Key remaining Supreme Court decisions could shape American politics for years to come

Why you should know the Constitution

The Supreme Court is about to release two rulings that could shape American politics for years to come. The justices may decide this week whether to let the Trump administration ask about citizenship in the 2020 census, and they're also expected to decide whether congressional district maps in North Carolina and Maryland are politically slanted in an unconstitutional way.

CBS News legal analyst Kim Wehle, author of the new book "How to Read the Constitution and Why," said the stakes are high for these cases.

"There's a lot of forces moving away from individual votes counting and corporate money, other sort of interests actually deciding our democracy," Wehle said.

The census case "could either favor or disfavor counting heads based on race," she said, because if respondents have to disclose their citizenship status, they might not answer the census at all. If that happens, fewer people would be reported in a given state – which could lead to the state receiving fewer votes in Congress or less funding.

The case on alleged gerrymandering is also key. "Both Democrats and Republicans carve up districts in ways to make sure that they continue to win, regardless of what the voters want," she said. "And the Supreme Court has so far not stepped in with a standard to test when something is too carved up and when something is sufficient. So we have to see if they're gonna do it this time."

New book discusses importance of Constitution in today's political climate

Wehle believes that maintaining an individual's voting power is key – especially now, during a period she describes as a "crumbling democracy."

"We're in an era where we have increasing power in the office of the presidency – not just under Donald Trump but for decades now – and a Congress that's not really putting up some stop signs," Wehle said.  "... Eventually, if we have too much power in government, that's going to hurt the individual. And so people have to think about taking their government back – and the best way to do that is at the ballot box."

When it comes to Iran, and President Trump's claim that he doesn't need congressional approval to strike the country, Wehle said that "the Constitution is in conflict."

"Congress has the power to declare war and to raise armies, and to support armies, but the president has the commander-in-chief power," she said. "And so scholars differ on the chicken and egg, which comes first: Does there have to be a declaration of war before you can send troops into battle? Or once they create troops, the president's in charge? Effectively, at the end of the day, Congress has allowed presidents over and over to send troops into battle, so, again, without a stopgap … essentially, that kind of power has amassed in the office of the presidency."