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Fracturing the Founding

How the Alt-Right Corrupts the Constitution

John E. Finn



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Rowman and Littlefield
15 May 2019
Many in the radical right, including the Tea Party, the militia movement, the Alt-right, Christian nationalists, the Oath Keepers, neo-Nazis, and a host of others, brand themselves as constitutional patriots. In Fracturing the Founding: How the Alt-Right Corrupts the Constitution, John E. Finn, one of America's leading constitutional scholars, argues that these professions of constitutional devotion serve an important function in mainstreaming the radical right's ideological and policy agenda: to camouflage its racism, bigotry, and sexism to appeal to a broader audience. The constitution the extreme right holds as its faith is an odd admixture of the forgotten, the rejected, the racist, and the bizarre. Finn illuminates the central precepts of the Alt-constitution and shows how and where it differs from the (true) American Constitution. The differences are disturbing. The Alt-constitution emphasizes absolute rights and unassailable liberties (especially for freedom of speech and guns, no matter the public interest), states' rights and a corresponding suspicion of the federal government, racial classifications recognized and legitimated by law, and privilege for white Christians. Finn's book will appeal to all readers interested in contemporary American politics, the contemporary radical right, the Founding and the history of America's constitution.
By:   John E. Finn
Imprint:   Rowman and Littlefield
Country of Publication:   United States
Dimensions:   Height: 239mm,  Width: 160mm,  Spine: 28mm
Weight:   553g
ISBN:   9781538123676
ISBN 10:   1538123673
Pages:   268
Publication Date:   15 May 2019
Audience:   General/trade ,  ELT Advanced
Format:   Hardback
Publisher's Status:   Active

John E. Finn is an accomplished professor of constitutional law, an award-winning teacher, and a much sought after public speaker. He is Professor of Government Emeritus at Wesleyan University. His scholarly research and teaching focuses on constitutional theory, comparative constitutional law, the first amendment, and the legal regulation of terrorism and political violence. He is the author of three highly regarded and influential books on constitutional law: Peopling the Constitution (Kansas, 2014), American Constitutional Law: Essays, Cases, and Comparative Notes (coauthor, Rowman & Littlefield, 2009), and Constitutions in Crisis: Political Violence and the Rule of Law (Oxford, 1991), and of numerous scholarly articles in professional journals.

Reviews for Fracturing the Founding: How the Alt-Right Corrupts the Constitution

Finn critically dissects the constitutional doctrines of the alt-right. He begins with the major players and platforms of the movement, including Richard B. Spencer, Steve Bannon, and Breitbart.com, and then considers their views on the Constitution and federalism, showing the heavy influence of the Christian evangelical right. In Chapter 3, Finn posits that the alt-right view of the First Amendment permits discrimination against non-Christians. He then delves into the right to bear arms and how it is impossible to determine what the Founders had intended. The final chapters cover the idea of sovereign citizens and birthright citizenship. Finn does an excellent job of taking political theory and showing how it impacted the actions of various alt-right conservatives, including former chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court Roy Moore; Jared Fogle, former spokesperson for Subway restaurants who was convicted of sexual offenses against minors; and members of constitutional militias. The book is well written, and the depth of Finn's research shines through. The work is chatty in tone but assumes some knowledge of constitutional law. Reminiscent of an extended, witty lecture by an erudite professor, this will leave readers impressed and distressed. * Library Journal * Through the lens of the Constitution, John E. Finn crystalizes the far-right's selective and twisted interpretation of America's core values. Fracturing the Founding is an incisive guide to the thinking of fringe extremists. With sharp research and straightforward argument, it unpicks the contradictions at the heart of the alt-right. This book is one of the clearest deconstructions of how extremists try to weaponize the First and Second amendments in the face of a long history of evolving and often muddy and contradictory case law. And, importantly, Finn not only makes traces some of the commonalities in the diffuse contemporary far-right, but exposes how fringe ideas migrate into mainstream conservative outlets through a web of shared values and ideas. At a time when originalism is on the rise, Fracturing the Founding outlines the alarming ideas that might seep into America's justice system if the extreme right has its way. -- Michael Wendling, author of Alt-Right: From 4chan to the White House John Finn has provided a helpful service by explaining how leading figures of the far right approach to the Constitution, and by informing readers why legal scholars reject their interpretation. -- George Hawley, author of Making Sense of the Alt-Right

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