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Overruling Democracy: The Supreme Court versus The American People Hardcover – February 14, 2003

ISBN-13: 978-0415934398 ISBN-10: 0415934397 Edition: 1st

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 312 pages
  • Publisher: Routledge; 1 edition (February 14, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0415934397
  • ISBN-13: 978-0415934398
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 6.2 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,398,400 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Constitutional scholar Raskin uses the Bush versus Gore decision declaring Bush president as a reflection of both the continuing momentum of a rightward swing and the antidemocratic thrust of the U.S. Supreme Court. The use of the equal protection clause of the Constitution, designed to protect the newly freed slaves, as a basis for protecting Bush is symbolic of the inverse practices of the Supreme Court. States' rights, strict constructionism, original intent--these theories associated with the rightist ideologies fell under the political need to ensure that the "right" president was elected. This rightward shift is the consequence of a successful strategy to appoint conservative judges to the federal bench and has resulted in the denial of constitutional rights to an education and to public debate and a narrowing of privacy rights. Raskin argues that conservative jurists have taken an activist posture against popular democracy. In addition to challenging the propriety of this conservative judicial activism, Raskin articulates a plan for counterbalancing that activism. A worthy read. Vernon Ford
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved


This book is very intersting and thought provoking. It certainly provides an intricate and complex discussion of the author's concept of a progressive populist democracy and of the role of the Supreme Court in that vision. -- Mark C. Miller, The Law and Politics Review, Vol. 13 No. 8
Jamin Raskin brilliantly shows how political and legislative democracy are being scandalously curtailed and undermined by the Supreme Court, which has become law unto itself. Not a counsel of despair, Overruling Democracy also explains how we the people--with a little courage--can reclaim our democracy. -- Robert Kuttner, co-editor, The American Prospect
American democracy thrives because people like Jamin Raskin, an eloquent, thoughtful and provocative small-d democrat, insist on reminding us of our aspirations to equality and rule by the people. You may disagree with some of his ideas, as I do, and still come away refreshed and even electrified. The old issue was liberal judicial activism. The new issue is a conservative judicial activism that could constrain the ability of the democratic branches of our government to solve puplic problems. For liberals, Raskin says, 'it is time to let go of any lingering nostalgic enchantment with the Supreme Court.' He's right. -- E.J. Dionne, author of Why Americans Hate Politics and They Only Look Dead: Why Progressives Will Dominate the Next Political Era
Jamin Raskin is in the forefront of progressive academics who bring specialized knowledge to bear on the large pressing issues of the day in a language that is broadly accessible. In Overruling Democracy he offers a critique of American law and politics that is impassioned yet thoughtful, polemical yet informative. -- Randall Kennedy, Professor, Harvard Law School
Jamin Raskin offers a passionate vision of the Supreme Court as the guardian of participatory democracy in America. Even those who take a more restrained view of the role of judges will benefit from his powerful arguments and moral fervor.-- Jeffrey Rosen, Legal Affairs Editor, The New Republic
This brilliantly argued and meticulously researched book both alarms and inspires. Raskin shows how the Supreme Court has used its own perverse version of judicial activism to attack our fundamental constitutional rights - and he offers a vision for how to restore democracy to America. Overruling Democracy belongs on the reading list of anyone who takes citizenship seriously. -- Barbara Ehrenreich, author of Nickel and Dimed
A brilliant exploration of how the Supreme Court has subverted democratic principles with its decisions in areas ranging from campaign finance to redistricting to the right to vote. -- Erwin Chemerinsky, Professor, University of Southern California Law School
A gripping book about the Supreme Court's assault on the political rights of the people. This book is required reading for every citizen who cares about the fate of our democracy. -- John Sweeney, President of the AFL-CIO
Raskin's groundbreaking suggestions for a democratic political reform movement provide the reader with a brighter vision for the future of the American governmental system. -- Congressman John Conyers, (D-Michigan), Democratic leader on the House Judiciary Committee
This provocative lawyer's brief challenges the ways in which constitutional decision making impedes participatory democracy in the United States...A smart, thorough, and proudly partisan plea for participatory democracy in the United States. -- Political Science Quarterly

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By William Podmore on November 21, 2011
Format: Paperback
In 2000, the US Supreme Court ruled in Bush v. Gore, "The individual citizen has no federal constitutional right to vote for electors for the President of the United States ..." 125 nations' constitutions explicitly guarantee all citizens the right to vote; 15 don't, including the USA and Saudi Arabia.

In 2000, Al Gore won 500,000 more votes than Bush, but lost in the electoral college. Raskin therefore proposes abolishing the electoral college, since it contradicts the will of the people. He urges direct national majority rule for presidential elections.

The Court called off a state's counting of ballots in a presidential election, for the first time in US history, choosing the president. Of 100 million votes cast in 2000, 4-6 million were never counted.

It had earlier found, "The Equal Protection Clause does not protect the right of all citizens to vote, but rather the right of all qualified citizens to vote", robbing all 570,000 Washingtonians of the right to vote in congressional elections. Also, 1.4 million freed ex-offenders are unjustly disenfranchised, most for life. The Court cannot disqualify, for example, women or blacks, but it can, it would seem, disqualify all women and all men, or all blacks and all whites.

3.8 million US citizens living in Puerto Rico, American Samoa, the Virgin Islands and Guam cannot vote in presidential or congressional elections. In all Latin America, only Puerto Rico has not even the pretence of democracy.

As US Justice Brennan said in Texas v.
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Michael Lewyn VINE VOICE on December 6, 2004
Format: Hardcover
A set of essays that try to improve on the liberal mantra of trusting the courts to expand rights. Some essays are preaching to the converted- that is, they are unlikely to persuade anybody to the right of Raskin. But there are some essays I really liked.

I especially liked Chapters 5 and 6 (in which Raskin shows how government has impaired democracy by keeping third parties off the ballot and out of debates, and criticizes judicial deference to the two-party duopoly) and Chapter 9 (in which he criticizes attempts to amend the Constitution to prohibit flag-burning, pointing out (a) that an anti-desecration law might actually encourage people to burn flags to get publicity, and (b) that an anti-desceration law that allows nonpolitical destruction of used flags but outlaws flag burning by political extremists is essentially thought control, in that it would prohibit flag burning only by people with political messages to convey).

Other chapters are much more touchy-feely. For example, in Chapter 7, Raskin defends school busing on the grounds that racially integrated schools make society more "democratic"- but parents hardly feel like part of a democracy if unelected judges are telling their children where to go to school. Raskin proposes an amendment providing: "All children in the United States have a right to receive an equal public education for democratic citizenship." But the uncertainty of the concept of "equality" would give judges carte blanche to dictate virtually any concievable policy.

"Democracy" is a vague concept; some people see democracy as majority rule, others see democracy as at least partially about liberty or equality. On issues dealing purely with the former, Raskin's book is excellent. On issues dealing with possible conflicts between these meanings of democracy, Raskin understandably has more difficulty.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
A worthy attempt to tell the story of how Supreme Court Justices are overturning democracy, but as a thesis it is not well executed.
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Format: Paperback
Senator Raskin's book is more relevant today, and could include a new chapter or two (Citizens' United; Shelby County v Holder). Raskin's conclusion --that we must " rewrite the Constitution in order to re-write American Democracy"-- is right on. We must have a Constituion - a rule of law- based on humans, not property.
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