AMENDMENTS AND POLARIZATION

Consitutional Amendments Proposed in Congress

Aside from the Twenty- Sixth Amendment, ratified in 1971, lowering the voting age to eighteen (and generally understood as a product of the antiwar movement), the political agitation of the nineteen-sixties and -seventies produced no amendments to the Constitution or, rather, it produced more amendments than had ever been proposed before, but none were ratified. In an era of widening political polarization, meaningful amendment had become effectively impossible even before the defeat of the Equal Rights Amendment in 1982 and the failure, from the right, of the Balanced Budget Amendment. Instead of producing constitutional amendments, the revolutionary movements of the nineteen-sixties and nineteen-seventies, which have never ended, led to a decades-long conservative insurgency, from law and order, the defense of marriage, and climate-denialism to the Tea Party, Trumpism, anti-vaxxers, and the Insurrection at the Capitol. Movements like Civil Rights, women’s liberation, marriage equality, and environmentalism produced landmark legislative gains and rights-protecting court decisions whose importance is matched only by their reversibility.

In 2013, Shelby v. Holder undid much of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. In 2021, in a 5-4 decision not to review Texas’s new anti-abortion laws, the Court signaled its willingness to overturn its 1973 decision, Roe v. Wade. Anticorruption and antidiscrimination measures all are vulnerable to reversal by the Court. So are environmental regulations which are threatened every day by a constitution that makes no place for the natural world and by a Supreme Court majority that is the most formidable legacy of the counter-revolutionary conservative insurgency.

Consitutional Amendments AND CONGRESSIONAL POLARIZATION

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