Work in Progress: Revisiting the American Experiment
According to legend, as the framers of the Constitution exited the Philadelphia convention in September 1787, a woman asked the eldest and one of the wisest of them, Benjamin Franklin, “what have you given us?” To which he replied: “A republic, if you can keep it.”
We often call the American system of government a “democracy,” but Franklin’s term is perhaps more accurate: a democratic republic. We are governed by women and men we elect. The idea of our system as a model for the world is in our hearts, even though few of the democracies that have come along since have modeled their system on ours. Perhaps they’ve learned from our mistakes.
How goes our experiment in self-government? CLA is full of students and scholars who look at that question. Let’s explore how our democracy is holding up with five of those scholars from five different disciplines. Is American democracy under stress? What kind of stresses and how serious are they? What light can they shed on the question through their particular academic approach?