Constitutional reform is a topic of perennial academic debate, perhaps now more than ever amid sharp polarization in the electorate and government. At once a cogent, new contribution to the scholarly literature and appropriate for American politics and government students, this book mounts a provocative, nonideological defense of the US Constitution, directly engaging proposals for reform and providing a rare systematic argument for continuity: Our politics may be broken but our system is not. Writing from an international perspective with an array of fascinating data, the author draws on theory, law, and history to defend the republican order under political stress and intellectual challenge.
Table of Contents
Introduction: Why the Constitution Needs Defending Today
1. Constitutional Critiques: The Re-Emergence of Jeffersonian Constitutional Angst
2. The Preamble, Then and Now: A More Perfect Union
3. Governing Institutions
4. Amendments and Interpretation
Conclusion: Cults, Crises, Conventions, and Crossroads
Robert S. Singh is Professor of Politics at Birkbeck, University of London. His research focuses on contemporary US politics and the politics of US foreign policy.
Robert Singh’s In Defense of the United States Constitution is a timely and welcome antidote to the frequent charges that the Constitution is outmoded and undemocratic. There are serious problems in our politics – citizen apathy and ignorance, partisan polarization, and institutional gridlock among them. But as Singh calmly and reasonably points out, these are problems of our politics and not our Constitution. This book will lower your blood-pressure and lift your spirits – just the prescription for our times.
Cal Jillson, Southern Methodist University
Given the current troubled state of the American polity, calls to amend the Constitution are once again in vogue. This book is an important and timely response to these proposals. Robert Singh offers an articulate, balanced, and well-informed discussion of the strengths and weaknesses of the Constitution, one that suggests that the governing problems that afflict the United States are not necessarily a product of constitutional flaws. Although he agrees that there are certain amendments that would be real improvements, he concludes that the document’s daunting amending procedure makes change unlikely, and more importantly, that there are greater dangers than advantages to undertaking a wholesale process of constitutional revision.
Michael L. Mezey, DePaul University
Critics argue that American politics are broken and that the Constitution is to blame. Robert S. Singh deflects this blame in this clearly written, lucid, and timely defense of the Framers’ handiwork: Taking seriously points of view from all sides and origins and arguing in good faith at every point, Singh dismantles each critique – and the "situational constitutionalism" orientation articulated by many parties – by pointing out the flaws in the argument. Singh places blame for what ails American politics where it clearly belongs: on America’s polarized politics and rudderless ship of state. This book will make students in American politics and constitutional studies courses think critically, and is also a novel contribution to the literature.
Jeffrey S. Peake, Clemson University
In Defense of the United States Constitution offers a reasonable diagnosis and an achievable prescription for what ails American politics today. Responding to calls for major structural amendments or even a new constitutional convention, author Robert Singh wisely advises that "dispensing with the existing settlement is a gamble unlikely to pay off." The reform we need is partisan, not constitutional: Partisans can reframe issues so as to re-establish the possibility of ideological compromise. Without such a rapprochement, constitutional reform is impossible; with it, existing constitutional provisions are satisfactory.
Randall Calvert, Washington University in St. Louis
Robert Singh has written a timely, carefully researched, and well-reasoned book. Sure to stimulate discussion, his work is in the must-read category for anyone interested in the future of constitutional government in the United States.
Donald Grier Stephenson, Jr., Franklin & Marshall College; Co-author of American Constitutional Law: Introductory Essays and Selected Cases
Rob Singh’s accomplished book will command attention and respect. It is a work of wisdom. Culturally and historically sensitive, his defense of the constitution is the intelligent and rigorous account that we need to set twenty-first century turmoil and discontents in appropriate historical, political, and legal contexts. Here is a scholarly defense of the constitution with which scholars and non-scholars alike should engage.
Nigel Bowles, University of Oxford
In a time of gridlock and polarizing politics, Robert Singh reminds us why the US Constitution still matters and is worth defending. He lays out why the Constitution is not – and never has been – perfect, but also how it has always aspired to that goal and is closer now than it once was. He argues for some amendments to the document but also counsels against wholesale changes that would involve more costs than benefits. To put it succinctly, Singh shows us why "we the people" are better off with our Constitution than we would be without it or with a fundamentally different one.
Eric T. Kasper, University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire; Director, Center for Constitutional Studies
Blaming the US Constitution for our present discontents is like blaming a home's foundation for the poor interior decorating choices of its inhabitants: It is a national resource which should be altered only with great care. Singh evenhandedly and comprehensively demonstrates that the problem lies in the realm of politics – his contribution to this important debate will give reasons for dismay to, and should be taken seriously by, both the left and right,.
Andrew E. Busch, Claremont McKenna College
In Defense of the United States Constitution offers lively, learned support for a Constitution that is at once much-beloved and much-maligned. Robert Singh writes with precision and passion in mustering a spirited rejoinder to those who criticize the U.S. Constitution on an array of fronts. This book leaves a reader better informed to consider and participate in many of today's key legal and political debates.
Joshua A. Geltzer, Executive Director and Visiting Professor of Law, Institute for Constitutional Advocacy and Protection, Georgetown University Law Center