What, if anything, can constitutions do to resist democratic backsliding? The collapse of the Weimar Republic has led scholars of comparative politics to conclude that constitutional forms and institutions can do little to resist the breakdown of democracy and the rise of autocracy. This paper offers a constitutionalist response. The outlines of that answer can be found in decades-old policy documents produced by a set of German émigré scholars during and in the immediate aftermath of the Second World War: Franz Neumann, Herbert Marcuse, and Otto Kirchheimer. The secret reports root constitutional stability in the creation of a framework for bounded partisan pluralist contestation among political parties that track the principal social and economic cleavages, and that is rooted within, and does not seek to overthrow, the underlying political economy. Second, the secret reports highlight the importance of constitutional design in creating a constitutional infrastructure for bounded pluralistic political contestation, especially with respect to the role of political parties. Third, the secret reports suggest a counter-narrative of the German Basic Law as creating a framework for political contestation that reinforces constitutional stability instead of undermining it.
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