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Parliamentary America

The Least Radical Means of Radically Repairing Our Broken Democracy
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Can a parliamentary democracy end Americas constitutional crisis?

Americans face increasingly stark choices each presidential election and a growing sense that our government cant solve the nations most urgent challenges. Our eighteenth-century system is ill suited to our twenty-first-century world. Information-age technology has undermined our capacity to face common problems together and turned our democracy upside down, with gerrymanders letting representatives choose voters rather than voters choosing them. In Parliamentary America, Maxwell L. Stearns argues that the solution to these complex problems is a parliamentary democracy.

Stearns considers such leading alternatives as ranked choice voting, the national popular vote, and congressional term limits, showing why these cant solve our constitutional crisis. Instead, three amendments—expanding the House of Representatives, having House party coalitions choose the president, and letting the House end a failing presidency based on no confidence—will produce a robust multiparty democracy. These amendments hold an essential advantage over other proposals: by leaving every member of the House and Senate as incumbents in their districts or states, the amendments provide a pressure-release valve against reforms threatening that status.

Stearns takes readers on a world tour—England, France, Germany, Israel, Taiwan, Brazil, and Venezuela—showing what works in government, what doesnt, and how to make the best features our own. Genuine party competition and governing coalitions, commonplace across the globe, may seem like a fantasy in the United States. But we can make them a reality. This rare book offers an optimistic vision, explaining in accessible terms how to transform our troubled democracy into a thriving parliamentary America.

Maxwell L. Stearns (BALTIMORE, MD) is the Venable, Baetjer & Howard Professor of Law at the University of Maryland Carey School of Law. He has authored dozens of articles and several books on the Constitution, the Supreme Court, and the economic analysis of law.

Introduction. Happier Birthdays, Better Parties
Part I. How We Got Here
Chapter 1. The Third Constitutional Crisis
Chapter 2. The Third-Party Dilemma
Chapter 3. Constitutional Gridlock: How a System We Managed for Two Centuries Suddenly Went off the Rails
Chapter 4. The End of Trust: Experts, the Government, and the Media
Part II. The World Tour
Chapter 5. The European Tour: England, France, and Germany
Chapter 6. Democratic Variations: Israel, Taiwan, Brazil, and Venezuela
Part III. Three Amendments That Will Fix Our Broken System
Chapter 7. Reinventing the House of Representatives: More Voices, More Parties, More Power
Chapter 8. Reinventing Presidential Elections: The Art of Coalition Politics
Chapter 9. Reinventing Presidential Removal: How "No Confidence" Instills Confidence
Part IV. The Politics of Ratification and Envisioning Parliamentary America
Chapter 10. Achieving Coalition Governance: The Politics of Passing These Amendments
Chapter 11. Parliamentary America: Toward Better Politics, Further Reforms, and a Civil Society
Conclusion. From "We the People" to "We the Framers"

Can a parliamentary democracy end Americas constitutional crisis?

Drawing on history, social choice theory, and a study of democracies around the world, Maxwell Stearns argues for a radical restructuring of American government to save us from hyperpolarization and distrust in our institutions. A clear, earnest, and patriotic argument for parliamentary democracy in the United States.

— Richard Hasen, author of A Real Right to Vote: How a Constitutional Amendment Can Safeguard American Democracy

Anyone who cares about the future of American democracy should read this book. In Parliamentary America, Stearns provides a bracing and insightful analysis of what ails American democracy, then prescribes a strong and controversial cure. Whether one agrees with Stearnss cure, considering and debating the ideas in Parliamentary America could be a big first step in remaking and reanimating the democracy America deserves.

— Henry L. Chambers Jr., University of Richmond School of Law

Amid all the justified concern over democratic backsliding in America, too few observers have dared to say that it is time for a thorough rethink of the very basic constitutional structure. Stearns boldly lays out a plan to move the country toward a parliamentary form of government with a proportionally elected legislature. This is the most important book written on American constitutional structure in decades.

— Matthew Shugart, University of California, Davis

This is not just another treatise on political reform. Stearns pushes us to confront uncomfortable truths about our democratic structures, challenging the status quo with a blend of historical insights and forward-thinking solutions. With the precision of a seasoned constitutional law professor, he makes a compelling case for radical reform.

— Lee Drutman, New America; author of Breaking the Two-Party Doom Loop: The Case for Multiparty Democracy in America

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