On Tuesday, one of the most transparently bad-faith right-wing smear campaigns in the long history of bad-faith right-wing smear campaigns ended with the resignation of Claudine Gay, who six months ago became the first-ever Black president of Harvard University. Gay stepped down after she gave occasionally-clumsy testimony at a December congressional hearing about antisemitism on college campuses, which suddenly, mysteriously triggered a raft of shaky plagiarism allegations leveled by some of the dumbest bigots alive.

“This is not a decision I came to easily,” said Gay in a statement. “But…it is in the best interests of Harvard for me to resign so that our community can navigate this moment of extraordinary challenge with a focus on the institution rather than any individual.”

In an ideal world, Harvard would at least have the sense to replace Gay, whose supposedly grave academic transgressions your least favorite conservative podcast host has been yowling about for a month despite being tragically unable to read, with a Black candidate, thus denying this gaggle of barely-employable culture warriors the substantive result for which they hoped. Failing that, however, I offer a proposal for your consideration: Gay was the second woman to serve as president of Harvard University. Elena Kagan, the renowned administrative law scholar who now works in government, should be the third.

Hear me out. Kagan’s connections to Harvard date to the early 1980s, when she attended Harvard Law School and served as an editor of the Harvard Law Review. After stints in private practice, the Clinton White House, and the University of Chicago, Kagan returned to Cambridge to join the law school faculty in 1999. Four years later, she became the dean of Harvard Law School, which she is credited for transforming from a hypercompetitive behemoth that churns out indebted BigLaw associates who spend 80 hours a week defending opioid manufacturers into what it is today: a hypercompetitive behemoth that churns out indebted BigLaw associates who spend 80 hours a week defending opioid manufacturers, but now with free coffee.

Alas, Kagan’s relationship with Harvard soured a bit in the mid-2000s, when a search committee selected history professor Drew Gilpin Faust as Harvard’s 28th president, passing over Kagan in the process. Kagan’s aspirations were more or less common knowledge on campus, and law students, heartbroken for their beloved dean, responded by donning “I ❤️ EK” t-shirts and throwing her a party, a gesture that reportedly reduced Kagan to tears. “Sometimes, you win by losing,” she told the assembled crowd, according to the Harvard Crimson. “All of you have made me feel like a real winner today.”

Kagan left the university in 2009, of course, when President Barack Obama tapped her to serve as his administration’s Solicitor General. Yet at a moment like this, when vile little gremlins on a revanchist crusade against the very concept of democratic values just deposed Harvard’s first Black president despite not knowing of her existence six weeks ago, someone on the Harvard Board of Overseers—that’s not a joke, that’s really what it’s called—should consider placing a call to an old, trusted friend. How is Elena Kagan doing these days, anyway? Is she really happy at work? Does she enjoy the company of her colleagues? Or could she use a change of scenery? And, if so, would she perhaps have any interest—any interest at all—in reviving her all-but-dashed hopes of serving as Harvard’s president? 

Some may note, correctly, that Elena Kagan “already has a job,” and one that comes with life tenure, which makes her continued employment less vulnerable than Gay’s to astroturfed moral panics that even ostensibly serious journalists dutifully regurgitate. Others may note, also correctly, that the identity of the specific Harvard professor responsible for scoring eight-figure donations from private equity vampires at alumni cocktail hours is something like the 21,348th-most important story unfolding in the world right now. At a shade over $50 billion, Harvard’s endowment exceeds the gross domestic product of literally dozens of countries. It is my fondest hope that the four minutes it takes to read this blog is the most time you will spend thinking about the org chart of this glorified Boston-area real estate hedge fund for the foreseeable future.

That said: On a campus paralyzed by fear of blue-checked dweebs who have somehow become de facto assignment editors for the nation’s most credulous editorial board members, why not turn things over to a seasoned administrator who once brokered peace between warring ideological factions on the Harvard Law School faculty? Who better equipped to ignore the voices of smirking creeps hyping brain-dead pseudoscandals than someone who has had to sit in interminable meetings with both Alan Dershowitz and Clarence Thomas? Kagan was already a finalist for this job once. Save for a legally bulletproof statute that forevermore insulates opioid manufacturers from products liability lawsuits, what does your average Harvard alum love more than a good old-fashioned redemption arc?

Fraught though these times may be, Elena Kagan is the right person to shepherd Harvard University through them. As to her current position, I am confident that if she were to step aside, the powers that be could use the legally prescribed process to appoint and confirm a capable replacement for her, sometime between now and, say, Election Day 2024. Perhaps a capable replacement who could fill that position for decades to come.

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