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How Democratic is the American Constitution?24:50

This article is more than 17 years old.
photoSchool children memorize its preamble. The President swears to protect it. The Founding Fathers crafted it, giving birth to a new nation. Two hundred thirteen years later, the Constitution of the United States has ascended to the peak of American political consciousness. It is conceived of as a perfect democratic document, the American Ideal writ immortally.

But is the Constitution a truly democratic document? Does it serve the democratic needs of modern day America well? And what price do the American people pay when the Constitution is heralded as a sacred, untouchable icon of the country?

These are the questions that Robert A. Dahl, one of America's most respected political scientists asks of the Constitution. He wonders if its sacred stature leads to a beguiling stability. Is our system of government stable, or paralyzed? He thinks there are ways to develop a more democratic America, one that truly represents every American. The first step, according to Dahl, is to change the way Americans look at the Constitution, and to open their eyes about how it hamstrings American governance.

This hour, how democratic is the American constitution, and what kind of democracy do we want America to be?


Robert A. Dahl - Author of "How Democratic is the American Constitution?", Sterling Professor Emeritus of Political Science at Yale University, Former President of the American Political Science Association

Jack Beatty - On Point News Analyst, Senior Editor at the Atlantic Monthly Magazine

This program aired on August 20, 2002.

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