The Democracy Amendments

The Democracy Amendments

Constitutional Reforms to Save the United States

By John J. Davenport

A vicious spiral of political polarisation, failing government, loss of public faith, and conspiracy-mongers undermining US elections, are pushing the country toward the abyss of political violence. Only deep constitutional change, brought about by a new national convention, can free us from this mess. A sane, comprehensive solution is called for to treat the malaise affecting our body politic. This rescue plan will require a new national convention.

EPUB, 292 Pages

ISBN:9781839986635

May 2023

£15.99, $19.99

PDF, 292 Pages

ISBN:9781839986642

May 2023

£15.99, $19.99

  • About This Book
  • Reviews
  • Author Information
  • Series
  • Table of Contents
  • Links
  • Podcasts

About This Book

  • Americans perceive the many political dilemmas in our society and corruption in our government, but few understand the causes of these problems. After explaining the constitutional roots of declining governing capacity in our federal system, this book sets out a comprehensive agenda of 25 amendments that can attract wide support across the political spectrum. The “top 10” proposals include reforms to make elections more competitive, reliable, and fair, such as ranked choice voting (“instant runoffs”); semi-open primary races with fixed dates rotating among all states; an anti-gerrymandering formula to make congressional elections more competitive; improved access to the polls through a national voter registry and voter rights; limits to campaign donations and political advertising. 
  • Instead of considering them piecemeal, we should understand how the needed amendments form a systemic overhaul that includes major improvements to the House and Senate. This requires a ban on filibusters, creative ways to fix unequal representation in the House of Representatives, and restoring popular access to legislators. Improving the judiciary requires an 18-year term on the Supreme Court and appellate courts, firm deadlines for confirmation votes to reduce partisan pressures on the judiciary, and clarification of judicial review. A national civics education curriculum and fair-and-balanced requirements for mass media would make it much harder to manipulate people through misinformation campaigns.
  • The book also argues for direct election of the president, Puerto Rico statehood, and ways to fix our current radical inequalities of voter influence in the Senate. Several common-sense “good government” reforms will reduce corruption. These include mandated financial disclosures; a requirement for federal legislators and officers to hold their assets in blind trusts; penalties for campaigns using stolen information; limits to the president’s pardoning powers; and clearer grounds for impeachment. Beyond the filibuster, there are further steps to break gridlock in Congress and fix the budget process. 
  • Finally, we need to improve the amendment process itself, and clarify how a national convention should work as an alternative to Congress for proposing amendments for ratification. When called by 38 states, a convention can reach national compromise on a whole package of amendments to restore responsive, efficient, and effective government.

Reviews

This is a terrific book on assessing government reforms, whether one agrees with all the remedies. Excellent for collections on American politics, elections, and law—Choice

“This topic could scarcely be more important—given the widespread perception, across the ideological spectrum, that something has gone sadly amiss in the American system—Davenport is trying to find a centrist position from which to make his arguments.”—Sanford Levinson, Garwood Centennial Chair in Law, University of Texas at Austin, and author of Framed: America’s 51 Constitutions and the Crisis of Governance.

“Will American democracy survive the twenty-first century, or even the next decade? In a moment of societal tumult and political division, it is a fair question to ask. If we have a hope of answering it in the affirmative, John Davenport offers as thorough and sensible set of prescriptions as I have seen. All are based on the fundamental idea that our Constitution is in desperate need of updating, and that today’s ills can be cured by systemic changes in the design and function of our government. For the millions who are fed up with dysfunction and paralysis, this accessible and deeply hopeful book can serve as a guiding light toward a stronger and healthier America.” — Jesse Wegman, author of Let the People Pick the President, and member of The New York Times Editorial Board.

“Our Constitution was a brilliant series of compromises that enabled the American Republic to function. But after almost two and a quarter centuries, in a dramatically different nation, reforms are much needed. John Davenport has assembled a powerful collection of ideas for all of us to consider. You’ll agree with some proposals, disagree with others. Yet this volume can and should generate a conversation about the country we want to become in the twenty- first century.”— Larry Sabato, Professor of Politics, Founder and Director of the University of Virginia Center for Politics, and Director of the Center’s Crystal Ball website, #1 in American political prediction.

“The Democracy Amendments not only takes a deep dive into the challenges our fragile democracy faces but also proffers constitutional reforms and identifies the mechanisms for their adoption. A reflective and comprehensive analysis, it does something more: taking a civic republican approach to governance, Davenport scores with his emphasis on good design, including the necessary commitment to both the rights and the obligations citizens have in a just government. He makes a convincing case for deepening civic engagement, moreover, believing it to be crucial to the nation’s success. Alexis de Tocqueville would be pleased.”— Linda Stamato, Policy Fellow at the Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy at Rutgers University; co-director of the Center for Negotiation and Conflict Resolution.

Author Information

John J. Davenport is a Professor of Philosophy at Fordham University focusing on political philosophy, including political theory, global justice issues, human rights, democratic theory, constitutional problems, and related topics. He has done numerous TV and radio interviews, as well as op-eds, on political topics in these areas over the last decade. He is the author of A League of Democracies, which develops cosmopolitan themes, and The Federalist Papers as a basis for conceiving a global democratic alliance.

Series

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Table of Contents

1. The Problems: why the federal government barely functions and polarization is rising; 2. Solutions I: The Top Ten Amendments to reduce polarization and make our government work; 3. Solutions II: Fifteen procedural amendments to strengthen democracy and the rule of law; 4. How to Pass the Amendments: A New Constitutional Convention

Links

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