cover image The Frozen Republic: How the Constitution Is Paralyzing Democracy

The Frozen Republic: How the Constitution Is Paralyzing Democracy

Daniel Lazare. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH), $25 (408pp) ISBN 978-0-15-100085-2

Freelance writer Lazare offers a creative, constructive challenge to constitutional orthodoxy, arguing that the gridlock built into the Founders' design must be uprooted. The book moves slowly at first, with a large chunk devoted to an almost academic recap of American history viewed through the prism of constitutional interpretation. Lazare, refreshingly, looks abroad; while post-WWII European states devised new constitutions (Germany's encourages governmental activism), Americans reveled in a sort of ``nostalgic conservatism.'' Thus, our uncoordinated branches of government have been unable to forge a real policy to address issues such as de facto segregation and urban safety. The author warns against our unrepresentative Senate, where California has weight equal to Vermont--suggesting the House of Representatives might dissolve it in a ``democratic coup.'' Recognizing that his challenge presupposes an engaged citizenry, Lazare says Americans also must develop a ``modern democratic movement'' to guarantee their rights. Author tour. (Jan.)