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Wrong and Dangerous
Ten Right Wing Myths about Our Constitution
The primary purpose of the United States Constitution is to limit Congress. There is no separation of church and state. The Second Amendment allows citizens to threaten the government. These are just a few of the myths about our constitution peddled by the Far Right—a toxic coalition of Fox News talking heads, radio hosts, angry “patriot” groups, and power-hungry Tea Party politicians. Well-funded, loud, and unscrupulous, they are trying to do to America’s founding document what they have done to global warming and evolution—wipe out the facts and substitute partisan myth. In the process, they seek to cripple the right of We the People to govern ourselves. In
Wrong and Dangerous
, legal scholar Garrett Epps provides the tools needed to fight back against the flood of constitutional nonsense. In terms every citizen can understand, he tackles ten of the most prevalent myths, providing a clear grasp of the Constitution and the government it established.
Rowman & Littlefield Publishers
Size: 5 3/4 x 8 3/4
978-1-4422-1676-1 • Hardback • September 2012 •
978-1-4422-1678-5 • eBook • September 2012 •
Political Science / American Government / Legislative Branch
History / United States / General
Political Science / Constitutions
Political Science / History & Theory
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a regular contributor on legal issues to Atlantic.com and
The American Prospect
, is a journalist, novelist, and legal scholar. He has taught at American University, Boston College Law School, Duke Law School, and the University of Oregon. He currently teaches constitutional law at the University of Baltimore Law School and resides in Washington, D.C.
Introduction: Stealing the Constitution
The Ten Big Myths
#1: The Right Is “Originalist,” Everyone Else Is “Idiotic”
#2: The 'Purpose' of the Constitution Is to Limit Congress
#3: Congress Has Stretched the Commerce Power Beyond Its Proper Limits
#4: The Constitution Doesn't Separate Church and State
#5: Equality and Self-Government Are “Wholly Foreign to the First Amendment”
#6: The Second Amendment Allows Citizens to Threaten Government
#7: The Tenth Amendment, “State’s Rights,” and “State Sovereignty”
#8: Pay No Attention to That Fourteenth Amendment Behind the Curtain
#9: Election of Senators Destroys “States’ Rights”
#10: International Law is a Threat to the Constitution
Afterword: The Battle Ahead
Suggestions for Further Reading
The Constitution of the United States of America
The Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union
About the Author
Praise for Garrett Epps
Despite what many Americans have come to believe, the purpose of the United States Constitution is not to limit Congress, and the line that designates the separation of church and state is quite clear. In this new book, Epps provides the tools needed to fight back against the flood of constitutional nonsense. He tackles ten of the most prevalent myths, discussing in terms every citizen can understand the importance of a clear grasp of the Constitution and the government it established.
Disgusted by what he calls the Far Right’s “drive to destroy the Constitution in the name of ‘saving’ it,” law professor Epps offers spirited and sarcastic rebuttals to 10 hot-button claims that conservative commentators tend to advance about the Constitution. In one chapter, for example, Epps picks apart the idea that the Constitution does not provide for separation of church and state; in others, he takes on the recently popular notion that the Second Amendment was intended to make government fear its constituents, and he knocks down recently rewarmed claims about the obsolescence of the Fourteenth Amendment. Although presented in a breezy manner, Epps’ arguments are grounded in a textual interpretation and scholarly research. He also takes particular joy in exposing the contradictions, false premises, and bad faith behind the “conservative myths” he targets. Ultimately, it’s a polemic of sorts, intended to provide progressives with inspiration and factual ammunition to those who seek to challenge right-wing “originalist” notions of constitutional interpretation.
Garrett Epps knows more about our Constitution and its history than many who invoke it endlessly on the campaign trail have forgotten. With a rollicking sense of humor and a driving passion, he challenges misunderstandings about our Founders and asserts what is plainly true: That they sought to establish a government that would preserve freedom but would also be strong enough to provide for the general welfare. They sought to make it easier rather than harder for Americans to solve our nation’s problems. Epps is a true original who leaves the originalists’ arguments in shreds.
E. J. Dionne Jr., syndicated columnist and author of Our Divided Political Heart
Epps combines a scholar's deep understanding of the Constitution with an extraordinary ability to convey its complexities with wit and clarity. This book makes the essential meaning of the Constitution understandable and entertaining.
Walter Dellinger, former Acting Solicitor General and Maggs Professor of Law, Duke University
For far too long, Americans across the ideological spectrum have ceded the Constitution to the far right-wing of political thinkers. In this desperately-needed book, Garrett Epps takes on the elaborately-crafted fiction that the United States Constitution was drafted principally to protect the rights of gun owners, wealthy corporations, self-interested states and those determined to force their religious views on the unwilling. Of course nothing could be further from the truth. With a novelist's eye, a constitutional law professor's facility with th substantive arguments, and a saber-sharp wit to boot, Epps has produced here a love letter to the real Constitution; the document that has promoted freedom, tolerance and equality in this country for two centuries. Every American who seeks to reclaim that document should read it and confirm their suspicion that the debate over the constitution has two sides, not one.
Dahlia Lithwick, Senior Editor, slate.com
In this short and elegant book, Professor Epps exposes the fallacies of key conservative claims about the Constitution. For decades, and especially in recent years, the right-wing has made claims about the “true” meaning of the Constitution. Professor Epps thoroughly and persuasive explodes ten of these claims, which he rightly calls myths. Anyone interested in the Constitution, or American government, should read this book.
Erwin Chemerinsky, School of Law, University of California, Irvine
Wrong and Dangerous: Ten Right Wing Myths about Our Constitution
is by far the most excellent source of factual constitutional knowledge for defeating, deflating and diffusing the far right's hostage takeover of our beloved document. Mr. Epps beautifully details each of the ten myths then destroys them with inconvenient truth repeatedly ignored by the Republican fringe. I highly recommend this book to those who are eager to fight back against those who want to define our Constitution as something it's not.
The Politics of Jamie Sanderson Blog
Law professor Garrett Epps joins con-serv-a-tive talkers and liberal pundits in excoriating his opponents and offers a patina of scholarly respectability to arguments and assertions that would be at home any hour of the day on MSNBC.
The Weekly Standard
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