Magazine May 17, 2010, Issue

The Constitution, at Last

The Jefferson Memorial (Joshua Roberts/Reuters)
Let us return from a regime of arbitrary power to one of self-government

Once upon a time, and not so long ago, American politics revolved around the Constitution. Until the New Deal, and in certain respects until the mid-1960s, almost every major U.S. political controversy involved, at its heart, a dispute over the interpretation of the Constitution and its principles. Both of the leading political parties eagerly took part in these debates, because the party system itself had been developed in the early 19th century to pit two contenders (occasionally more) against each other for the honor of being the more faithful guardian of the Constitution and Union. Even from today’s distance, it

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