Framed: America's 51 Constitutions and the Crisis of Governance

ISBN : 9780199890750

Sanford Levinson
448 Pages
163 x 235 mm
Pub date
Apr 2012
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In his widely acclaimed volume Our Undemocratic Constitution, Sanford Levinson boldly argued that our Constitution should not be treated with "sanctimonious reverence," but as a badly flawed document deserving revision. Now Levinson takes us deeper, asking what were the original assumptions underlying our institutions, and whether we accept those assumptions 225 years later. In Framed, Levinson challenges our belief that the most important features of our constitutions concern what rights they protect. Instead, he focuses on the fundamental procedures of governance such as congressional bicameralism; the selection of the President by the electoral college, or the dimensions of the President's veto power-not to mention the near impossibility of amending the United States Constitution. These seemingly "settled" and "hardwired" structures contribute to the now almost universally recognized "dysfunctionality" of American politics. Levinson argues that we should stop treating the United States Constitution as uniquely exemplifying the American constitutional tradition. We should be aware of the 50 state constitutions, often interestingly different-and perhaps better-than the national model. Many states have updated their constitutions by frequent amendment or by complete replacement via state constitutional conventions. California's ungovernable condition has prompted serious calls for a constitutional convention. This constant churn indicates that basic law often reaches the point where it fails and becomes obsolete. Given the experience of so many states, he writes, surely it is reasonable to believe that the U.S. Constitution merits its own updating. Whether we are concerned about making America more genuinely democratic or only about creating a system of government that can more effectively respond to contemporary challenges, we must confront the ways our constitutions, especially the United States Constitution, must be changed in fundamental ways.


1 Introduction
2 Of Compromise and Constitutions
3 What is the pint of preambles?
4 How does a " differ from "?
5 Elections and a Republican form of government
6 Bicameralism
7 If two opinions are good, is a third opinion (with the power of most of the time absolutely to kill the decision of the first two opinion-makers) even better?
8 Presidentialism (and ")
9 So what, precisely, does one get, as a constitutional matter, upon being elected president?
10 Presidential duration in office, the possibility of impeachment, and the role of the vice president
11 Divided government
12 How " a judiciary do we really want?
13 On the judiciary (and Supreme Court) as guardian of the Constitution
14 Federalism
15 Amendment
16 Emergency Powers
17 Conclusion

About the author: 

Sanford Levinson is Professor of Law and Political Science at the University of Texas-Austin. His books include Our Undemocratic Constitution, Constitutional Faith, and Wrestling with Diversity.

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