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Sioux Falls Free Thinkers endorse Our Undemocratic Constitution
for showing us what needs to be done to fix it,
but do we have the courage to do it.

Our Undemocratic Constitution
Where The Constitution Goes Wrong
(And How We The People Can Correct It)

Our Undemocratic Constitution by Sanford Levinson
(2008) - 272 pages
Our Undemocratic Constitution at Amazon.com

The Constitution is one of the most revered documents in American politics. Yet this is a document that regularly places candidates in the White House who did not get a majority vote, in addition to giving the President the power to overrule both houses of Congress on legislation he disagrees with on political grounds. Taking a hard look at these and other unjust provisions of our much-venerated Constitution, Sanford Levinson examines how too many of its articles promote either unfair or ineffective government. Updated with a new afterword to answer its critics and further engage in the debate, Our Undemocratic Constitution 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 constitution adequate to our democratic values.

Sanford Levison holds the W. St John Garwood and W. St John Garwood , Jr. Centennial Chair in Law at the Unversity of Texas Law School. His books include Constitutional Faith (1998); Written in Stone (1998); Wrestling With Diversity (2003) and the edited volume, Torture: A Collection (2004).

1-26-18 America's Constitution is terrible. Let's throw it out and start over.
The American Constitution is an outdated, malfunctioning piece of junk — and it's only getting worse. When written, the Constitution made a morally hideous compromise with slavery that took a war and 750,000 lives to make right. And while its basic structure sort of worked for awhile in the 20th century, the Constitution is now falling prey to the same defects that has toppled every other similar governing document the world over. The truth seems clear: America is going to have to overhaul its basic structure of government, or eventually it will fall to pieces. The major problem with America's Constitution is that it creates a system in which elections generally do not produce functioning governments, and there is no mechanism to break the deadlock (like calling snap elections). Most of the time, control of the House, Senate, and presidency is split between the two parties in some way. Bipartisan compromises to keep government functioning used to be common, but are near-impossible anymore due to extreme party polarization. So as Michael Kinnucan points out, during divided government "there is de facto no legislative body." This is getting worse over time. Even with unified control of government, a party now only gets one big law per year through the reconciliation process. To actually govern in a way that would be normal for any other country, it takes unified control of government plus a Senate supermajority of 60 votes to get past the filibuster — something that has happened only three times since the Second World War. If Democrats take control of either the House or the Senate in 2018, we are likely in for even fiercer partisan combat and high-stakes standoffs. It's a ratchet that tends to end in constitutional collapse. To fix the problem, America should aim to make itself more like a proportional parliamentary democracy, by far the most successful and road-tested form of government.

  1. Get rid of the Senate filibuster. This would at least allow a party that got the presidency plus both houses of Congress to govern, and could be passed by a simple majority vote in the Senate.
  2. Radically change the way House members are elected. One major engine of political extremism in America is the partisan drawing of district boundaries.
  3. Neuter the Senate. The Senate is an odious, undemocratic institution in which senators representing about 11 percent of the population can filibuster a bill or those representing about 16 percent of the population can have a majority.
  4. Elect the president from the House. The point of "separation of powers" was to create a check on tyranny, but it has ironically worked to increase tyranny and undermine democracy.
  5. Throw the entire Constitution in the garbage. One of the biggest problems with the Constitution as written is it makes changing anything nearly impossible.

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Our Undemocratic Constitution
Where The Constitution Goes Wrong
(And How We The People Can Correct It)

Sioux Falls Free Thinkers endorse Our Undemocratic Constitution
for showing us what needs to be done to fix it,
but do we have the courage to do it.