state and national elections as well. Back in 2000, he was policy director for Sen. Bill Bradley’s presidential campaign, a position he held again for Sen. Barack Obama in 2008, he said. And in 2006, he served as general counsel for Cory Booker’s Newark mayoral election.

Alexander holds a J.D. from Yale University Law School and a B.A. in architecture from Yale.

His writings, teachings, and scholarly work on constitutional law and elections have also carried over to his work at the AALS, where he set the organization’s theme for this year as “Defending Democracy.”

And it is on this topic of democracy that Alexander sees room for improvement for the American people, amid ever-widening divisions in today’s political landscape, he said.

“Elections are so essential to who we are as a country,” Alexander said. “I think it’s important for us to be able to reinforce our democracy. That includes things like just talking with each other. We’ve been so divided through our politics, divided through the pandemic that has kept us physically separated. ... I think that people are finding more separation and I think part of democracy requires us to be together.

“It is a challenge for democracy to succeed,” he added. “It requires us to talk with each other and to engage in self-governance.”

Alexander’s focus is on building bridges between people and across divides. Even during debates on matters such as the transgender community, a topic that involves strong moral beliefs, respect is necessary, he said. He advises people to look for a way to at least talk to each other.

“Whatever your position is on a hot topic, understand that there are people who have strong feelings,” Alexander said. “You just might never agree with them. But understand they actually feel very strongly about this. And you might find a way to talk to them. But if you demonize them, you’re never going to get anywhere.

“If I don’t ever show you respect, I can’t learn from you,” he continued. “And I’m not going to give you the respect you deserve that would then make you want to learn from me.”

The U.S. is a nation that requires participation, engagement, and continuous work, Alexander said, citing the preamble of the Constitution in regard to forming “a more perfect Union,” in other words, always aspiring for better.

“I think that what we have to understand is that the work of our country, [of] which I am very proud, is difficult, but it’s a requirement of being an American,” Alexander said. “You have to be part of what’s going on. That’s why we have a First Amendment, because it allows us to speak, to gather, and it doesn’t silence us based on our perspectives. So, it is part of our obligation in this country to engage.

“We have to be working. [We are always] striving to become a better country, to become better than we are now, become what we are not yet. ... So when it comes to the upcoming elections and general engagement in society, be involved. But lead with respect. And I think we can make progress.”   

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