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date: 14 April 2021

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter examines the ambiguous standing of political parties in the U.S. Constitution. Certain kinds of political parties are not a good fit with the U.S. constitutional order —in particular, parties that are ideologically narrow, highly principled, and uncompromising. Yet the Constitution invites a different kind of party: a “catch-all” party that is heterogeneous and ideologically flexible. The chapter describes two enduring and competing images of the relationship between the citizenry and the Constitution that are reflected in the ambivalent status of parties in the constitutional order: the Constitution as an instrument of popular purpose and as a salutary restraint on the popular will. It also considers how each of these images nourishes anti-partisanship, then discusses partisanship in relation to the constitutional ideal of separation of powers, the threats posed by parliamentary parties, constitutional law’s treatment of antidemocratic parties, and the so-called “paradox of democracy.”

Keywords: political parties, Constitution, constitutional order, anti-partisanship, partisanship, separation of powers, parliamentary parties, antidemocratic parties, paradox of democracy, democratic politics

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