Visit Your Local PBS Station PBS Home PBS Home Programs A-Z TV Schedules Watch Video Donate Shop PBS Search PBS
Photo of Bill Moyers Bill Moyers Journal
Bill Moyers Journal
Bill Moyers Journal
Watch & Listen The Blog Archive Transcripts Buy DVDs

« Can Only "Screechers" Compete In Today's Political Discourse? | Main | Web Exclusive: The FCC Vote »

Is It Time For A New Constitutional Convention?

(Photo by Robin Holland)

In his appearance on this week's BILL MOYERS JOURNAL, legal scholar Sanford V. Levinson suggested that various challenges that face our nation, including political gridlock, can be traced to issues with our 220 year-old Constitution and might best be addressed with a new Constitutional convention. Levinson discussed his vision of such a scenario:

"I would have 700 or so of our fellow citizens chosen at random. Meet for two years, pay them the salary for those two years of a Justice of the Supreme Court [or] United States Senator because they would be fulfilling the highest possible function of citizenship. Give them time to reflect and learn about these issues... The only way you would ever get significant change is if you convince people across the political spectrum... If, on the other hand, you had a convention taken over by single issue zealots, whatever the single issue is, then the most likely thing is that the convention would just break down. People would simply start shouting at one another, and then it would never be ratified."

What do you think?

  • Do you agree with Levinson that many of America's challenges are rooted structurally in our aging Constitution? As Levinson asks, "Is the Constitution sufficiently democratic?"

  • Do you think holding another national Constitutional convention would be a good idea? Is it feasible?

  • If there were to be another Constitutional convention, which issues would you like to see addressed?


  • TrackBack

    TrackBack URL for this entry:
    http://www.pbs.org/moyers/mt4/mt-tb.cgi/891

    Comments

    "Whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends [i.e., securing inherent and inalienable rights, with powers derived from the consent of the governed], it is the right of the people to alter or abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles, and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness." --Thomas Jefferson: Declaration of Independence, 1776. ME 1:29, Papers 1:315 PEACE BE WITH YOU OR DO NOT PAY TAXES PARTY UNTIL...

    Apparently the moderators agree with the advertisers that our Constitution needs medicating in order to overcome depression and become erect. Citizens could stand in line at Archives to drop sacramental pills on the hardened cases of our founding documents, like dropping pennies in a fountain. They'd actually be worshipping Big Pharma.

    Note to moderator: Please delete this along with the ads.

    Perfect work!
    viagra
    [URL=http://www.tetongravity.com/forums/member.php?u=29410]viagra[/URL]
    http://www.tetongravity.com/forums/member.php?u=29410
    phentermine
    [URL=http://forums.plexapp.com/index.php?showuser=8215]phentermine[/URL]
    http://forums.plexapp.com/index.php?showuser=8215
    xanax
    [URL=http://forums.thedailywtf.com/members/BuyXanax.aspx]xanax[/URL]
    http://forums.thedailywtf.com/members/BuyXanax.aspx
    cialis
    [URL=http://forums.thedailywtf.com/members/GetCialis.aspx]cialis[/URL]
    http://forums.thedailywtf.com/members/GetCialis.aspx
    xanax
    [URL=http://www.tetongravity.com/forums/member.php?u=29414]xanax[/URL]
    http://www.tetongravity.com/forums/member.php?u=29414

    @Klark M:

    Perhaps you should study the background of the Constition and the authors (not just the 3 or 4 well known names)? Was it created by landed gentry - of course! They were the only ones that had any rights.

    The original constition - not the edited version passed, is the one I refer to. My apologies for not being specific. Even in the beginning the wealthy and the slave holders did not like it's original wording. Did you know the original wording was ALL Humans are created equal? Of course, many of the things you speak of are "amendments" which protect the wealthy since the original didn't have enough safeguards in it. We'd still be a part of Britain if it hadn't been for a lowly out of work citizen who took what was drafted and saw it's potential to create a fairer way for all. Washington and the others were certainly not thinking of a new country when they originally protested British taxes and rulings.

    Me? Priviledged? Rofl - I feel priviledged when I can actually afford heat for the month. My priviledge is the internet, but I sacrifice in other areas for it. But being basically housebound - yes it is my splurge when I can keep it. My fault lies in being idealistic and my sadness comes from seeing so many "Me Me Me" citizens seeking the sacred dollar and turning from the plight of mankind.

    I come from an earlier era - when neighbors watched out and helped each other, when a small child could walk to town or school alone without fear or worry. Call me naive - but not priviledged. ^.~

    Hey Bill Moyer's how many Bilderberg meetings have you been to. And don't lie we have you on tape..

    selehka: The Constitution is an elite contract and not a populist document. Only two future Presidents had the opportunity to sign it, landed gentrists and slaveowners Jemmy Madison and George Washington. You may be correct that implementation means more than legal wording, but the legal interpretation stems from the document in question. Probably like you, Bushites never read the Constitution nor reviewed the casework pursuant to it. Berto Gonzales illustrates that truth well. We will soon see how good a Constitutional scholar B.H. Obama might be. England operates without a formal Constitution except for the Magna Carta which is a partial emancipation from feudalism and a cursory Bill of Rights. Our secretive and elite government operates independently of any founding documents, no matter who holds office because it is tied to a financial elite that wags the government like a tail.

