Since the 1980s “Reagan Revolution,” the call for the restoration of “The Founders’ Constitution” – originalism – has played a major role in rallying the modern American Right. Recently, however, conservatives have re-fashioned an originalist outlook formerly emphasizing judicial restraint to accommodate an activist agenda in cases involving gun rights, religious liberty, free speech protections for campaign expenditures, and the (would-be) invalidation of the Affordable Care Act. The traditional liberal rejoinder to originalism, “living constitutionalism,” however, was fashioned to answer the old originalism, not this new, currently more vital, version.
Ken I. Kersch, Tallman Scholar in Government, delivered the annual Tallman lecture at Bowdoin, arguing that liberals seeking a more powerful and persuasive constitutional philosophy to counter the new conservatism should re-group by re-visiting the largely forgotten political visions of seminal Cold War liberals like John Dewey and Reinhold Niebuhr. Doing so offers today’s liberals the most promising way forward in forging a revitalized living constitutionalism to to answer the modern conservative challenge.
The event was free and open to the public, and sponsored by the Tallman Lecture Fund.