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Lecture addresses flaws in the U.S. Constitution

| Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Honoring the Constitution Day holiday, Sanford Levinson, professor of government at the University of Texas presented his lecture “Flaws in the Constitution? What We Should Be Learning About the Constitution Today” in South Dining Hall’s Oak Room Monday afternoon. Sponsored by the Constitutional Studies Program, Tocqueville Program, Jack Miller Center and Notre Dame Research, Levinson’s talk explored the areas of the Constitution that need improvement and proposed the idea of a new constitutional convention.

Drawing upon the works he has written over the years, Levinson started by stating his overall view of the Constitution.

“I think you can demonstrate that, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that the United States Constitution is the most undemocratic constitution of a major western democracy,” Levinson said.

He said the United States Constitution is far less democratic than each individual U.S. state constitution, a point he outlines in his 2012 book, “Framed: America’s 51 Constitutions and the Crisis of Governance.” Levinson endorses a new constitutional convention to amend some of the flaws that he sees in the document, in part because our current Constitution alienates the American people from the political system.

“Wherever you are on the political spectrum, left, right or center, liberal or conservative, it really doesn’t matter — the odds are very high that you don’t believe the national government will respond adequately to whatever you happen to believe are the chief issues of the day,” Levinson said.

Levinson proceeded to elaborate on the specific defects of the Constitution, and said the checks and balances present in the document are so nuanced that they rarely all align to achieve major change. His further analysis on this topic can be found in his recently released book, “Fault Lines in the Constitution: The Framers, Their Fights and the Flaws That Affect Us Today,” which Levinson co-wrote with his wife, Cynthia Levinson.

Levinson said the framers of the Constitution did well considering the time period, but there were decisions made that we should not be bound to uphold today.

One of Levinson’s major critiques attacked the Senate as an institution whose electoral policies are harmful, saying that it is not fair that places like Wyoming and Californiam or Vermont and Texas have the same number of senators considering the massive difference in population. Levinson said he and his wife, in their book, addressed faults of the Constitution that they believe are not taught enough, including people overly praising the Bill of Rights, the presidential veto that restricts bicameralism and gives the president too much power and the Electoral College process that leads to campaigning only in battleground states.

Regardless of whether or not the American people think there should or should not be a second constitutional amendment, Levinson closed by asking people to question these constitutional issues.

“Do we in 2017 have sufficient faith in one another to believe that we the people in 2017 can engage in genuine reflection and choice, can talk about the lessons of experience and propose what I think are needed changes?” Levinson said.

 

 

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  • toto

    The National Popular Vote bill is 61% of the way to guaranteeing the majority of Electoral College votes and the presidency to the candidate who receives the most popular votes in the country, by changing state winner-take-all laws (not mentioned in the U.S. Constitution, but later enacted by 48 states), without changing anything in the Constitution, using the built-in method that the Constitution provides for states to make changes.

    All voters would be valued equally in presidential elections, no matter where they live.
    Candidates, as in other elections, would allocate their time, money, polling, organizing, and ad buys roughly in proportion to the population

    Every vote, everywhere, for every candidate, would be politically relevant and equal in every presidential election.
    No more distorting, crude, and divisive and red and blue state maps of predictable outcomes, that don’t represent any minority party voters within each state.
    No more handful of ‘battleground’ states (where the two major political parties happen to have similar levels of support) where voters and policies are more important than those of the voters in 38+ predictable states, like Indiana, that have just been ‘spectators’ and ignored after the conventions.

    The bill would take effect when enacted by states with a majority of the electoral votes—270 of 538.
    All of the presidential electors from the enacting states will be supporters of the presidential candidate receiving the most popular votes among all 50 states (and DC)—thereby guaranteeing that candidate with an Electoral College majority.

    In 2017, the bill has passed the New Mexico Senate and Oregon House.
    The bill was approved in 2016 by a unanimous bipartisan House committee vote in both Georgia (16 electoral votes) and Missouri (10).
    Since 2006, the bill has passed 35 state legislative chambers in 23 rural, small, medium, large, red, blue, and purple states with 261 electoral votes.
    The bill has been enacted by 11 small, medium, and large jurisdictions with 165 electoral votes – 61% of the way to guaranteeing the presidency to the candidate with the most popular votes in the country

    NationalPopularVote

  • Tom

    ” you don’t believe the national government will respond adequately to whatever you happen to believe are the chief issues of the day,” Levinson said.

    Levinson proceeded to elaborate on the specific defects of the Constitution, and said the checks and balances present in the document are so nuanced that they rarely all align to achieve major change. His further analysis on this topic can be found in his recently released book, “Fault Lines in the Constitution: The Framers, Their Fights and the Flaws That Affect Us Today,” which Levinson co-wrote with his wife, Cynthia Levinson.”

    Are you telling me that the Constitution restrains the temporary passions of the majority , prevents a single generation from changing everything, and prevents any government official from gaining inordinate domestic power?

  • Tom

    “addressed faults of the Constitution that they believe are not taught enough, including people overly praising the Bill of Rights”

    This is extremely disturbing