Document Type

Book Chapter

Publication Date

2020

Disciplines

Constitutional Law | Law

Abstract

As I write this, the constitutional environment of the United States is experiencing its greatest stresses since the American Civil War. A viral pandemic has engulfed the world and especially stricken the United States; as of this writing more than 3 million coronavirus cases have been reported in the United States, more than in any other country. Although the United States has about 4.2% of the global population, it has suffered 25% of the deaths worldwide – more than 132,000 Americans have died from the COVID-19 virus. Partly as a consequence of this viral apocalypse, US unemployment is experiencing levels approaching 20% – numbers not seen since the Great Depression, and US gross domestic product is expected to contract by 7% in a single year. The chairman of the Federal Reserve has predicted a steep recession of uncertain length and the federal debt has climbed to levels unseen outside of wartime.

Coincidentally, a mass interracial movement has been ignited by instances of police brutality toward African Americans, made indelible by smartphone cameras that have seared into the memory of a horrified world the death throes of unarmed persons in police custody. Not so coincidentally, the White House is occupied by a president who has an attitude of inflamed contempt for US constitutional norms and an incompetence at foreign policy that has prompted concern even from America’s adversaries. Respect for the deadlocked Congress and for public officials is approaching historic lows. The public is sharply divided against itself; members of both parties at record levels would not wish to see their children marry outside the faith. The commitment to democracy itself has sharply decreased among its heirs, the generation born in the 21st century. Opinion polls taken abroad confirm that America’s global image has plummeted and the nonproliferation initiatives of the US administration toward North Koreaand Iran have collapsed. In this fraught summer, it has hardly captured the headlines that temperatures in Siberia have soared to levels unseen in a hundred thousand years. To say that the world, and especially its leading power the United States, is facing a series of crises hardly needs to be said.

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