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Werner Neff
What Would The Founding Fathers Tell Us Today?
Werner Neff, author
The United States was founded in the late 18th century, as the first republic based on modern democratic rules. The texts of The Constitution and The Bill of Rights dominated the ruling of the country with separation of powers to legislature, executive, and judiciary. What the Founding Fathers learned from the Greeks and Romans shaped this country. America created the model for modern democracy, which was later copied by countries around the world. Today, we are struggling to maintain the democracy as it was designed, and we are drifting into an erosion of those principles¬—thus enabling and tolerating inequality, poverty, helplessness, and mistrust. A distortion of our democracy is the covert voting restrictions and Gerrymandering, calling forth a hidden betrayal of the American people. In this book, Neff reflects on history, politics, democratic theories, and principles in the form of fictional dialogs allowing the Founding Fathers to express their theories on what truly makes America great, and what will provide the American people today with real freedom and prosperity. The author believes that democratic principles, and ethical and selfless leadership in service of the people are the pillars to justice, equality, and prosperity for all.
Neff (Vision for America offers an imaginative reconstruction of conversations between the Founding Fathers of America (seven men specifically), from early conversations 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 a republic and a democracy, and myriad other topics.

Neff’s playful, informative thought experiment doesn’t restrict the Founder’s conversations to constitutional matters but also reflects on how different the modern world would be to their experience, 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 in the last third of the book, Neff makes a wise choice to introduce new characters and broaden the perspective. William Lee, George Washington’s Black manservant, and his two children represent differing perspectives and 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 rather than just two. 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 and which are currently under threat.

Takeaway: The founders face the past, present, and future of Constitutional democracy in lively dialogues.

Great for fans of: K. M. Kostyal’s Founding Fathers: The Fight for Freedom and the Birth of American Liberty, Lawrence Rowe’s The Founding Fathers Return.

Production grades
Cover: B
Design and typography: A
Illustrations: N/A
Editing: A-
Marketing copy: A