An insightful, urgent, and perennially relevant handbook that lays out in common sense language how the United States Constitution works, and how its protections are eroding before our eyes—essential reading for anyone who wants to understand and parse the constantly breaking news about the backbone of American government.
The Constitution is the most significant document in America. But do you fully understand what this valuable document means to you? In How to Read the Constitutionand Why, legal expert and educator Kimberly Wehle spells out in clear, simple, and common sense terms what is in the Constitution, and most importantly, what it means. In compelling terms and including text from the United States Constitution, she describes how the Constitution’s protections are eroding—not only in express terms but by virtue of the many legal and social norms that no longer shore up its legitimacy—and why every American needs to heed to this “red flag” moment in our democracy.
This invaluable—and timely—resource includes the Constitution in its entirety and covers nearly every significant aspect of the text, from the powers of the President and how the three branches of government are designed to hold each other accountable, to what it means to have individual rights—including free speech, the right to bear arms, the right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures, and the right to an abortion. Finally, the book explains why it has never been more important than now for all Americans to know how our Constitution works—and why, if we don’t step in to protect it now, we could lose its protections forever.
How to Read the Constitutionand Why is essential reading for anyone who cares about maintaining an accountable government and the individual freedoms that the Constitution enshrines for everyone in America—regardless of political party.
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Table of Contents
Part I Structure 29
Chapter 1 The Basics: Each Branch Has a Job Description-and Two Bosses 33
Chapter 2 Congress: Lots of Power to a Herd of Cats 55
Chapter 3 The (Real) Powers of the President: No More Kings 77
Chapter 4 The Courts: What Was That About Kings? 103
Part II Rights 117
Chapter 5 Speech, Religion, and the First Amendment 119
Chapter 6 Guns and the Second Amendment 149
Chapter 7 Crime and the Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, and Eighth Amendments 161
Chapter 8 Liberty and Equality: Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments 185
Chapter 9 What Does the Constitution Say About the States? 207
Part III Why Care? 217
Chapter 10 Why It Matters How Politicians Get Hired and Fired 219
Chapter 11 If the Constitution Stops Functioning, Why Should I Care? 241
Chapter 12 Sustaining Democracy: Some Takeaways 253
The Constitution of the United States of America 273