constitution

  Our government is failing us. From health care to immigration, from the tax code to climate change, our political institutions cannot deal effectively with the challenges of modern society. Why the dysfunction? Contemporary reformers single out the usual suspects, including polarization and the rise in campaign spending. But what if the roots go much deeper, to the nation’s founding?

In Relic, William Howell and Terry Moe point to the Constitution as the main culprit. The framers designed the Constitution some 225 years ago for a simple agrarian society. But the form of government they settled upon, a separation of powers system with a parochial Congress at its center, is entirely ill-equipped to address the serious social problems that arise in a complex, post-industrial nation. We are prisoners of the past, burdened with an antiquated government that cannot make effective policy, and often cannot do anything at all.

The solution is to update the Constitution for modern times.

  Former Senator Gary Hart’s The Republic of Conscience is a meditation on the growing gap between the founding principles of the United States Constitution and our current political landscape.

Stephen Gottlieb: What Is Limited Government Anyway?

Jan 26, 2016

With the presidential primaries underway, the media is choked with talk about getting the government off the people’s backs, restoring limited government, making government let the people alone. But the Koch brothers, the Tea Party, their candidates and supporters are actually saying something very different – they want government to support their definition of their rights and push everyone else out of their way, and most important they want the courts to decide in their favor when others complain that they are trespassing on public land or polluting the air, land and water in ways that injure and interfere with the lives of others. That’s government in their favor.

  In his new book - Unfit for Democracy – WAMC Commentator and Albany Law Professor Stephen Gottlieb takes a critical look at the decisions of the U.S. Supreme Court under Chief Justice John Roberts, asserting that the interpretation of constitutional law should be applied with a focus on preserving the system of government put in place by our founding fathers.

He joins us this morning to discuss Unfit for Democracy and preview his hour-long conversation tomorrow at Albany Law School with Alan Chartock beginning at 1PM at the Law School’s Dean Alexander Moot Courtroom. That sit-down will be aired at a later date here on WAMC and will take place in front of a live audience and is open to the public.

Prof. Gottlieb, Albany Law School's Jay and Ruth Caplan Distinguished Professor of Law, is the author of Morality Imposed: The Rehnquist Court and the State of Liberty in America he is also an expert on the Supreme Court, constitutional theory and election campaign law.

Republicans repeat over and over that they want to take back the Constitution. That’s nonsense. Actually they are trying to destroy it. It’s important to understand where it comes from. After the Civil War, generations of Southern writers tried to win the peace after losing the War. They succeeded. There is no chance that you were not brought up familiar with elements of it.

  In his new book, The Deep State, Mike Lofgren, the New York Times bestselling author of The Party Is Over, delivers a House of Cards–style exposé of who really wields power in Washington.

Lofgren says actual power lies in the Deep State, Washington’s shadowy power elite, in the pockets of corporate interests and dependent on the moguls of Silicon Valley. Drawing on insider knowledge gleaned in his three decades on the Hill, Lofgren looks to offer a provocative wake-up call to Americans and urges them to fight to reinstate the basic premise of the Constitution.

Mike Lofgren spent twenty-eight years working in Congress, the last sixteen as a senior analyst on the House and Senate Budget committees. 

How much do we think we know about the First Amendment? How many of us have looked at and considered the full text? More than likely we rely not on our own reading of the document and its various clauses, but on our Supreme Court’s interpretations and rulings to flesh out its true intent. But, what if the Supreme Court got it wrong?

Burt Neuborne, a former legal director of the ACLU, who has argued many cases before the Supreme Court, contends that oftentimes they have gotten it wrong. In his new book, Madison's Music: On Reading the First Amendment, Neuborne demonstrates that by failing to relate to the text as a coherent whole, the court has incrementally and collectively warped the original intent of the First Amendment.

  

  From Kennebunkport to Kauai, from the Rio Grande to the Northern Rockies, ours is a vast republic. While we may be united under one Constitution, separate and distinct states remain, each with its own constitution and culture. Geographic idiosyncrasies add more than just local character. Regional understandings of law and justice have shaped and reshaped our nation throughout history.

In The Law of the Land, renowned legal scholar Akhil Reed Amar illustrates how geography, federalism, and regionalism have influenced some of the biggest questions in American constitutional law.

David Shipler reported for the New York Times from 1966 to 1988 in New York, Saigon, Moscow, Jerusalem, and Washington DC. He is the author of six books including the best sellers Russia, and The Working Poor, as well as Arab and Jew which won the Pulitzer Prize.

His new book, Rights at Risk: The Limits of Liberty in Modern America, is an examination of violations of the constitutional principles that preserve individual rights and civil liberties from court rooms to class rooms.

Herbert London: Constitutional Disobedience?

Mar 19, 2014

It is customary for members of the Academy to display anti-American sentiment in the form of multi-culturalism. Rarely, however, does the critique involve the Constitution itself. There is the belief that Supreme Court Justices may have overstepped their authority or mistook various clauses. Now, Georgetown University professor, Louis Michael Seidman, goes further in raising the question of whether we should obey the Constitution at all.

Stephen Gottlieb: War And The Separation Of Powers

Sep 10, 2013

In 1950 Harry Truman sent troops to Korea without consulting Congress. Republican criticism did not withstand American hostility to Communism and American nostalgia for give ‘em hell Harry. It became a precedent.

    

  Since 1971, when the Pentagon Papers were leaked to the New York Times and furious debate over First Amendment rights ensued, free-speech cases have emerged in rapid succession.

Floyd Abrams has been on the front lines of nearly every one of these major cases, which is also to say that, more than any other person, he has forged this country’s legal understanding of free speech.

Paul Elisha: Heroes

Jul 2, 2013

For a nation steeped in adherence to the prohibition of enforced religious belief and impenetrable separation of church and state, as Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black: affirmed in 1947: “The First Amendment has erected a wall between church and state.  That wall must be kept high and impregnable……” (Everson v Bd of Ed’n).  Political paladins of various organized religions seem to have been bent on subverting and rescinding it, in favor of one or another preferred religious belief, ever since.  That bent seems more prevalent today, than at any time since its adoption.

We speak with Akhil Reed Amar about his new book, America's Unwritten Constitution: The Precedents and Principles We Live By.

Akhil Reed Amar is Sterling Professor of Law and Political Science at Yale University, and periodically serves as a visiting professor at Harvard, Columbia, and Pepperdine Law Schools.

The currently dis-United States of ours has arrived at a trying juncture, in its turbulent tribulations, to determine the actual status of its democratic durability.

Tasked with helping draft a constitution for India after World War II, B. N. Rau traveled abroad speaking to jurists. In Washington, Supreme Court Justice Frankfurter advised Rau not to include a due process clause in the Indian Constitution. Instead India should have a clause simply requiring that no one be charged with a crime but by the law of the land. That was the meaning of the Magna Carta in 1215 which said:

No freemen shall be taken or imprisoned … or in any way destroyed … except by the lawful judgment of his peers or by the law of the land.