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Sanford Levinson
Sanford Levinson by Robin Holland
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December 21, 2007

Sanford Levinson is a heretic in some people's eyes — he has the temerity to suggest that not only is the Constitution not written in stone but that it's actually in some ways quite undemocratic.

Among its flaws; a veto power that allows presidents to stop legislation 95% of the time; a contradiction of the "one person, one vote" principle in the Senate which gives Wyoming, with one-seventieth of the population of California, the same political power; and an escape clause in impeachment that doesn't allow for removal of the chief executive for lack of the nation's confidence, only for "high crimes and misdemeanors."

Levinson isn't for tossing out the revered document wholesale — but he does want to see another Constitutional Convention — one more suited to the 21st century.

Levinson says:

We ought to think about it almost literally every day, and then ask, 'Well, to what extent is government organized to realize the noble visions of the preamble?' That the preamble begins, 'We the people.' It's a notion of a people that can engage in self-determination.
Find out more below, and join the discussion on the Constitution's past and future on the blog.

About Sanford Levinson

Sanford Levinson is Professor of Government at the University of Texas and W. St. John Garwood and W. St. John Garwood, Jr. Centennial Chair in Law at the University of Texas Law School. Levinson is best known for his scholarly work regarding the American Constitution, diversity, and torture. Levinson is the author of four books, most recently, OUR UNDEMOCRATIC CONSTITUTION: WHERE THE CONSTITUTION GOES WRONG (AND HOW WE THE PEOPLE CAN CORRECT IT), and over 250 articles and book reviews, as well as co-author of numerous other works. He blogs regularly both at Balkinization and his own site devoted to Our Undemocratic Constitution.

Before joining the University of Texas in 1980, Sanford Levinson was a member of the Department of Politics at Princeton University. He has also taught law at Georgetown, Yale, Harvard, New York University, Boston University, the University of Paris II, Central European University in Budapest, and the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. In 2001, Levinson was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Guest photo by Robin Holland

Published on December 21, 2007

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References and Reading:
More from Sanford Levinson

Our Undemocratic Constitution
Read Sanford Levinson's frequently updated blog. Explore the lively ongoing discussion on the possibility of a new Constitutional Convention.

"No Vice," Sanford Levinson, THE BOSTON GLOBE, July 1, 2007
"There's a lot of talk — and wishful thinking — about removing Dick Cheney from office. But Cheney isn't the real problem. The vice presidency itself, enshrined in the Constitution, is the problem. The country would be better off without it."

"Get me rewrite!" Sanford Levinson, THE BOSTON GLOBE, October 22, 2006
"George Washington didn't think the Constitution was sacrosanct — why do we? It's time for a new Constitutional Convention."

"Impeachment: The Case Against," Sanford Levinson, THE NATION, January 30, 2007
Sanford Levinson argues that rather than being a clever political solution, the impeachment clause is "one of the greatest defects of the Constitution."

"Our Broken Constitution," Sanford Levinson, originally published in THE LOS ANGELES TIMES, October 16, 2006
"The United States Constitution may be the most revered text in the nation....It is the symbol of the American democracy that we often insist is the greatest in the world. Yet in reality, the Constitution is so far from perfect that it threatens our ability to resolve the daunting problems facing our society."

"WHAT IS THE CONSTITUTION'S ROLE IN WARTIME?: Why Free Speech And Other Rights Are Not As Safe As You Might Think," Sanford Levinson, FINDLAW, Oct. 17, 2001
"It is difficult to read our constitutional history, however, without believing that the Constitution is often reduced at best to a whisper during times of war."

"Poison Pen: Against the Veto," Sanford Levinson, THE NEW REPUBLIC, October 9, 2006(PDF)
Levinson argues that presidential veto power is "very undemocratic." Noting that over the course of American history presidents have vetoed about 2,250 bills — only around 106 of these vetoes have been overridden.

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