The Legal Theory Bookworm recommends Engines of Liberty: The Power of Citizen Activists to Make Constitutional Law by David Cole. Here is a description:
How did gay and lesbian couples’ right to marry go from unthinkable to inevitable? How did the individual right to bear arms, dismissed as fraudulent by Chief Justice Warren Burger in 1990, become a constitutional right in 2008? And what compelled President George W. Bush to rein in many of his initiatives in the war on terror before leaving office, even though past presidents have had a free hand in wartime? We are likely to answer that, in each case, the Supreme Court remade our nation’s most fundamental law.
Yet as the award-winning legal scholar David Cole argues in Engines of Liberty, citizen activists are the true drivers of constitutional change. Drawing on interviews with participants in the most successful rights movements of the last 30 years, he shows that time and again, associations of ordinary Americans confronting long odds have managed to transform the nation’s highest law. And they have done so largely through advocacy outside the federal courts altogether.
We witness marriage equality advocates in the 1980s and 1990s uniting behind a strategy of state-based incrementalism that paved the way for their historic Supreme Court victory. We see the NRA building a loyal and active membership base that can swing elections and influence state and federal law, thereby shaping the debate about guns at the Supreme Court. And we watch as civil liberties and human rights groups encourage foreign populations and governments to challenge the president when few domestic institutions would.
Offering a new vision of the role we all play in shaping our Constitution and illuminating the tactics successful reform campaigns have employed, Engines of Liberty restores faith in the power of citizen activists to help shape our nation’s future.
And from the reviews:
“Cole’s book is compelling, especially in today's climate of gridlock following the death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.”—Kirkus Reviews (online)
“In Engines of Liberty, David Cole turns constitutional law on its head. With his characteristic intelligence and clarity, Cole demonstrates that the law changes from the bottom up, not the top down, and that it is citizens, not judges, who are the ultimate custodians of our nation’s laws.”—Jeffrey Toobin, author of The Oath and The Nine
“Engines of Liberty is a masterful account of how civil society organizations work, and a passionate argument for why they are so important to our democracy. My hope is that Engines of Liberty inspires a new generation of activists to rise up and launch their own campaigns for civil liberties.”—Anthony D. Romero, Executive Director, American Civil Liberties Union
“Anyone who doubts the ability of Americans to change both policy and law should read David Cole's book. His analysis of how we go about protecting the rights of gun owners is the most accurate I have ever read. This is a must read.”—David Keene, former president of the NRA
“In expertly demonstrating how ordinary people can make a huge difference on defining issues in our nation, David Cole has written an important, inspiring, and essential book.”—Mary Bonauto, Civil Rights Project Director at Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders
“A skilled human rights practitioner unveils a characteristically thoughtful, balanced anatomy of successful constitutional advocacy."—Harold Hongju Koh, Sterling Professor of International Law, Yale Law School
“No one is better than David Cole at explaining how Americans can fight for civil liberties and civil rights. He is passionate yet careful, accessible yet nuanced.”—Randall Kennedy, Michael R. Klein Professor at Harvard Law School and author of For Discrimination
"David Cole is one of our most astute and perceptive constitutional commentators. His work is indispensable."
—Robert Post, Dean, Yale Law School
“David Cole's fair-minded narrative is a must read for anyone who desires to change constitutional law.”
—Randy E. Barnett, Carmack Waterhouse Professor of Legal Theory and Director, Georgetown Center for the Constitution
“Engines of Liberty illuminates the instrumental and often overlooked role of one vital engine of liberty: civil society advocates whose efforts create the political and social environment that make change possible.”
—Elisa Massimino, President and CEO of Human Rights First
“In a lively, engaging, and illuminating narrative, David Cole's Engines of Liberty brings to life this often underestimated element of American constitutional law: citizen activism.”
—Geoffrey R. Stone, Edward H. Levi Distinguished Service Professor at the University of Chicago