Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Constitutional Reform

Sanford Levinson writes in today's New York Times:
What was truly admirable about the framers was their willingness to critique, indeed junk, the Articles of Confederation. One need not believe that the Constitution of 1787 should be discarded in quite the same way to accept that we are long overdue for a serious discussion about its own role in creating the depressed (and depressing) state of American politics
Levinson's Op-Ed, highlighting several political obstacles hindering decisive action by the federal to address pressing national challenges, is interesting but its analysis leaves something to be desired. Most of his handful of suggested reforms would enhance the power of the President. Such Executive aggrandizement--by allowing the President to weight Congress; by allowing the Congress to override the Judiciary's pronouncements on the Constitution; by requiring a super majority for the Supreme Court to exercise judicial review--may lead to an Executive Branch that is more nimble and more effective in dealing with the challenges present in Levinson's mind. But that agility will be limited to those problems. And Executive strength is not something for which we want currently. 

It seems to this observer that the inability of the country to address its most pressing challenges stems not from interbranch intransigence but from a weak and dysfunctional Congress. One might accomplish more--and do so more safely--by doing away with the Senate's cloture requirement--an act whose execution requires merely the Senate and no other organs of government. 

We could also elect better representatives. 

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