Summary: Not all the attackers of the Constitution are enemies of the people, or even of the Republic. After 200 years, some believe the Constitution has outlived its usefulness, its weaknesses outweigh its strengths. The rotten boroughs of the Senate, the perhaps unlimited growth of the Executive power, the too-vague limits on judicial authority — perhaps these signal the necessity of radical reform. Here Lewis H. Lapham and Daniel Lazare make their case.
Today we have a brief excerpt from Lewis H. Lapham’s insightful book Waiting for the Barbarians (1997). In this chapter he discusses The Frozen Republic: How the Constitution is Paralyzing Democracy by Daniel Lazare (1996). Click here to see articles by Daniel Lazare published in The Nation. At the end are links to other posts on this topic.
Chapter IX – Sacred Scroll
Over the course of a presidential election year I expect the books published on political themes to read like the speeches at a Fourth of July picnic – heartwarming cant as plentiful as the beer and as empty as the balloons – but six weeks before the New Hampshire primaries, I discovered The Frozen Republic: How the Constitution is Paralyzing Democracy, by Daniel Lazare, to be the exception that proves the rule.
In the sanctuary of the American civil religion nothing except a private fortune in excess of $5 billion is more precious than the four pages of parchment brought forth by the corporate sponsors of liberty in Philadelphia in the summer of 1787. Lazare, an accomplished iconoclast, manages within the space of a few hundred pages to assign them to the realm of magical objects in which a museum of natural history also might place the totem poles, the scraps of sacred moleskin, and the bones of a departed saint.
. . .I was glad to encounter a writer willing to suggest that only by reconfiguring our system of government (i.e., by rewriting the Constitution) can we address what by now have become the all too obvious consequences of our political weakness and stupidity. . . . The proposition seems to me to stand as proven in any morning’s newspaper.