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  • Basic Books

Engines of Liberty

David Cole

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Political science & theory

From the National Legal Director of the ACLU, a rousing account of how everyday citizens can shape and defend our bedrock democratic values

Donald Trump's policies, from his travel ban to his approval of the Dakota Access Pipeline, have prompted an immediate response from concerned liberals. Yet what effect can protest truly have in the face of the awesome power of the executive branch? Do everyday citizens have a role in safeguarding our Constitution? Or must we rely on the federal courts, and the Supreme Court above all, to protect our dearly held rights?

In Engines of Liberty, the esteemed legal scholar David Cole argues that we all have a part to play in the grand civic dramas of our era. Examining the most successful rights movements of the last 30 years, he reveals how groups of ordinary Americans have worked together to defend and expand our civil liberties. The lesson of the fight for marriage equality is the value of strategy of state-level activism. In the NRA's successful efforts to swing elections and influence state and federal law, we can see the power of groups that build loyal, active, and uncompromising memberships. The fight for human rights during the Iraq war illustrates how activist groups can encourage foreign populations and governments to challenge the president when our domestic institutions fail to.

In a new Introduction written for the paperback edition, Cole urges us to view these past efforts as a blueprint for activism in our own era. From travel rights to protections for transgender students, and from voting rights to environmental issues, Engines of Liberty is an essential guidebook for concerned citizens seeking to defend the law of the land.

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