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Democracy and Dysfunction

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.

208 pages | 6 x 9 | © 2019

Law and Legal Studies: The Constitution and the Courts

Political Science: American Government and Politics

Table of Contents


Part 1 Do We Have a Dysfunctional Constitution?

September 29, 2015
October 12, 2015
October 12, 2015
November 1, 2015

Part 2 Dysfunction and the Rise of Donald Trump

August 1, 2016
August 7, 2016
November 26, 2016
December 3, 2016

Part 3 Constitutional Crisis

February 21, 2017
April 14, 2017

Part 4 Constitutional Rot

June 18, 2017
June 24, 2017
August 29, 2017

Part 5 Executive Power and Constitutional Dictatorship

October 7, 2017
November 6, 2017

Part 6 Conclusions

January 1, 2018
January 5, 2018

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