American politics grows embittered because it is increasingly torn between two rival constitutions, two opposed cultures, two contrary ways of life. American conservatives rally around the founders’ Constitution, as amended and as grounded in the natural and divine rights and duties of the Declaration of Independence. American liberals herald their “living Constitution,” a term that implies that the original is dead or superseded, and that the fundamental political imperative is constant change or transformation (as President Obama called it) toward a more and more perfect social democracy ruled by a Woke elite.
Crisis of the Two Constitutions details how we got to and what is at stake in our increasingly divided America. It takes controversial stands on matters political and scholarly, describing the political genius of America’s founders and their efforts to shape future generations through a constitutional culture that included immigration, citizenship, and educational policies. Then it turns to the attempted progressive refounding of America, tracing its accelerating radicalism from the New Deal to the 1960s’ New Left to today’s unhappy campus nihilists. Finally, the volume appraises American conservatives’ efforts, so far unavailing despite many famous victories, to revive the founders’ Constitution and moral common sense. From Ronald Reagan to Donald Trump, what have conservatives learned and where should they go from here?
Along the way, Charles R. Kesler argues with critics on the left and right, and refutes fashionable doctrines including relativism, multiculturalism, critical race theory, and radical traditionalism, providing in effect a one-volume guide to the increasingly influential Claremont school of conservative thought by one of its most engaged, and engaging, thinkers.
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About the Author
Charles R. Kesler is editor of the Claremont Review of Books and a senior fellow at the Claremont Institute. He is the Dengler-Dykema Distinguished Professor of Government at Claremont McKenna College, the author of I Am the Change: Barack Obama and the Crisis of Liberalism, and the coeditor, with William F. Buckley, Jr., of Keeping the Tablets: Modern American Conservative Thought. His edition of The Federalist Papers is the best-selling one in the country. In 2017, Politico magazine named Kesler to its annual Politico 50 list of “the key thinkers, doers, and visionaries who are reshaping American politics and policy,” and in 2018 the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation awarded him a Bradley Prize.
Table of Contents
Part I The Founders' Constitution
1 The Founders and the Classics 3
2 Relativism and the Declaration of Independence 33
3 Federalist 10 and American Republicanism 47
4 Civility and Citizenship: George Washington on Civil and Religious Liberty 83
5 Perpetuating the Republic: Education and Politics 101
6 A New Birth of Freedom: Abraham Lincoln, Harry V. Jaffa, and the Founders 119
Part II The Progressives' Constitution
7 Three Waves of Liberalism 143
8 Woodrow Wilson and the Statesmanship of Progress 169
9 Constitutional Decline and the Administrative State 196
10 From Citizenship to Multiculturalism 218
11 Barack Obama and the Future of Liberalism 257
12 The Old New Left and the New New Left 273
Part III Conservatives and the Two Constitutions
13 Reagan's Unfinished Revolution 291
14 What's Wrong with Conservatism? 318
15 Democracy and the Bush Doctrine 341
16 Culture, Creed, and American Nationalism 354
17 Trump and the Conservative Cause 369
18 Thinking about Trump: Morality, Politics, and the Presidency 383