A leading legal scholar addresses the most important constitutional controversies of the past two decades and illuminates the Constitution's spirit and ongoing relevance
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.
About the Author
Akhil Reed Amar is the Sterling Professor of Law and Political Science at Yale University. The author of several books, including America's Unwritten Constitution, and the winner of awards from both the American Bar Association and the Federalist Society, Amar lives in Woodbridge, Connecticut.
"A book on the Constitution may not have felt so urgent or timely in any other year, but in the wake of the Khan family's appearance at the Democratic National Convention--and the president-elect's subsequent affront--Amar's expert framework of our nation's most fundamental document feels desperately needed."
—TIME.com, Top 10 nonfiction books of 2016
"Bringing an unusually informed and cool head to the tumult accompanying unfolding events, Amar performs a valuable service for his fellow citizens."
—Kirkus Reviews, starred review
"Amar is at his best when providing historical
insights to modern-day constitutional issues... what his new book exemplifies is
a consistent commitment over two decades to speak to issues beyond the
academic, to engage with audiences beyond a New Haven classroom, and to use the
perch and resources of his academic appointment to help the rest of us learn
more about the history and principles that guide us today."
—Los Angeles Review of Books
constitutional law scholars can write as effectively on deadline about the
legally complex and politically charged issues that come before the court, and
few journalists writing about the Constitution can match his command of law and
—Real Clear Politics
"Impressively, Amar presents a panoramic view
of recent history through the lens of Constitutional interpretation. Moreover,
he accomplishes this in layman's language, so that his insights are accessible
to general readers. Indeed, Amar's professed intent is to educate journalists
on Constitutional issues, and he succeeds unequivocally
—Library Journal, starred review
"Akhil Amar knows the Constitution and loves
the Constitution. That is true of many scholars. But Amar is among the very,
very few who can write about the Constitution with not just deep knowledge but
with insight, verve, an understanding of both history and politics, and
passion, and in a way that can be appreciated by legal scholars and lay readers
—Norman Ornstein,author of It's Even Worse Than It Looks