Imperfect Union: How Errors of Omission Threaten Constitutional Democracy


Goldstone, Lawrence


“Imperfect Union is a timely, important, necessary book that should be read by anyone concerned about the present state of American politics. Written in clear and lucid prose, it deserves the attention of, and discussion by, the widest possible audience.”
- Sanford V. Levinson, W. St. John Garwood and W. St. John Garwood, Jr.
Centennial Chair and Professor of Government, University of Texas, Austin
School of Law

 “A superb job. Powerfully written and totally accessible, Imperfect Union gives unique insight into how today’s Constitutional crisis stems from the Framers’ unwillingness to confront issues that they knew to be threats to democratic ideals.”
- Judith Miller, Journalist, Adjunct Fellow of the Manhattan Institute, Contributing Editor, City Journal

Lawrence Goldstone is the author or co-author of two dozen books of both fiction and non-fiction, six with his wife Nancy. He has written extensively on Constitutional law and equal rights. His On Account of Race: The Supreme Court, White Supremacy, and the Ravishing of African American Voting Rights won the highly prestigious Lillian Smith Book Award. Other books include Inherently Unequal: The Betrayal of Equal Rights by the Supreme Court, 1865-1903; Dark Bargain: Slavery Profits, and the Struggle for the Constitution; and The Activist: John Marshall, Marbury v. Madison, and the Myth of Judicial Review. He currently writes a weekly opinion column for The Fulcrum. Goldstone’s fiction has also been highly praised. His first novel, Rights, won a New American Writing Award, and his third, Anatomy of Deception, was a New York Times notable mystery. Goldstone has been widely interviewed on both radio and television, with appearances on National Public Radio’s Fresh Air, To the Best of Our Knowledge, and The Faith Middleton Show; The Takeaway (PRI); Make It Plain with Mark Thompson (SiriusXM); Tavis Smiley (PBS); and CSPAN’s BookTV. Goldstone’s work has been profiled in The New York Times, The Toronto Star, Salon, Slate, and numerous regional newspapers. His articles, reviews, and opinion pieces have appeared in, among other periodicals, The Atlantic, New Republic, Boston Globe, Los Angeles Times, Wall Street Journal, Salon, Chicago Tribune, Miami Herald, Hartford Courant, and Berkshire Eagle. Goldstone holds a Ph.D. in constitutional history from the New School.

In this new and original study of the origins of the United States Constitution, award winning scholar Lawrence Goldstone demonstrates that what was left out of the document by the Framers is of equal importance to what was included. Because of the deep divisions present in the United States at the beginning of the Republic, delegates to the Constitutional Convention in 1787 were unwilling, and often unable, to forge a plan for government that would be both comprehensive and sufficiently acceptable to competing interests to achieve ratification. Rather than risk rejection, they chose to leave many key areas of governance vague or undefined, hoping the flaws could be dealt with after the Constitution had become the “supreme law of the land.” Although successful in the short term, that strategy left the Constitution excessively prone to subjective interpretation and, as a result, the United States was rendered vulnerable to anti-democratic initiatives and the perpetuation of minority rule, both of which plague the nation today. Thus, a constitution drafted to ensure “a more perfect union” has instead begotten dysfunction and disunion. The ossification of America’s political process is to a significant degree due not to what the Constitution says but rather from what it fails to say. The only way to address the threat these omissions engender is to identify the flaws and then complete the Constitution by fashioning legislative solutions to fill the gaps.

Political Science, History, Law, American Government, American History, Constitutional Studies, U.S. Constitution
Release Date: 
February 24, 2024
9781680538434 Hardcover
Trim Size: 

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