The Constitutional Bind: How Americans Came To Idolize a Document That Fails Them

Univ. of Chicago. Apr. 2024. 784p. ISBN 9780226350721. $45. POL SCI
Rana (law and government, Boston Coll.; Two Faces of American Freedom) assails what he calls “creedal constitutionalism,” in which Americans across the political spectrum venerate the Constitution as an inheritance from founders that obstructs reform, weakens the democratic process, and is rooted in nationalism and imperialism. He argues that creedal constitutionalism has paved the way for reactionary jurists to base court rulings on conjectures about the founders’ intentions. Most of his book reconstructs the evolution (starting with 1887) of the Constitution’s position in the United States’ political spectrum. Rana interrogates creedal and counter-creedal discourses, including socialist, Black radical, and labor movement perspectives. He urges Americans to demand Congress limit presidential powers, abolish the electoral college, and enact judicial term limits and other structural reforms to guarantee rights and foster democracy. Creedal constitutionalism, he argues, is inadequate glue to bind the fracturing nation together.
VERDICT An eye-opening and exhaustive look at the U.S. Constitution. This book will reward readers’ tenacity and enlighten academics, policymakers, and civic-minded Americans alike.
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