Sometimes constitutions fail. The unprecedented election of Donald Trump, a populist insurgent who lacks the prior political experience or military service of all presidents before him, is such a sharp break in American historical experience that it raises questions as to whether something is deeply amiss with the constitutional order.

Constitutional failure is not uncommon. A path-breaking global study of national constitutions shows that on average, they last only nineteen years. The U.S. Constitution is an uncommon outlier and, as such, is accounted by many a long-running success story. But could a bell be tolling for American constitutionalism?

In this Essay, I assess the meaning of Trump’s shocking rise for the future of our constitutional order. The shock, of course, was not the election of a Republican president. There have been many Republican presidents since Lincoln, each making their own distinctive contribution to the American tradition. Yet, there are good reasons to think this time around is different. The efficacy and, perhaps, stability of our constitutional order are in question, and we should try to understand why.

Volume Number


Issue Number