Lecture addresses flaws in the U.S. Constitution
Lucy Lynch | 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.