Political Polarization’s Challenge to the Constitution

Tuesday, November 13, 2018
CMC Athenaeum, 5:30p

Starting top-left, clockwise: Amanda Hollis-Brusky, Zachary Courser, Kenneth Miller, and George Thomas.
Since the American founding, broad agreement on the republican principles embodied in the Constitution has been a necessary condition for constructive policy debate. But what if the broad consensus over the Constitution breaks down? What if the nature of the conflict that currently animates our politics, which has often been encapsulated by the term “polarization,” is in fact the result of underlying disagreements on key elements of the Constitution? In particular, are the limitations that the Constitution places on democratic political power under sustained attack?  Based on their new book, Parchment Barriers: Political Polarization and the Limits of Constitutional Order, Zachary Courser, professor of government at CMC, will moderate a conversation with Amanda Hollis-Brusky, associate professor of politics at Pomona College, Kenneth Miller and George Thomas, both professors of government at CMC


Zachary Courser is a visiting professor of government and research director of the Dreier Roundtable at CMC. He has published articles on populist political movements, American political parties, and American democracy. Courser has experience working in policy and government, both on Capitol Hill and as the director of CMC’s Washington Program, and co-directs CMC’s policy lab. He currently has an edited volume in review on the rise of populism in Europe and the United States with University of Pennsylvania Press.

Amanda Hollis-Brusky is an associate professor of politics at Pomona College. Author of Ideas with Consequences: The Federalist Society & the Conservative Counterrevolution, Hollis-Brusky’s work focuses on the dynamics of constitutional change and the role “support structures”—networks of lawyers and academics, nongovernmental institutions, and ideas—play in that process. Her second book project, on the rise and efficacy of the support structure for conservative Christian legal mobilization, is currently titled Higher Counsel: Training the Conservative Christian Legal Movement, co-authored with Joshua C. Wilson of University of Denver and under advance contract with Oxford University Press.

Kenneth P. Miller is an associate professor of government and associate director of the Rose Institute for Local Government at CMC. Miller’s primary research focuses on state government institutions, with emphasis on direct democracy (initiative, referendum, and recall) and the interaction between law and politics. His publications include Direct Democracy and the Courts, and he is currently working on a book comparing Texas and California as models of red and blue state politics and policy.

George Thomas is a professor of government and director of the Salvatori Center at CMC. Author of The Founders and the Idea of a National University: Constituting the American Mind and The Madisonian Constitution, Thomas’s research focuses on the American constitutional order, constitutional law, and American political thought