Our Undemocratic Constitution: Where the Constitution Goes Wrong (and How We the People Can Correct It)

Our Undemocratic Constitution: Where the Constitution Goes Wrong (and How We the People Can Correct It)

Our Undemocratic Constitution: Where the Constitution Goes Wrong (and How We the People Can Correct It)

Our Undemocratic Constitution: Where the Constitution Goes Wrong (and How We the People Can Correct It)

Synopsis

The Constitution is one of the most revered documents in American politics. Yet this is a document that regularly places in the White House candidates who did not in fact get a majority of the popular vote. It gives Wyoming the same number of votes as California, which has seventy times thepopulation of the Cowboy State. And it offers the President the power to overrule both houses of Congress on legislation he disagrees with on political grounds. Is this a recipe for a republic that reflects the needs and wants of today's Americans? Taking a hard look at our much-venerated Constitution, Sanford Levinson here argues that too many of its provisions promote either unjust or ineffective government. Under the existing blueprint, we can neither rid ourselves of incompetent presidents nor assure continuity of government followingcatastrophic attacks. Less important, perhaps, but certainly problematic, is the appointment of Supreme Court judges for life. Adding insult to injury, the United States Constitution is the most difficult to amend or update of any constitution currently existing in the world today. Democratic debate leaves few stones unturned, but we tend to take our basic constitutional structures for granted. Levinson boldly challenges the American people to undertake a long overdue public discussion on how they might best reform this most hallowed document and construct a constitutionadequate to our democratic values.

Excerpt

In 1987, I went to a marvelous exhibit in Philadelphia commemorating the bicentennial of the drafting there of the U.S. Constitution. the visitor’s journey through the exhibit concluded with two scrolls, each with the same two questions: First, “Will You Sign This Constitution?” and then, “If you had been in Independence Hall on September 17, 1787, would you have endorsed the Constitution?” the second question clarifies the antecedent for “this” in the first: It emphasizes that we are being asked to assess the 1787 Constitution. This is no small matter inasmuch, for example, it did not include any of the subsequent amendments, including the Bill of Rights. Moreover, the viewer had been made aware in the course of the exhibit that the 1787 Constitution included several terrible compromises with slavery.

Even in 1987, I tended to regard the original Constitution as what William Lloyd Garrison so memorably called “A Covenant with Death and an Agreement With Hell” because of those compromises. So why did I choose to sign the scroll? As I explained in the final chapter of a 1988 book, Constitutional Faith, I was impressed that . . .

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