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The Preamble as Policy

A Guidebook to Governance and Civic Duty

Robert Irons and Jim Twombly

In The Preamble as Policy: A Guidebook to Governance and Civic Duty the authors show that the Preamble to the Constitution is more than an introduction to the document; it sets the tone for the rest of the document and how it should be viewed and interpreted. It is also a list of goals for a new government and a tool for holding our elected representatives accountable for their efforts on our behalf. The Preamble as Policy looks at the history of the development of the Constitution to show how the Preamble can be used to judge the laws and policies enacted by the federal government. The Preamble as Policy weaves political thought, history, and current events together allowing for examination of an oft forgotten part of the Constitution. It provides a unique framework and firm foundation for class discussions or social interactions about what we have achieved as a nation and where we might have come up short.

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Chapter One A Preamble to the Preamble


In 2020, America went through a tremendously stressful period. Much of our public life, both social and economic, was shut down for an extended period due to COVID-19. In the midst of this global pandemic, Americans took to the streets in a variety of protests. There were protests against actions taken by state and local officials to protect the groups most at risk to the virus, some with maskless citizens carrying guns to state capitols (and sometimes into the buildings), fueled by the record high unemployment rates created by the shutdown of all non-essential business. Just as some states were beginning to reopen their economies, four Minneapolis police officers arrested, and in the process murdered, George Floyd over his passing of a counterfeit $20 bill, leading to mass protests in cities big and small, both here and abroad, against continued police violence towards communities of color. A deadly pandemic, widespread unemployment, racial and social unrest, and a government seemingly incapable or unwilling to respond effectively became a perfect storm to highlight and re-examine our founding goals. The current political divisions in this country rival those that were in place just ←1 | 2→before the Great Depression, with many of the same or similar issues at the root of the division. America is stubborn in learning the lessons of its past, especially if connected to race or class.

As a “perfect” wrap to such a tumultuous year, an incumbent president – Donald Trump – called into question the process and results...

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