American Political Thought

Journal Information
ISSN / EISSN : 2161-1580 / 2161-1599
Published by: University of Chicago Press (10.1086)
Total articles ≅ 519
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Elliot Mamet
American Political Thought, Volume 10, pp 390-418;

Nonvoting representatives, representing American Samoa, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico, the US Virgin Islands, and Washington, DC, inhabit a peripheral space within the US Congress. House rules bar them from voting on the floor, their authority derives not from the Constitution but from statute, and the office they hold can be revoked at the whims of Congress. Drawing on original archival research, this article sketches out three justifications given for this institution: that nonvoting members would increase information flows to the legislature, that they would incorporate peripheral territory prior to statehood, and that they would empower members to use tools besides voting to exercise political power. It then evaluates the normative status of nonvoting representation in democratic theory, arguing that representation without voting is incongruent with notions of consent and equal power required for democratic self-rule.
George Thomas
American Political Thought, Volume 10, pp 481-498;

The two works under review return to the founders to better understand the nature and limits of the American experiment as pessimism about its future has grown. Thomas E. Ricks’s First Principles: What American Founders Learned from the Greeks and Romans and How That Shaped Our Country examines how the thinking of the first four presidents was shaped by their historical understandings. Dennis C. Rasmussen’s Fears of a Setting Sun: The Disillusionment of America’s Founders also focuses on four leading founders but illuminates how they came to lose faith in the American experiment. These intelligent works reveal both the virtues and shortcomings of the American experiment, as well as illustrating that the founders had a deeper sense of the fragility of their experiment–and an acute understanding of constitutional imperfection–than their progeny have often had. Understanding this fragility might better help us preserve the future of the American experiment.
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