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The Velvet Coup: The Constitution, the Supreme Court and the Decline of American Democracy Hardcover – October 17, 2001


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 160 pages
  • Publisher: Verso; 1st Published by Verso 2001 edition (October 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1859846335
  • ISBN-13: 978-1859846339
  • Product Dimensions: 5.6 x 0.7 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,919,672 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Where Bugliosi (The Betrayal of America) and Dershowitz (Supreme Injustice) have indicted the Supreme Court for subverting the Constitution in Bush v. Gore, political analyst Lazare (The Frozen Republic) indicts the Constitution itself for subverting democracy. It bases government on the medieval, pre-democratic notion of law ruling over a people, rather than being a tool of popular self-government, to be changed as needed. Lazare links Americans' reverential attitude toward the Constitution to the early 1700s British Country opposition to the emerging parliamentary system. American arguments for independence and the Constitution drew on the Country opposition's veneration for Britain's ancient, unwritten constitution, which proved totally inadequate in meeting the challenges of 18th-century modernization. As a thinly populated backwater, America (unlike Britain) could get along by reincarnating ancient principles of divided power and limited government, complete with powerful minority vetoes on various levels. Lazare moves briskly from early modern England through the Constitutional Convention, the Civil War and into the present day. He portrays the period from Nixon onward as largely continuous, a protracted constitutional crisis resulting from the fact that limited, separate powers can lead to extreme, unforeseen reactions (Watergate, Iran-Contra, the Clinton impeachment, Bush v. Gore) as well as long-term stability. He concludes by arguing the possibility and necessity of escaping our constitutional bonds if, for example, Gore were to run in 2004, pledging to abide by the popular vote and challenging Bush to do likewise. This is a fast-paced historical illumination of just how deeply the Constitution can be seen as hostile to democracy. (Oct. 18)Forecast: Lazare's radical analysis is not likely to have the broad appeal of Dershowitz or Bugliosi's election postmortems, but if it gets reviewed, it could spark a lively and original debate.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

Lazare (America's Undeclared War: What's Killing Our Cities and How We Can Stop It) minces no words in expressing his disdain for a system of government that he feels is archaic and sclerotic. He focuses his wrath squarely on the U.S. Constitution and all of its institutional offspring. The election fiasco of fall 2000 is, according to Lazare, only the latest in a series of civil, political, and legal infringements on the people's right of self-government perpetrated by a document that was the product of two centuries of English civil strife, colonization, and revolution, a process that began under Elizabeth I in the 1500s. Now it is time for the people to demand a reexamination of the problems and injustices perpetuated by that document, such as the Electoral College, the lack of proportional representation in the U.S. Senate, the occasional Imperial Presidency, separation of powers, states' rights, an omnipotent Supreme Court, and an amending process that is difficult at best. Lazare advocates a shift to elementary democratic norms and a movement to propel it instigated by intellectuals, artisans, and the working class. He makes an articulate and effective spokesman for the concept of radical political change in our constitutional system. Recommended for academic and public libraries. Philip Y. Blue, New York State Supreme Court Criminal Branch Lib., New York
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By S. J. Snyder on September 11, 2006
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I hestitated on giving this a five-star due to:

A. Its short size and relative lack of depth, and

B. The fact that Lazare tackles not just our court system, but so much more, in his magnum opus, "The Frozen Republic." (See my review of it for more information about that book.)

That said, despite the slim size, Lazare has a good starting ground here. To me, the most valuable portion of the book is NOT his examination of the modern federal judiciary, but his look at the British "Country" school of political philosophy, the driving force behind French political essayist Montesquieu, and hence, behind our Founding Fathers at Philadelphia.

Grounding the Country movement in British governmental and constitutional history, Lazare points out the irony (or worse) that the movement's influence was fading, and fairly rapidly, in the Home Isles exactly at the time of the Colonies' drive for independence, and how their understanding, and misunderstanding, of Crown and Parliament was governed by Country political philosophy.

In short, Lazare argues, our Consitution was on the edge of being archaic when it was written.

Lazare then asks how you can make something "more perfect"? If not, is the Preamble just political boilerplate? Perhaps. But, for 220 years, American political leaders have largely bought into the idea that whatever is wrong w/America, the solution is inside the Constitution.

Besides pointing out its obvious failings, such as the 3/5 clause on slavery, Lazare notes that the Constitution has never ruled on secession, which was contemplated by both North and South before 1861.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By John C. Landon on December 18, 2003
Format: Hardcover
I had read the author's The Frozen Constitution, but had no idea he had adddressed the 2000 election issue in another book. I came across this inadvertantly. Although the author's view of the constitution will raise hackles on some, his view is well-informed and definitely worth study if for no other reason than that it flushes out some stubborn factual history that doesn't play in the same key as the usual Yankee Doodle. It can be unnerving to confront the _actual_ history of the highest court in the nineteenth century and up to the time of FDR. It is hard to make the case the Supreme Court had a serious connection to the arbitration of justice. The author's idiosyncratic view gives you a run for your money on the actual mechanics of the American system, and it is important to remember that the current regime would like nothing more than to restore the kind of court system that reigned throughout America history.
The current crop of bedtime bonzos at court that stole the election in 2000 is an appetizer for the future, if that's what you are going to vote for.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Samuel Patel on December 4, 2002
Format: Hardcover
When I first picked up this book I thought it was another book on the events of the 2000 election. Once I started reading it, I couldn't put it down--a fascinating read. It starts with the events of the 2000 election and goes on to show how these were just symptoms of a more pervasive problem--of the Constitution repeatedly frustrating the public will and perverting the democratic process. You won't look at the Constitution or the Senate in the same light again.
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The Velvet Coup: The Constitution, the Supreme Court and the Decline of American Democracy
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