Saturday, September 17, 2016

Akhil Reed Amar, The Constitution Today

At Amazon, The Constitution Today: Timeless Lessons for the Issues of Our Era.

I'm intrigued by this, since for one thing I teach the Constitution every semester, and of course, students know little about it, considering how little constitutional history is taught. But I'm also intrigued by how the Reed Amar book can be contrasted to Terry Moe's new book, Relic: How Our Constitution Undermines Effective Government — and Why We Need a More Powerful Presidency. (Hat Tip: PJ Media, "Stanford Professor on Constitution Day: Following the Founders is 'Dumb'.")

Admiring the Constitution isn't dumb, of course. It's that society has changed so much that government leaders are empowered to blow off the checks their supposed to follow, especially the checks on presidential power.

Here's the blurb from The Constitution Today at Amazon:
America’s Constitution, Chief Justice John Marshall famously observed in McCulloch v. Maryland, aspires “to endure for ages to come.” The daily news has a shorter shelf life, and when the issues of the day involve momentous constitutional questions, present-minded journalists and busy citizens cannot always see the stakes clearly.

In The Constitution Today, Akhil Reed Amar, America’s preeminent constitutional scholar, considers the biggest and most bitterly contested debates of the last two decades and provides a passionate handbook for thinking constitutionally about today’s headlines. Amar shows how the Constitution’s text, history, and structure are a crucial repository of collective wisdom, providing specific rules and grand themes relevant to every organ of the American body politic. Prioritizing sound constitutional reasoning over partisan preferences, he makes the case for diversity-based affirmative action and a right to have a gun in one’s home for self-protection, and against spending caps on independent political advertising and bans on same-sex marriage. He explains what’s wrong with presidential dynasties, advocates a “nuclear option” to restore majority rule in the Senate, and suggests ways to reform the Supreme Court. And he revisits three dramatic constitutional conflicts—the impeachment of Bill Clinton, the contested election of George W. Bush, and the fight over Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act—to show what politicians, judges, and journalists got right as events unfolded and what they missed.

Leading readers through the particular constitutional questions at stake in each episode while outlining his abiding views regarding the Constitution’s letter, its spirit, and the direction constitutional law must go, Amar offers an essential guide for anyone seeking to understand America’s Constitution and its relevance today.