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Your Weekly Constitutional

Produced in partnership with James Madison's Montpelier, Your Weekly Constitutional is a public radio show featuring lively discussion of controversial constitutional topics, from Gay Rights to Gun Rights. Find us on Facebook and iTunes!

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Appomattox Court House

Only once in its history has the United States gone to war to resolve a constitutional issue. The war was the American Civil War and the issue was slavery.In this episode we go to where it all effectively came to an end: a small, remote town in Virginia called Appomattox Court House.

54mins

29 Aug 2014

Rank #1

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Our Imbecilic Constitution

That's what Alexander Hamilton once called the Articles of Confederation - imbecilic. And that's why he wanted to throw out the Articles in their entirety and start fresh with what ultimately became our current Constitution. Sandy Levinson, a distinguished law professor from the University of Texas, doesn't want to throw out our whole Constitution, but he thinks that some parts of it are definitely worth changing. And we're not talking little stuff here - he goes right after the basics, even revisiting some of the very issues that were hotly debated during the Constitutional Convention of 1787. Hey, that's why we have an amendment process, right?

59mins

17 Oct 2012

Rank #2

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The Framers' Coup

We like to think that we live in a "democracy," even though we know that it's actually something called a "republic." But what's the difference? Is our particular republic something less than democratic?Well, Michael Klarman of Harvard Law School suggests that perhaps the Framers of our Constitution pulled a fast one on the rest of us, enshrining the power of "elites" rather than the common folk. Sound familiar?Join Stewart for a fascinating conversation about the nature of American "democracy."

54mins

22 Nov 2016

Rank #3

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Revenge Porn

What can you do if an ex-lover posts explicit photographs of you online? Aren't there laws against such behavior?There are, indeed, according to our two guests. But are such laws effective? And, even if they might be effective, do they violate the First Amendment?Join us for a timely, and disturbing, discussion.

54mins

22 Nov 2013

Rank #4

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Sisters-in-Law

Once upon a time, the idea of a woman serving on the United States Supreme Court seemed strange, perhaps unattainable. Then along came Sandra Day O’Connor, and, a few years later, Ruth Bader Ginsberg. The Court, and the nation, haven’t been the same since.This week, author Linda Hirshman will tell us all about it. Her new book about the High Court’s first two female Justices and their personal and professional relationships is called Sisters-in-Law: How Sandra Day O’Connor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg Went to the Supreme Court and Changed the World.

54mins

11 Jun 2016

Rank #5

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Spreading Like a Weed

Every year it seems that more states legalize marijuana in one form or another. Could the national government be next? Or have the recent elections stopped the progress of legalization efforts?We’ll speak with Howard Wooldridge, of Citizens Against Prohibition, as well as Scott Chipman, a spokesperson from CALM, Citizens Against Legalizing Marijuana. We'll also hear from Robert Mikos of Vanderbilt University, who spoke to us about the constitutional issues back in 2013.

54mins

18 Feb 2017

Rank #6

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Jemmy and Jeffy's Big Adventure

A friendship for the ages. One of the most important intellectual collaborations in human history. Fifty years of harmonious cooperation on profound issues of government and philosophy.Lewis & Clark? Nah, they just wandered in the wilderness.Lennon & McCartney? Nah, but we have to admit that Lennon was quite a philosopher, at least when he wasn't high.We're talking about Jemmy & Jeffy, a/k/a James Madison and Thomas Jefferson. They weren't much for roughing it, and neither wrote any songs (that we know of) but their lifelong friendship produced some of the most important ideas in American constitutional history. Professor Jeffry Morrison of Regent University and the James Madison Foundation tells us all about it.

54mins

18 Apr 2014

Rank #7

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The Green Book

We’ve all heard of the Jim Crow era, when African-Americans were barred from most restaurants, gas stations and hotels in the South. Did you ever wonder how black people were able to travel during that time?One resource they used was The Negro Motorist Green Book, a guide to those places where they could find food, shelter, and a friendly face during a very unfriendly era.Join us for an enlightening discussion with law professor Alfred Brophy, who’s done extensive research on The Green Book and who has a lot to tell us about it.

54mins

30 Jan 2015

Rank #8

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Separation of Powers

"The accumulation of all powers, legislative, executive, and judiciary, in the same hands, whether of one, a few, or many, and whether hereditary, self appointed, or elective, may justly be pronounced the very definition of tyranny." James Madison, Federalist #47, January 30, 1788.You said it, James! And this week we're talkin' Separation of Powers, or, as your 8th Grade teacher might have called it, "Checks and Balances." Either way, it's the first and most fundamental way that the Constitution protects our individual liberties. Ben Kleinerman from Michigan State University's James Madison College tells us all about it, and Cash Arehart, from Colonial Williamsburg, tells us about a new Electronic Field Trip that uses baseball to illustrate the concept (Cash is playing the role of Chief Justice John Marshall in the photograph).We're also talking about how we might improve the Constitution, with our rabble-rousing buddy Chris Phillips and his new project at the National Constitution Center, "The Next 10 Amendments."

57mins

22 Aug 2013

Rank #9

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Democracy and Truth

Sophia Rosenfeld is a historian at the University of Pennsylvania. She's published an incisive and timely book about the fraught relationship between democratic governance and, well, the truth.Turns out that when it comes to politics--SPOILER ALERT--not everything you hear is factual. And some people--SPOILER ALERT--believe falsehoods even after they've been debunked.But aren't facts necessary to democratic debate and governance? How can we address these fundamental problems? Sophia has a few ideas. Join us!

