The People’s Constitution: 200 Years, 27 Amendments, and the Promise of a More Perfect Union

New Pr. Sept. 2021. 288p. ISBN 9781620975619. $29.99. LAW
Kowal (vice president for programs, Brennan Ctr. for Justice, New York Univ. Sch. of Law) and Codrington (law, Brooklyn Law Sch.) believe that a wave of change looms for the U.S. Constitution. Noting recurring cycles in the persisting contest over the document’s meaning and purpose, they identify alternating periods of apathy and intense action to secure amendments responding to the needs of the developing nation. The 3,000-word additions to further “a more perfect union” have mostly occurred, the authors explain, in four relatively short-lived periods (1789–1804, 1865–70, 1909–20, and 1960–71), with at least two periods of tumult (the New Deal 1930s and the post-Watergate 1970s) generating little change in the document even as a new era of right-wing amendment politics emerged. Kowal and Codrington predict that more Constitutional amendments are coming, based on factors such as extreme political polarization, discontent with Supreme Court decisions, transformational social change, states’ exploration of more effective policies, and crisis-related disruptions, including wars.
VERDICT Readers at all levels interested in the Constitution’s history and future should find this work thoughtful and instructive, especially alongside Beau Breslin’s A Constitution for the Living.
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