Every candidate claims to be a defender of the Constitution, but who’s actually going to do it? And why does one document matter so much?
Beginning this month, you can become an expert in the letter and, just as importantly, spirit of our founding document at a series of free classes at the Cooper Union led by Yale University’s Akhil Reed Amar, professor of law and political science and author of the forthcoming book “The Constitution Today.”
Kicking things off on Sept. 12 is a lesson in how dynasty shapes the American presidency — a practice that’s been going on well before the Bush family. “Alexander Hamilton is the adopted son of George Washington,” he says. “They find each other and create a political partnership. Well, that’s Bill and Hillary Clinton — you just add sex to it.”
And it’s not restricted to the presidency. Amar points out that the “dynastic ambition” extends to every representative, who are all linked by either family or marriage. “That’s why people have to come to the lectures, because people need to know that as they think about our world in which Camelot, princes and all sorts of dynastic imagery are making a comeback.”
Besides dissecting the inner workings of the federal government, the 10 sessions will touch on what the Constitution actually has to say about many modern controversial issues, including gun control, affirmative action, same-sex marriage and more. If you’re a political drama buff, don’t miss the last three classes covering the action-packed recent presidencies of Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama.
Amar’s ultimate goal is to remind ordinary citizens of their power as voters ahead of what he considers to be “perhaps the most important election of our generation, and maybe of my lifetime.”
“The United States Supreme Court has been controlled by Republican appointees for almost half a century since 1970,” he points out, but the next president has the chance to appoint the successor to the staunchly conservative Antonin Scalia, who died earlier this year. “This is a rare planetary alignment. So, the choices we the people will be making over the next couple of months are fundamentally Constitutional choices.”
The Constitution Today
Sept. 12-Nov. 21
Mondays, 6:30-7:30 p.m.
Cooper Union Great Hall, 7 E. Seventh St.
Free, registration required