52mins

3 Oct 2019

Rank #10

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The Original Black Elite

We’ve spoken with Elizabeth Dowling Taylor before, about her groundbreaking book “A Slave in the White House.”Well, Beth has kept on writing, and this time she’s expanded her focus to the proud “colored aristocracy” that emerged in the United States after the Civil War. She focuses upon two of its members — Daniel Murray, the son of a former slave, who, in 1897, became chief of periodicals at the Library of Congress, and his wife, Anna, a descendant of one of John Brown’s raiders. Beth documents the inaugural balls they organized, the properties they owned, and their political efforts on behalf of their race.She also chronicles their decline -- ultimately, their affluence, respectability, and light complexions couldn’t save them from the humiliations of Jim Crow.Join us for a poignant glimpse into a largely forgotten era in our constitutional history.

54mins

25 Feb 2017

Rank #11

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How to Save the Supreme Court

Does the Supreme Court need saving? Ganesh Sitaraman thinks so. He teaches constitutional law at Vanderbilt University, and, like many of us, he is troubled by current political challenges to the Supreme Court’s legitimacy. Unlike most of us, however, he has some concrete proposals to save it. He and co-author Daniel Epps have put their ideas into writing in an article that will soon appear in the Yale Law Journal. As Stewart points out, some of the proposals in the article are pretty radical, but Ganesh has thoughtful and interesting arguments in favor of them.Join us for a deep dive into the highest court in the land.

52mins

3 Aug 2019

Rank #12

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The United States Attorney

Who are those guys?You've heard of them - the United States Attorneys. They sound pretty important. But who are they, and what do they do? Quite a lot, it turns out. And a lot of what they do involves the Constitution, starting out with their appointment by the President and their extensive and arduous confirmation process before the United States Senate.We talk to two of these powerful government officials: Tim Heaphy, from the Western District of Virginia; and Bill Killian, from the Eastern District of Tennessee. Tim and Bill tell us about their duties, their backgrounds, and how they came to occupy these important positions. And, yes, they share lots of good war stories.

59mins

19 Apr 2013

Rank #13

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Executive Orders, Immigration and the Donald's Muslim Ban

President Obama wants to formalize the longstanding practice of the U.S. government allowing millions of undocumented aliens to remain in the United States. Donald Trump wants to step up deportations and ban all Muslim immigration.But does any president have that much executive power? Join us as we speak to University of Chicago law professor Eric Posner about this controversial constitutional question.

53mins

5 Feb 2016

Rank #14

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The Birth of a Nation

Boston University journalism Professor Dick Lehr has written a new book about a film that is perhaps the greatest in American history - and the most racist. Is censorship justified in such a situation, where great art is created for a terrible cause? It's been a century, and we're still arguing about that one. Join us for a fascinating historical discussion with great current relevance.And then, just for good measure, we'll have an update on the Declaration Project from our good friend, Chris Phillips, author of Democracy Café. This time, Chris isn't content with rousing the over-21 rabble -- he wants to empower children, too.Teenagers of the world, unite!

54mins

7 Jan 2016

Rank #15

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Baseball: The Most Constitutional Sport

What does baseball have to do with constitutional law? Quite a bit, it turns out.Stewart will explain it to you, along with YWC’s Executive Producer, Wayne Winkler, who’s a bit skeptical.Stewart will also interview historian, constitutional lawyer and author David O. Stewart about his latest book, The Babe Ruth Deception, which tells a tale set in the early 20th Century, a time when baseball truly became "the national pastime."Play ball!

54mins

15 Jul 2016

Rank #16

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William Wells Brown

Ever heard of Frederick Douglass? Sure you have. But how about his contemporary and fellow ex-slave and abolitionist, William Wells Brown?No? Well, now you have, and you’ll learn even more through our discussion with Ezra Greenspan, the author of a new biography.

1hr 19mins

23 Jan 2015

Rank #17

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Colonial Williamsburg, Part I

This week Stewart visits with Cash Arehart, our friend and interpreter at Colonial Williamsburg, one of the coolest places on the planet.Stewart and Cash talk about the history of the city of Williamsburg, the establishment of Colonial Williamsburg in the 1920's, and the evolution of this unique institution of living history over the past century.Listen in. It's epic.

54mins

14 Mar 2014

Rank #18

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Second Amendment Update, 2019

We haven't heard much from the Supreme Court lately on the Second Amendment. That may soon change. So the Law Review at Lincoln Memorial University’s law school decided to host a symposium, bringing together leading Second Amendment scholars from around the country. Two of the scholars at the symposium sat down with Stewart to share their contrasting views. We'll hear from Stephen Halbrook, a Senior Fellow at the Independent Institute, and Robert Spitzer, a Distinguished Service Professor at the State University of New York-Cortland.

53mins

25 Feb 2019

Rank #19

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The First Impeachment

Nope. Not Andrew Johnson. It's a guy named William Blount, who was kicked out of the United States Senate more than two hundred years ago.But, like Johnson, Blount was an East Tennessean. Perhaps there's something in the water here.University of Tennessee historian Chris Magra tells the tale.

53mins

30 Mar 2020

Rank #20