Why America Keeps Battling to Live Up to the 14th Amendment

From Its Post-Civil War Origins to Today's Immigration Debates, the Constitutional Guarantee of Equal Protection and 'Birthright Citizenship' Has Been Bitterly Contested

The first clause of the 14th Amendment is a scant 28 words long. Yet when the amendment was adopted on July 9, 1868, it advanced the crucial task of turning former slaves into full citizens of the United States. And by recognizing that anyone born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to its jurisdiction, is automatically a U.S. citizen, the amendment would go on to take center stage in some of the most important legal decisions of the last hundred years.

Now the 14th Amendment is again embroiled in …

More In: U.S. Constitution

Is California Too Exceptional to Be Part of the U.S.?

We're a Progressive Check on Red-State Power—but We Unbalance the Constitutional System

America is terribly polarized.

And it’s all on account of California.

The trouble is not merely that California itself is such a politically polarized place. Or that California contributes to the many …

What Does ‘Natural-Born’ American Even Mean?

The Seemingly Rigid Requirement for the Presidency Didn't Disqualify the Nation's British-Born Founders

When choosing among presidential candidates, Americans find plenty to debate about their fitness for office, experience, and economic and foreign policies. But the framers of the Constitution made no mention …

A Heat-Packing Discussion

The Shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School Spurred Lots of People To Action. What’s Next?

The debate over gun rights is so contentious in America that it often seems the two sides are speaking different languages. The fight continues, bitterly—and yet nothing seems to change. …

Why Americans Fight Over Guns

How History, Culture, and Media Make the U.S. a Global Outlier on Gun Politics

After the mass shooting of school children at Sandy Hook Elementary, it appeared that new legislation on guns might advance in Congress. Instead, in spite of some changes in states, …