EDITOR’S NOTE: Each week we cross-post an excerpt from Katrina vanden Heuvel’s column at the WashingtonPost.com. Read the full text of Katrina’s column here.
Will the Constitution survive these troubled times? Should it? These are the questions at the center of Heidi Schreck’s powerful new play, What the Constitution Means to Me, which made its Broadway debut on March 31. Raw, righteous and brimming with humor, the play has become an improbable sensation, a sign of the collective anxiety that many Americans currently are feeling. “It is not just the best play to open on Broadway so far this season, but also the most important,” wrote Jesse Green, theater critic for The New York Times, who added, “It restarts an argument many of us forgot we even needed to have.”
That argument—about the very future of American democracy—has taken on renewed urgency in the Trump era. For years, partisan theatrics and policy clashes have obscured important debates over the impact of the electoral college, gerrymandering, money in politics and other key “democracy issues.” As a consequence, our country has gradually become less democratic. President Trump bears some of the blame, of course, but the main culprit behind this decline is Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), who has consistently violated democratic norms to consolidate power at all costs. The latest example of McConnell’s machinations came just last week when Republicans in the Senate invoked the “nuclear option” to make it easier for Trump to pack lower-level courts with right-wing judges.
The United States’ crisis of democracy is taking center stage in the 2020 presidential campaign. At the same time that Democratic candidates are staking out bold stances on policies such as Medicare-for-all, they are also increasingly focused on the need to fix a broken political system. While it’s still early, voters seem to agree. Pete Buttigieg, the 37-year-old mayor of South Bend, Indiana, has surged into contention with a reform agenda that includes abolishing the electoral college, granting statehood to the District of Columbia and expanding the number of Supreme Court justices. “Every other issue that I care about—from gun violence to climate change—isn’t going to get better as long as our democracy is this warped,” he contends.
Read the full text of Katrina’s column here.