Why a Book on the Constitution Changes More than the Constitution Itself

Fault Lines in the Constitution
You would think that a book about the Constitution, every chapter of which describes what happened at the Constitutional Convention in 1787, would not need to be updated on a biweekly basis. After all, most books for young readers about our founding document simply proceed section-by-section, explaining how our government works. And that hasn’t changed very much, at least on parchment. The Constitution has been amended only twenty-seven times, and the first ten amendments were added all at once back in 1791.

So, why have we, the co-authors of Fault Lines in the Constitution, been revising our book like mad? And why has Peachtree Publishers arranged this blog so we—and you—can continue to do so?

Unlike other books on the Constitution, Fault Lines, which is subtitled The Framers, Their Fights, and the Flaws that Affect Us Today, focuses on the political fallout in our times from the decisions made in 1787. And things keep falling out.

For instance, the Constitution allows the two houses of Congress to set their own rules of procedure, which we discuss in Chapter 4. That makes sense. But, in 1917, the Senate adopted a rule about filibusters, which affected the outcome of a bill on undocumented aliens in 2010, and which the Senate then abruptly changed just two months before Fault Lines went to final print. Call rewrite! (That’s us.)

In the version of the book that was sent to reviewers, we had explained that the Senate changed this rule in 2013, eliminating the filibuster for presidential nominations for all offices except Supreme Court justices. In the final version, we added that the Senate ended the filibuster for that court, too, in 2017.

Similarly, in Chapters 5 and 8, we show how the Framers’ decision to let each state run national elections however it wants has led to gerrymandering and voter-suppression. Thanks to recent and ongoing court cases, these issues, too, have been much in the news—entailing more revisions. We predict that we will blog frequently about this particular fault line.

It turns out that when you connect the dots from a long-established, little-changed document to the repercussions it’s caused, the document can remain static while the repercussions continue to reverberate. And so can a book that addresses both of them. This is especially the case following a controversial election.

The co-authors deeply appreciate the opportunity to use this space to keep you informed of the ways that political developments continue to make Fault Lines in the Constitution timely and relevant. We also look forward to hearing your views, for the Framers really do influence your life every day.

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