In this provocative book, one of our most eminent political scientists questions the extent to which the American Constitution furthers democratic goals. Robert Dahl reveals the Constitution's potentially antidemocratic elements and explains why they are there, compares the American constitutional system to other democratic systems, and explores how we might alter our political system to achieve greater equality among citizens. In a new chapter for this second edition, he shows how increasing differences in state populations revealed by the Census of 2000 have further increased the veto power over constitutional amendments held by a tiny minority of Americans. He then explores the prospects for changing some important political practices that are not prescribed by the written Constitution, though most Americans may assume them to be so.
The author argues that certain aspects of the American Constitution are deeply flawed and detract from a purely democratic society and includes discussions on the electoral college, the Federalist Papers, and proportional representation.
NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • “Comprehensive, enlightening, and terrifyingly timely.”—The New York Times Book Review (Editors' Choice) WINNER OF THE GOLDSMITH BOOK PRIZE • SHORTLISTED FOR THE LIONEL GELBER PRIZE • NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY The Washington Post • Time • Foreign Affairs • WBUR • Paste Donald Trump’s presidency has raised a question that many of us never thought we’d be asking: Is our democracy in danger? Harvard professors Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt have spent more than twenty years studying the breakdown of democracies in Europe and Latin America, and they believe the answer is yes. Democracy no longer ends with a bang—in a revolution or military coup—but with a whimper: the slow, steady weakening of critical institutions, such as the judiciary and the press, and the gradual erosion of long-standing political norms. The good news is that there are several exit ramps on the road to authoritarianism. The bad news is that, by electing Trump, we have already passed the first one. Drawing on decades of research and a wide range of historical and global examples, from 1930s Europe to contemporary Hungary, Turkey, and Venezuela, to the American South during Jim Crow, Levitsky and Ziblatt show how democracies die—and how ours can be saved. Praise for How Democracies Die “What we desperately need is a sober, dispassionate look at the current state of affairs. Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt, two of the most respected scholars in the field of democracy studies, offer just that.”—The Washington Post “Where Levitsky and Ziblatt make their mark is in weaving together political science and historical analysis of both domestic and international democratic crises; in doing so, they expand the conversation beyond Trump and before him, to other countries and to the deep structure of American democracy and politics.”—Ezra Klein, Vox “If you only read one book for the rest of the year, read How Democracies Die. . . .This is not a book for just Democrats or Republicans. It is a book for all Americans. It is nonpartisan. It is fact based. It is deeply rooted in history. . . . The best commentary on our politics, no contest.”—Michael Morrell, former Acting Director of the Central Intelligence Agency (via Twitter) “A smart and deeply informed book about the ways in which democracy is being undermined in dozens of countries around the world, and in ways that are perfectly legal.”—Fareed Zakaria, CNN
Constitutionalism and democracy have been interpreted as both intimately related and intrinsically opposed. On the one hand constitutions are said to set out the rules of the democratic game, on the other as constraining the power of the demos and their representatives to rule themselves - including by reforming the very processes of democracy itself. Meanwhile, constitutionalists themselves differ on how far any constitution derives its authority from, and should itself be subject to democratic endorsement and interpretation. They also dispute whether constitutions should refer solely to democratic processes, or also define and limit democratic goals. Each of these positions produces a different view of judicial review, the content and advisability of a Bill of Rights and the nature of constitutional politics. These differences are not simply academic positions, but are reflected in the different types of constitutional democracy found in the United States, continental Europe, Britain and many commonwealth countries. The selected essays explore these issues from the perspectives of law, philosophy and political science. A detailed and informative introduction sets them in the context of contemporary debates about constitutionalism.
