Tushnet argues that the constitutional arrangements that prevailed in the United States from the 1930s to the 1990s have ended. We are now in a new constitutional order--one characterized by divided government, ideologically organized parties, and subdued constitutional ambition. Contrary to arguments that describe a threatened return to a pre-New Deal constitutional order, however, this book presents evidence that our current regime's animating principle is not the old belief that government cannot solve any problems but rather that government cannot solve any more problems.
Tushnet examines the institutional arrangements that support the new constitutional order as well as Supreme Court decisions that reflect it. He also considers recent developments in constitutional scholarship, focusing on the idea of minimalism as appropriate to a regime with chastened ambitions. Tushnet discusses what we know so far about the impact of globalization on domestic constitutional law, particularly in the areas of international human rights and federalism. He concludes with predictions about the type of regulation we can expect from the new order.
This is a major new analysis of the constitutional arrangements in the United States. Though it will not be received without controversy, it offers real explanatory and predictive power and provides important insights to both legal theorists and political scientists.
Tushnet urges that we create a "populist" constitutional law in which judicial declarations deserve no special consideration. But he warns that in so doing we must pursue reasonable interpretations of the "thin Constitution"--the fundamental American principles embodied in the Declaration of Independence and the Preamble to the Constitution. A populist Constitution, he maintains, will be more effective than a document exclusively protected by the courts. Tushnet believes, for example, that the serious problems of the communist scare of the 1950s were aggravated when Senator Joseph McCarthy's opponents were lulled into inaction, believing that the judicial branch would step in and declare McCarthy's actions unconstitutional. Instead of fulfilling the expectations, the Court allowed McCarthy to continue his crusade until it was ended. Tushnet points out that in this context and in many others, errors occurred because of the existence of judicial review: neither the People nor their representatives felt empowered to enforce the Constitution because they mistakenly counted on the courts to do so. Tushnet's clarion call for a new kind of constitutional law will be essential reading for constitutional law experts, political scientists, and others interested in how and if the freedoms of the American Republic can survive into the twenty-first century.
Under "strong-form" judicial review, as in the United States, judicial interpretations of the constitution are binding on other branches of government. In contrast, "weak-form" review allows the legislature and executive to reject constitutional rulings by the judiciary--as long as they do so publicly. Tushnet describes how weak-form review works in Great Britain and Canada and discusses the extent to which legislatures can be expected to enforce constitutional norms on their own. With that background, he turns to social welfare rights, explaining the connection between the "state action" or "horizontal effect" doctrine and the enforcement of social welfare rights. Tushnet then draws together the analysis of weak-form review and that of social welfare rights, explaining how weak-form review could be used to enforce those rights. He demonstrates that there is a clear judicial path--not an insurmountable judicial hurdle--to better enforcement of constitutional social welfare rights.