156p, trade paper, $9.97, ISBN 979-8887-22911-9
Neff (Vision for America) offers an imaginative reconstruction of conversations between seven Founding Fathers of America, from early dialogues in 1789 on the basis of our Constitution, to a set of conversations in 2020 on the Trump era’s crisis of democracy, to a flash forward to 2040, when much of the current crises have been resolved. These dialogs are contextualized by explanatory notes and at times summarized by key bullet points. The conversations cover the constitutional basics of the United States of America, both written and unwritten, from the Bill of Rights to the electoral college (“The 2016 thing is kind of weird,” Alexander Hamilton acknowledges), the role that political parties play, the distinction—or lack thereof—between republic and democracy, and other topics.
Neff’s playful, informative thought experiment doesn’t restrict the founders’s conversations to constitutional matters, occasionally layering in jokes to lighten the mood, though some readers might balk at John Adams encouraging someone to “slow [his] roll.” Interestingly, as the conversation turns towards 21st century voting controversies, Neff makes a wise choice to introduce new characters and broaden the perspective. William Lee, George Washington’s Black manservant, and his two children explore issues of race more fully.
The 2040 section finds the founders speaking to a future president, John Miller, about how the United States made it through its early 21st century crises, giving Neff the opportunity to lay out a set of prescriptions, such as term limits for Supreme Court Justices and members of Congress to the creation of two more major parties. Regardless of what a reader may feel about specific proposals, Neff’s dialogs do an excellent job laying out the informal constitutional conventions which American democracy requires to thrive.
The founders face the past, present, and future of Constitutional democracy in lively dialogues.
Great for fans of K. M. Kostyal’s Founding Fathers, Lawrence Rowe’s The Founding Fathers Return.
PRODUCTION Cover: B | Design & typography: A | Illustrations: –
GRADES: Editing: A- | Marketing copy: A