The veteran author of numerous volumes about the Constitution and the courts returns with a close look at our founding document through progressive eyes.
Chemerinsky (Dean, Univ. of California School of Law; Closing the Courthouse Door: How Your Constitutional Rights Became Unenforceable, 2017, etc.) pulls no punches. In the first sentence he mentions the “devastating” election of Donald Trump, and throughout he expresses deep concern about the certain consequent conservative bent of the Supreme Court. After some initial comments about the state of the Constitution today—and the challenges to progressives—he guides us through the document, emphasizing what he identifies as key provisions and pointing out where he thinks the Supreme Court has succeeded and where it has erred. One crucial point he raises continually: the significance of the Preamble, for it is there, he argues, that the values of the document (and of us) reside, and yet the court tends to ignore that portion of the Constitution, basing decisions on articles and amendments. Chemerinsky believes this is a mistake and that the courts should apply the democratic values contained in the Preamble. After this section, the author moves through the document, examining such issues as the Electoral College (get rid of it, he says), federalism, the separation of powers, fairness in policing practices and court-imposed punishments, freedoms of religion and speech, privacy, affirmative action, and others. He balances his patent passion for the issues he has identified with scholarly documentation and many references to and descriptions of key court cases and decisions. Repeatedly, he praises the protections and social advances made possible by liberal justices and condemns the restrictions and corporate-friendly decisions of the conservatives. With modesty, he also admits his own losses in cases he argued before the court.
The explicit subtitle will likely dissuade some, but Chemerinsky’s rock-solid arguments are rooted in history, in a profound progressive philosophy.