Democracies are in danger. Around the world, a rising wave of populist leaders threatens to erode the core structures of democratic self rule. In the United States, the election of Donald Trump marked a decisive turning point for many. What kind of president calls the news media the "enemy of the American people," or sees a moral equivalence between violent neo-Nazi protesters in paramilitary formation and residents of a college town defending the racial and ethnic diversity of their homes? Yet, whatever our concerns about the current president, we can be assured that the Constitution offers safeguards to protect against lasting damage--or can we? How to Save a Constitutional Democracy mounts an urgent argument that we can no longer afford to be complacent. Drawing on a rich array of other countries' experiences with democratic backsliding, Tom Ginsburg and Aziz Z. Huq show how constitutional rules can either hinder or hasten the decline of democratic institutions. The checks and balances of the federal government, a robust civil society and media, and individual rights--such as those enshrined in the First Amendment--do not necessarily succeed as bulwarks against democratic decline. Rather, Ginsburg and Huq contend, the sobering reality for the United States is that, to a much greater extent than is commonly realized, the Constitution's design makes democratic erosion more, not less, likely. Its structural rigidity has had the unforeseen consequence of empowering the Supreme Court to fill in some details--often with doctrines that ultimately facilitate rather than inhibit the infringement of rights. Even the bright spots in the Constitution--the First Amendment, for example--may have perverse consequences in the hands of a deft communicator, who can degrade the public sphere by wielding hateful language that would be banned in many other democracies. But we--and the rest of the world--can do better. The authors conclude by laying out practical steps for how laws and constitutional design can play a more positive role in managing the risk of democratic decline.
Where did the American democratic tradition begin? From ancient civilizations in Greece and Rome to the Enlightenment in Europe, democratic ideas throughout time have influenced the development of democracy in the United States. In The U.S. Constitution: Discover How Democracy Works, children ages 9 through 12 learn about the foundation of democracy and how the documents crafted hundreds of years ago still have an impact on our country today. They explore the Declaration of Independence, U.S. Constitution, and the Bill of Rights, among others. These documents provide a framework with which we make the laws and processes that help keep democracy a vital paradigm. Through hands-on projects, which include analyzing how the promises made in the Preamble of the Constitution were put into practice and investigating how to balance the freedom of speech in the digital age, students investigate how American democracy operates. With colorful illustrations, interesting sidebars, and links to online primary sources, this book asks readers to consider the effect of technology on democracy and make predictions about future documents that will be important to the preservation of democracy around the world.
Levinson argues that too many of our Constitution's provisions promote either unjust or ineffective government. Under the existing blueprint, we can neither rid ourselves of incompetent presidents nor assure continuity of government following catastrophic attacks. Less important, perhaps, but certainly problematic, is the appointment of Supreme Court judges for life. Adding insult to injury, the United States Constitution is the most difficult to amend or update of any constitution currently existing in the world today. Democratic debate leaves few stones unturned, but we tend to take our basic constitutional structures for granted. Levinson boldly challenges the American people to undertake a long overdue public discussion on how they might best reform this most hallowed document and construct a constitution adequate to our democratic values. "Admirably gutsy and unfashionable." --Michael Kinsley, The New York Times "Bold, bracingly unromantic, and filled with illuminating insights. He accomplishes an unlikely feat, which is to make a really serious argument for a new constitutional convention, one that is founded squarely on democratic ideals." --Cass R. Sunstein, The New Republic "Everyone who cares about how our government works should read this thoughtful book." --Washington Lawyer
A More Perfect Constitution presents creative and dynamic proposals from one of the most visionary and fertile political minds of our time to reinvigorate our Constitution and American governance at a time when such change is urgently needed, given the growing dysfunction and unfairness of our political system . Combining idealism and pragmatism, and with full respect for the original document, Larry Sabato's thought-provoking ideas range from the length of the president's term in office and the number and terms of Supreme Court justices to the vagaries of the antiquated Electoral College, and a compelling call for universal national service-all laced through with the history behind each proposal and the potential impact on the lives of ordinary people. Aware that such changes won't happen easily, but that the original Framers fully expected the Constitution to be regularly revised, Sabato urges us to engage in the debate and discussion his ideas will surely engender. During a presidential election year, no book is more relevant or significant than this.