Sanford Levinson, author of Our Undemocratic Constitution: Where the Constitution Goes Wrong (And How We the People Can Correct It) is a professor at the University of Texas Law School. In Our Undemocratic Constitution Levinson takes a hard look at one of the most revered documents in American politics, the Constitution.
Levinson has kindly summed up his book for you Letterman-style. Check it out below.
- Not every American citizen can hope to grow up to be President. (Natural-born citizenship clause)
- Not every American citizen can run for the House or Senate upon achieving the relevant age requirement (because of the requirement that one have been an American citizen for 7 years to run for the House and 9 years to run for the Senate)
- Wyomingites have 70 times the effective representation in the Senate as do Californians. This means in turn that, as is the case currently, a party can win 3,000,000 more overall votes in collective races for the Senate and end up with only 44 seats and be treated as the “minority” party
- The Electoral College regularly sends to the White House presidents who have not received a majority of the vote (and in some cases, who didn’t even come in first past the post).
- In case the Electoral College deadlocks, Wyoming would have the same influence in picking the president as does California (because of the one-state/one-vote rule).
- Presidents can negate the will of substantial majorities in both houses of Congress by vetoing legislation, a far more serious “countermajoritarian difficulty” than judicial review of federal legislation.
- A repudiated president can nonetheless make very important decisions, with significant impact on the future, during the hiatus between election and the inauguration of the successor.
- We the People are stuck with incompetent presidents in whom the majority has lost confidence because of the iron cage of the fixed-term presidency, in contrast with systems where such leaders can be displaced by votes “of no confidence”
- Thirteen houses of state legislatures in as many separate states can negate the desire of 86 legislative houses (74 of them in 37 states and then an additional twelve in the remaining states (since Nebraska is unicameral) with regard to amending the Constitution.
- Should a disaster kill most of the members of the House of Representatives, there would be no way to replace them without elections. Should a disaster only disable most members of the House and Senate, there would be no way to achieve the constitutionally required quorum of a majority of the membership, which means an almost inevitable presidential dictatorship in such an eventuality should ever come to pass.
Maybe our esteemed author should re-read the federalist and anti-federalist papers. There is a very good reason why the constitution as originally written should appear undemocratic, it is.
The authors of the constitution intended for the US to be a Representative Republic. They had a strong distrust of what we now call consensus, they fully intended that the constitution would be “undemocratic.”
The “Wyoming problem” was a deliberate act on the part of constitutions authors. There are several reasons why there are two houses in the legislative branch. As well as reasons for one house to be proportionally represented and one house to consider all states alike.
I think that whether or not it’s democratic is debateable and a matter of opinion. To present your definition of democracy as fact is misleading.
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