Keeping the Republic
A Defense of American Constitutionalism
Sales Date: March 1, 2024
280 Pages, 6.00 x 9.00 in
- Published: March 2024
- Published: March 2024
Keeping the Republic is an eloquent defense of the American constitutional order and a response to its critics, including those who are estranged from the very idea of a fixed constitution in which “the living are governed by the dead.” Dennis Hale and Marc Landy take seriously the criticisms of the United States Constitution. Before mounting their argument, they present an intellectual history of the key critics, including Thomas Paine, William Lloyd Garrison, Henry David Thoreau, Woodrow Wilson, Robert Dahl, Sanford Levinson, and the authors of The 1619 Project. Why, they ask, if the constitutional order is so well designed, do so many American citizens have a negative view of the American political order? To address that question, they examine the most crucial episodes in American political development from the Founding to the present.
Hale and Landy frame their defense of the Constitution by understanding America in terms of modernity, where small republics are no longer possible and there is a need to protect the citizens of a massive modern state while still preserving liberty. The Constitution makes large, popular government possible by placing effective limits on the exercise of power. The Constitution forces the people to be governed by the dead, both to pay the debt we owe to those who came before us and to preserve society for generations yet unborn.
The central argument of Keeping the Republic is that the Constitution provides for a free government because it places effective limits on the exercise of power—an essential ingredient of any good government, even one that aims to be a popular government. That the people should rule is a given among republicans; that the people can do anything they want is a proposition that no one could accept with their eyes wide open. Thus, the limits that the Constitution places on American political life are not a problem, but a solution to a problem.
Hale and Landy offer both a survey of American anti-constitutionalism and a powerful argument for maintaining the constitutional order of the nation’s Framers.
“In Keeping the Republic, Dennis Hale and Marc Landy provide a full-throated defense of the US Constitution as an elegant and necessary response to the challenges posed by modernity. The limitations that the Constitution places on democracy, they argue, allow liberty, equality, and justice to thrive in a large, diverse, modern republic. Hale and Landy trace the intellectual themes that unite the Constitution’s critics and ultimately provide the reader with valuable analytical tools to understand whether policies reinforce or detract from the Constitution’s core purposes. Their insights make an indispensable contribution to our understanding of the Constitution’s role in modern life.”—Emily Pears, author of Cords of Affection: Constructing Constitutional Union in Early American History
1. America as a Modern State
2. The Case against the Constitution
3. The Case against the Constitution, Reconsidered
4. Reform in the Constitutional Grain
5. Thinking Constitutionally