Why the Constitution Matters (Why X Matters Series)
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In this surprising and highly unconventional work, Harvard law professor Mark Tushnet poses a seemingly simple question that yields a thoroughly unexpected answer. The Constitution matters, he argues, not because it structures our government but because it structures our politics. He maintains that politicians and political parties—not Supreme Court decisions—are the true engines of constitutional change in our system. This message will empower all citizens who use direct political action to define and protect our rights and liberties as Americans.
Unlike legal scholars who consider the Constitution only as a blueprint for American democracy, Tushnet focuses on the ways it serves as a framework for political debate. Each branch of government draws substantive inspiration and procedural structure from the Constitution but can effect change only when there is the political will to carry it out. Tushnet’s political understanding of the Constitution therefore does not demand that citizens pore over the specifics of each Supreme Court decision in order to improve our nation. Instead, by providing key facts about Congress, the president, and the nature of the current constitutional regime, his book reveals not only why the Constitution matters to each of us but also, and perhaps more important, how it matters.
regulations of contributions. Finally, some ordinary voters translate the amounts of money they see being spent on campaigns into a generalized cynicism about politics as a place where everything’s got to be for sale. No Supreme Court decision has been willing to accept this cynicism as a justification for campaign finance regulation. Experience with campaign finance regulation suggests that it might not make much difference. Consider the simplest version, restrictions on direct individual
cases where there’s a substantial minority of states pursuing a policy that a national majority believes unconstitutional. One example is southern segregation before Brown v. Board of Education. Public opinion surveys in the early 1950s indicated that a national majority did not approve of segregation. In political terms African Americans in the urban North were an increasingly important component of the New Deal coalition. Segregation resulted from and helped sustain the political dominance of
the period between Reagan’s election and the early years of the present century. And, finally and probably most important, the Republican Party only gradually became ideologically homogeneous. Republican nominees were all relatively conservative, but some—William Rehnquist and Antonin Scalia for example—were consistently and strongly conservative, while others, such as Sandra Day O’Connor and Anthony Kennedy, were more moderate “country club Republicans.” Only during George W. Bush’s presidency
important to them. They are pressing you to do something on the issue, but what you do to satisfy one faction will almost certainly alienate the other. You can solve your immediate political problem, and hold your party together, by foisting the issue of on someone else. If they solve the problem, you’re home free, and if they fail you can blame them. And, at the least, you can postpone your problem by kicking the can down the road. Delay might eliminate the issue from politics. You might be able
around American society and saw “sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll,” and weren’t all that disturbed. Perhaps it’s not accurate to call what happened in the 1960s a social movement, but certainly the people were acting out of doors in ways that had clear political import. The justices understood that some of their earlier decisions, such as those making it more difficult for governments to prohibit the distribution of sexually explicit material, had contributed to what they were seeing. The activism