“An engaging and informative narrator, Phillips intersperses the modern-day conversations with Jefferson’s thoughts about the issues under discussion and the founding fathers’ own disagreements as they framed the Constitution. In an era of hyper-partisanship, it’s refreshing to read instances of Americans from all political persuasions holding rational, respectful, and thought-provoking conversations with one another.”
“A truly radical and deeply patriotic book, Constitution Café illustrates the power and promise of democracy, using the extra-ordinary conversations of ordinary citizens to re-animate the founding ideas and documents of this country. America needs this book...now!”
“The United States needs constitutional change, but how to get it done? Christopher Phillips has the right answer. Get Americans talking to Americans about how we can improve our nation. Phillips has combined the approach of Socrates and the wisdom of Jefferson to show us the way.”
Did you know that Thomas Jefferson argued that the Constitution should be periodically revised to keep up with the times? He wanted democracy to stay fresh. In that spirit, Phillips talked with folks at high schools, parks, malls, and venues like the Burning Man Project about possible additions/revisions to the Constitution. He's no stranger to such things, having penned the Socrates Café books, which report his cheerful and accessible chats about big philosophical questions. This book should be as cheerful and accessible, too, and it's powerfully germane. A good bet for most readers; with a five-city tour.
Phillips (Philosophy/New York University; Socrates in Love: Philosophy for a Passionate Heart, 2007, etc.) takes a fresh look at the Constitution.
The author suggests that the reason the last election left many progressives feeling betrayed by Obama's leadership and boosted his Tea Party opposition is because the "system itself that was handed to us by our Framers prevents meaningful reforms that facilitate more responsive and responsible government." Rather than continuing to amend the Constitution, Phillips argues that the time has come to draft a new one. All that would be needed is a vote by two-thirds of state legislatures to hold a new convention. To help the process along, he has been traveling around the country facilitating meetings with students, green activists, Tea Party supporters and others, in an effort to mobilize a grassroots discussion on what a new Constitution might look like. The author bases his proposal on a similar one by Thomas Jefferson that a Constitutional Convention be held every 20 years to review the founding document. He reports proposed new constitutional articles ranging from the far out—that every citizen be given $50,000 at the age of 18, and that the election process be modeled on reality-TV shows like American Idol—to the serious, such as the right of every child to high-quality education. The author skillfully interweaves a history of the early days of the Republic and the disputes at that time with a discussion of Jefferson's involvement with constitutional issues in the state of Virginia as well as for the country as a whole, and he offers useful insight to Jefferson's thoughts over his long career.
A provocative extension of Jefferson's original plan.