cover image Constitutional Myths: What We Get Wrong and How to Get It Right

Constitutional Myths: What We Get Wrong and How to Get It Right

Ray Raphael. The New Press, $26.95 (320p) ISBN 978-1-59558-832-6

As bitter partisanship continues to engulf American politics and society, it is with some relief that one opens Raphael's study of the historical Constitution to find a text more concerned with contextualizing the Founder Fathers than in interpreting them. One by one, Raphael (Founders) addresses some of the more pervasive interpretations of the Constitution and the men who crafted it: that the Framers opposed a strong federal government and taxation; that the Federalist Papers and the Bill of Rights were central texts to the Founding Fathers; that James Madison was the architect of the Constitution, culminating in a criticism of Originalism%E2%80%94the principle, held most prominently by Justices Scalia and Thomas, that the Constitution ought be interpreted according to the Framers' "original intent". Through careful analysis of the 1787 Constitutional Convention, Raphael demonstrates that nothing about the Constitution is as simple as contemporary discourse makes it seem; though many of the Framers came to the Convention with lofty ideals and ambitions, Raphael shows how they were constantly forced into pragmatic and ambiguous compromises. Though his diligent research is unlikely to sway originalists, libertarians, small government advocates, Raphael provides a counter argument that relies on historical record rather than ideology. (Mar.)