John E. Finn
3 Questions with John E. Finn
Author of Fracturing the Founding: How the Alt-Right Corrupts the Constitution

In Fracturing the Founding: How the Alt-Right Corrupts the Constitution John E. Finn explores contemporary American politics, the contemporary radical right, the Founding and the history of America’s constitution. 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 this book, John E. Finn 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.

In this Q&A, we asked John 3 questions for our readers to get a glimpse behind the scenes.

1) Why did you write the book and what do you hope readers take away from it?
I wrote Fracturing the Founding because I want citizens to understand how and why the Constitution and the secular, democratic, inclusive, and egalitarian community it envisions is under siege from the far right. The constitution the far right holds dear is an odd mixture of the forgotten, the rejected, the racist, and the bizarre. It tolerates no restrictions on speech or on guns or on private property, does not recognize the supremacy of federal law to state and local law, and is built upon the principle of separate but equal. For the far right, the meaning of every provision in the Constitution is plain or discerned easily by appealing to what the sainted Founders intended, or, failing that, to Holy Scripture.
The far right’s constitutional fervor is little more than cheerleading. Indeed, in the radical right, constitution-worship is an article of faith, every bit as fundamental to its worldview as its better known convictions about race, religion, politics, history, and culture. What constitutional patriotism truly requires of Americans, however, is not genuflection, but critical engagement.

2) What’s the most surprising fact you learned when researching your book?
I was surprised to learn just how aggressively the radical right uses constitutional history as a weapon in its ongoing struggle to define America. Getting the Constitution “right” necessitates a concerted effort to teach citizens that the Constitution, rightly understood, embodies and sanctifies a particular conservative worldview. Just as evangelicals study the Word in Bible study groups by purchasing and listening to courses on tape and by attending services conducted by itinerant ministers, constitutional patriots form study groups, purchase materials designed to teach themselves and their children constitutional fundamentals, and attend lectures and talks that are part instructional and part preachy-devotional. There are books, pamphlets, CDs, podcasts, and videos that preach the gospel of the Constitution. There are constitution camps and constitution coloring books for kids and centers for the study of the Constitution and even, a little ominously, a program in "Constitution Combat Training," all meant to preach constitutional truth and to win converts to the cult of the Constitution that once was.

3) When you were writing your book, what was your biggest challenge?
Despair. I struggled with despair and despondency almost every time I sought to distill and illuminate the main tenets and principles of the Alt-constitution. The Alt-constitution is a constitution built on racism, fear, and distrust. It is a bleak and uninviting picture of our life together as Americans, a dystopian and ugly vision of political community.

John E. Finn's “Fracturing the Founding: How the Alt-Right Corrupts the Constitution” can be ordered wherever books are sold or directly from the publisher Rowman & Littlefield at

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