Gilbert Keith Chesterton once famously said, “It’s not that Christianity has been tried and found wanting. It’s that it has never really being tried.” Part of the reason is that too many folks feel that Christianity — with its moral absolutes and especially its prohibitions — is outdated and unworthy of modern interest. One might also apply this gem of wisdom to those who rail against the U.S. Constitution; the product of another apparently obsolete belief system.
One such of those is Sanford Levinson, a law professor at the University of Texas and the author of a book called Our Undemocratic Constitution: Where the Constitution Goes Wrong (And How We the People Can Correct It). Mr. Levinson, it seems, is feeling a bit hostile toward some of the foundational aspects of the law of the land, calling it, “a distinctly 18th century document that inflicts significant damage upon our 21st century reality.”
In an opinion piece for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Levinson laments the veto power of the President: “We are long overdue for a national discussion of whether we are well served by our peculiar form of government that places such a power in the hands of a single individual.” This alone should be enough to send shivers down the spine of those who revere our unique system of checks and balances. But there’s more.
When the Founders wrote and ratified the Constitution, many were dead set against the enumeration of specifics rights listed in the Bill of Rights. The thinking was, if we only set out certain rights as inviolate, a future government might trample at will on the rest. Sadly, we have seen that this is all too true.
Even the beautifully and plainly written 9th and especially the 10th Amendment (“The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people”) have not stopped the carnage.
IN FACT, MANY of our current problems are a result of too much monkeying with the Constitution. For example, Levinson and others complain about the dangers of a “lame duck” president with veto power, but had the 22nd Amendment not interfered with the process, this fear would be practically non-existent.
The idea of electing the president popularly instead of using the Electoral College is one of the main planks of liberals everywhere, and one that is planted even in the minds of our schoolchildren. Levinson writes;
Lest one believes that presidents, at least, represent the country as a whole, one must realize that our bizarre system of electing presidents through the Electoral College assures that almost no candidates any longer run truly national campaigns. So even if first-term presidents are held accountable via having to run for re-election, they focus only on a mixture of their “base” and “battleground” states, which leads to remarkable pandering to the latter and an almost total disregard for “wrong-color” states.
Surely the professor realizes that if the Electoral College were scrapped, candidates would only need to campaign in areas of concentrated population; namely, New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and other liberal strongholds. But, isn’t that the point?
And if supporters of the popular election of the executive have their way, the next thing to go would logically be the present form of the U.S. Senate. After all, the principal that gives the less populous states a say in the election of the president, is the same which sustains their equality in the upper house.
WHAT MR. LEVINSON and others like him fail to acknowledge can be summed up in the very title of our nation; the United States of America. In other words, the Constitution was set up to loosely govern a federation of smaller governments; those of the individual states. The president was meant to be elected by the states and not by purely democratic means. The Founders were well acquainted with the dangers of direct democracy.
That is why the noxious 17th Amendment, which called for the popular election of senators, so upset the delicate balance between the states and the federal government. Senators, as opposed to representatives in “The People’s House,” were intended to be chosen by state legislatures to protect the interests of those states against federal power, not to add to it.
Just as the cure for our wounded public morality is more religion, not less; so too, the only cure for our governmental woes is greater adherence to the Constitution as written, and not its constant dilution. Because, just as religion reins in sinful human behavior, the restrictions placed on Washington by the Constitution should similarly curb governmental abuse
It’s not the U.S. Constitution that has been found wanting; it is those who have sworn to uphold it.
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