Is it serendipity that the U.S. Constitution was signed on Sept. 17 (in 1787), and the "Our Constitution Under Siege" panel is on Sept. 22 (in 2019)?
This main stage panel of the Milford Readers and Writers Festival is all about the most influential document in American history, which remains a popular and political topic today. The U.S. Constitution established the framework of how we govern and how we live, and 232 years later continues to guarantee the freedoms “we the people” enjoy every day. And though there have been many challenges to the Constitution throughout the various political climates of the past, there are, it seems, more challenges today than ever before.
The panel includes two highly regarded constitutional scholars, Judge Andrew Napolitano and Jeffrey Rosen, and the moderator, Milford Mayor Sean Strub.
Is Congress abdicating its powers?
Napolitano is a retired jurist, prolific author, and former law professor at Seton Hall, Delaware Law School, and Brooklyn Law School. He's best known as the senior legal analyst at Fox News. He has written nine books. His forthcoming book, "Natural Law, Constitutionalism in America: History and Theory," is 500 pages and has 1,600 footnotes. It surveys the framers’ use of natural law and the Supreme Court’s acceptance of that use. (Natural law is the belief that certain laws of morality are inherent by human nature, reason, or religious belief and are ethically binding on all of humanity.)
Many issues -- including privacy, free speech, and gun rights -- will come up in this panel. Napolitano stresses the uniqueness of the Constitution, in its guarantee of the separation of powers. No other major democracy guarantees that, he says.
Napolitano believes Congress is abdicating its powers while the other branches of government silently look the other way. This has happened in other administrations. But, Napolitano says, “President Trump exercises power in such an audacious and in-your-face way, that we are more aware of his violating the separation of powers expressly authorized by the Constitution.”
Look to the Constitution, not politics, for answers
Jeffrey Rosen is a law professor at George Washington University Law School, an influential writer who has published eight books, and a commentator on legal issues. Napolitano recommends Rosen’s book "The Unwanted Gaze: The Destruction of Privacy in America" for understanding the right to privacy.
Rosen’s latest book is "Conversations with RBG: Ruth Bader Ginsburg on Life, Love, Liberty, and Law." However, his true calling is as the president and CEO of the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia (https://constitutioncenter.org), a leading platform for civic education that attracts scholars, students, and all other citizens. Its web platform includes a range of exhibits and an interactive Constitution, gets about 25 million hits a year.
Conservative commentator George Will called the center “a modernist jewel of America’s civil life.” The New York Times’ Jason De Parle wrote that, since its opening in 2003, the center "has put forward a vision of Constitutional history both left and right have embraced.”
The center enlists leading liberal, conservative, and libertarian scholars to write essays exploring areas of agreement and disagreement on every clause in the Constitution. Blogs, podcasts, and virtual classroom exchanges unite students across the nation. The College Board recommends the center’s curriculum for advanced placement students.
Rosen says it's important to approach issues from the legal rather than the political aspect. So a question like “Can the President build the wall?” should be examined based on the Constitution rather than on political preference.
Sean Strub, the mayor of Milford and author of "Body Counts: A Memoir of Activism Sex, and Survival," is well-suited to moderate these hot Constitutional topics.