Public figures like Hillary Clinton should use the 150th anniversary of this Second Founding to draw attention to the constitutional achievements of Stevens, Bingham, and their generation. While Reconstruction fell short of its full promise, its leaders deserve to be remembered alongside America’s long line of visionary reformers—from James Madison and Alexander Hamilton to Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton to Martin Luther King, Jr. and Lyndon Baines Johnson. And the period itself, though turbulent and violent, should be remembered for what it was—a Second Founding for our nation.
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Today marks the 201st birthday of John Bingham. Although forgotten by most Americans, Bingham is one of the most important figures in American constitutional history. Indeed, Justice Hugo Black called him the “Madison . . . of the Fourteenth Amendment.” And so he was.
If the Court takes, as its lodestar for evaluating DAPA, the plan manifest over decades of legislating and administering the immigration laws, it is unlikely that votes will be found to invalidate it—in the (also unlikely) event that a majority will grant standing and reach the merits of Texas’ case.
There are limits to executive power, of course. As the Supreme Court has recognized, the executive branch cannot simply “abdicate” its responsibility to enforce the law. And as a society, we should remain ever watchful to make sure no presidential actions disrupt the balance of powers. But so far, President Obama’s executive actions don’t come anywhere close to doing so.
The Supreme Court will likely hand down its decision in Whole Woman’s Health on one of the last days of June 2016, a matter of weeks after the 150th anniversary of the passage of the Fourteenth Amendment in Congress. If Justice Kennedy and Justice Ginsburg once again join forces in reaffirming the amendment’s protection of equal liberty, dignity, and autonomy, there will be quite a lot to celebrate.