front cover of Defending the Republic
Defending the Republic
Constitutional Monarchy in a Time of Crisis: Essays in Honor of George W. Carey
Bruce Frohnen
Catholic University of America Press, 2022
In recent years, our constitutional order has increasingly come under attack as irredeemably undemocratic, racist, and oppressive. At the same time, it is increasingly obvious that politic practices in the United States have strayed very far from the founders’ designs and become deeply dysfunctional. The time is thus ripe for renewed reflection about the American political tradition. This volume reintroduces readers to the conservative tradition of political and constitutional discourse. It brings together prominent political scientists and legal scholars, all of whom were deeply influenced by the life and work of the eminent constitutional scholar George W. Carey. For over 40 years, Carey strove mightily to explain the nature and requirements of our political tradition. How it fostered meaningful, virtuous self-government, and how our constitutional tradition has been derailed by progressivist ideology. He is perhaps best known for his concept of “constitutional morality,” the understanding that our republican constitutional order can be sustained only by a combination of formal mechanisms (e.g., separation of powers) and unwritten norms (“standards of behavior”) that act to foster deliberation and consensus, as well as keep political actors within the boundaries of their constitutional offices. Contributors, including Francis Canavan, Claes G. Ryn, Paul Edward Gottfried, and Peter Augustine Lawler, discuss and develop Carey’s key insights, applying them to issues from the nature of majoritarian government to the purposes of constitutionalism to the decline of virtue that has accompanied the expansion of power among national and international elites. Each essay provides penetrating analysis of key aspects of our tradition, its inherent purposes, growth, and subsequent derailment, as well as the resources remaining within that tradition for the rebuilding of our constitutional order and a decent common life.

front cover of Democracy and Dysfunction
Democracy and Dysfunction
Sanford Levinson and Jack M. Balkin
University of Chicago Press, 2019
It is no longer controversial that the American political system has become deeply dysfunctional. Today, only slightly more than a quarter of Americans believe the country is heading in the right direction, while sixty-three percent believe we are on a downward slope. The top twenty words used to describe the past year include “chaotic,” “turbulent,” and “disastrous.” Donald Trump’s improbable rise to power and his 2016 Electoral College victory placed America’s political dysfunction in an especially troubling light, but given the extreme polarization of contemporary politics, the outlook would have been grim even if Hillary Clinton had won. The greatest upset in American presidential history is only a symptom of deeper problems of political culture and constitutional design.      

Democracy and Dysfunction brings together two of the leading constitutional law scholars of our time, Sanford Levinson and Jack M. Balkin, in an urgently needed conversation that seeks to uncover the underlying causes of our current crisis and their meaning for American democracy. In a series of letters exchanged over a period of two years, Levinson and Balkin travel—along with the rest of the country—through the convulsions of the 2016 election and Trump’s first year in office. They disagree about the scope of the crisis and the remedy required. Levinson believes that our Constitution is fundamentally defective and argues for a new constitutional convention, while Balkin, who believes we are suffering from constitutional rot, argues that there are less radical solutions. As it becomes dangerously clear that Americans—and the world—will be living with the consequences of this pivotal period for many years to come, it is imperative that we understand how we got here—and how we might forestall the next demagogue who will seek to beguile the American public.

front cover of Desperately Seeking Certainty
Desperately Seeking Certainty
The Misguided Quest for Constitutional Foundations
Daniel A. Farber and Suzanna Sherry
University of Chicago Press, 2002
Irreverent, provocative, and engaging, Desperately Seeking Certainty attacks the current legal vogue for grand unified theories of constitutional interpretation. On both the Right and the Left, prominent legal scholars are attempting to build all of constitutional law from a single foundational idea. Dan Farber and Suzanna Sherry find that in the end no single, all-encompassing theory can successfully guide judges or provide definitive or even sensible answers to every constitutional question. Their book brilliantly reveals how problematic foundationalism is and shows how the pragmatic, multifaceted common law methods already used by the Court provide a far better means of reaching sound decisions and controlling judicial discretion than do any of the grand theories.

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