Democracy—its aspirations, its dangers—is what, most fundamentally, our Constitution is about. The question, Richard Parker argues in this powerful book, is how to imagine our democracy. Provocative in style and substance, this manifesto challenges orthodoxies of constitutional legal studies, particularly the idea that constitutionalism and populist democracy stand opposed. Parker presents a populist argument. He contends that the mission of constitutional law should be to promote, not limit, the expression of ordinary political energy—thus to extend, rather than constrain, majority rule.
At the root of the matter, Parker finds a question of “sensibility”—assumptions and attitudes about the political energy of ordinary people. He approaches this sensibility in a novel way, through a work of fiction about politics, Thomas Mann’s Mario and the Magician. Offering two “takes” on the story, Parker shows how it evokes—and elucidates—our deepest, most problematic attitudes about popular political energy in our own democracy. He goes on to elaborate these attitudes within our practice of constitutional argument. This is a book about the people, and for the people, a reimagination of constitutional law’s populist potential. It will disorient—then reorient—the thinking of everyone who is concerned about democracy and the Constitution.