American Decline

America’s Fragile Constitution

By Yoni Appelbaum

The Atlantic

Over the past few decades, many of the unwritten rules of American political life have been discarded. Presidential appointees, once routinely confirmed by the Senate, now spend months in limbo. Signing statements have increased in frequency and scope, as presidents announce which aspects of a law they intend to enforce, and which they intend to ignore. Annual spending bills stall in Congress, requiring short-term extensions or triggering shutdowns.

The system isn’t working. But even as the two parties agree on little else, both still venerate the Constitution. Politicians sing its praises. Public officials and military officers swear their allegiance. Members of Congress keep miniature copies in their pockets. The growing dysfunction of the government seems only to have increased reverence for the document; leading figures on both sides of the aisle routinely call for a return to constitutional principles.

What if this gridlock is not the result of abandoning the Constitution, but the product of flaws inherent in its design?

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