    Consider how billionaires dominate ownership of professional sports franchises, extorting stadiums and licenses at public expense, seemingly independent of local government and citizenry. Now expand that to the preogatives of large narcotics importers, energy companies or human traffickers sanctioned by our shadow government. Law enforcement exists mainly to police upstart competition. We, in fact, live in a lawless world where the "strongest" have total sway. It's this simple: no matter how well-read, no matter how soulful and expressive a poet, no matter how exquisite of spirit, the talented and literate working class girl will never join the staff of the high school literary magazine without acceptance by the children of the local professional class who precede her. If she makes it, it will be on their terms and any valuable traits she possesses will be co-opted by elite sensibilities and needs. This is a country at present where only the connected and the sell-outs succeed.

    I would assert that every relationship, top to bottom in our society is colored by the perverse hierarchy based upon sacred and unlimited property, as underwritten by our Constitution and the superstructure it projects. Certainly, there is a veil of holiness and mysticism surrounding this machinery, but it is an elite-built device intended to serve the makers' needs first. Witness the priority bailout to that financial elite with the remaining economy as an afterthought. Industry itself is left on its hands and knees licking up the dregs.

    selehka, your thought may be conditioned by your relative privilege, your identification with your "betters", your unrealistic aspirations or a misplaced devotion. I urge you to read decisions such as that making corporations persons in the late 19th century, or that making great wealth a form of free speech in the 1980s before you devote your soul to this corrupt structure. Read the Constitution Jemmy Madison and James Monroe and Alex Hamilton wrote for elite approval and for empire and then tell me how well it protects that working class high school girl I described. It is racist, sexist, elitist and dismissive of human rights and welfare at its core and in its intent, Sure they apologized with a token giveback in the Bill of Rights. And then they perverted and rationed our human legacy, making it subject to elite whim. They like to watch you pee in a container; and they like to mine your blog posts for signs of nonconformity. These things give overlords and their cronies a great sense of power. Think about how this very Internet originated in the military intelligence sector, and how the primary purpose of a PC is to serve up business data. Think how different things could be without the overbearing weight of our parasites' needs. They forget that we who labor fashion their world on an hourly basis.

    "Don't change a thing. Works great just like it is. Want some cake?"
    Only those that lay in the tranches, in mud, snow and freezing can
    tell you of “the cake” they got! The parents, brothers, sister and friends
    of the love ones they lost can tell you of “the cake” they got at the
    stroke of a “pen that was mightier than the sword!” Only people
    that lost their jobs, homes, eviction and homeless can tell you
    of “the cake” they got!
    Yes, there is a need of Constitution convention “the sooner the better”.
    It should be only one issue “To empower the people to express
    THEIR WILL on ALL ISSUES!”

    The original constitution was fine - it is the blatant disregard for it that our government displays that is the problem.

    The Supreme Court - What was to be a non-political bastion of Justice to protect the "common" citizen is now just another branch of the Political Elite.

    Abolish the ability to appoint our judges - and let the people decide who is to stand for them. Set up an office - independant of politcal influence - of Constitutional Law that will legally hold ALL accountable that would violate it. Let's face it - even Bush and his cronies openly stated they wanted to do away with it - it was out dated. Considering their illegal activities - I can see why they feel that way.

    M. Lewis has a vested interest in the Constitution "as it is." I would guess he is a white male with appreciable property and influence.
    Chris is probably younger, has less to lose, and possesses the foresight and social conscience blinded by self-interest in the case of M. Lewis.
    You're not alone, M. Lewis. You stand with the slaveowners, landed crooks and bond speculators of 1789. And you're not a new species either Chris. You succeed the 90% of white males excluded from the ratification vote of the Constitution who had insufficient property or status to qualify.
    Your hero M. Lewis is the well-connected Alexander Hamilton, awarded the post of Sec. of Treasury for his efforts. And your hero Chris is Daniel Shays, the crusader against creditors, who saw what was going down and risked life and freedom to stop it. George Washington was in Mt Vernon where a tooth transplant from a living slave was being attempted by his physician. Tom Jefferson was partying in France with the sado-masochistic elite, with 15 year old Sally Hemmings as his consort.
    (History is my favorite subject.) That's what Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette said,"Don't change a thing. Works great just like it is. Want some cake?"


    Do you think holding another national Constitutional convention would be a good idea? YES.
    Is it feasible? YES. They spent trillion of dollars for WAR, BAILOUTS etc. There should be funds available for Constitutional convention!
    If there were to be another Constitutional convention, which issues would you like to see addressed?
    To empower the people to participate in the process on ALL ISUESS, such as going to war,
    laws, economy, duties, accountability, responsibilities, etc. and should be strictly
    construed!
    These should apply to all level of government, authorities, school boards etc.
    When a person has his head buried in the sand or he is blind or one who has unlimited power
    would say “Leave the Constitution alone. It's working fine just the way it is.”
    The pen is more powerful than the sword only in the hands of power of elected and appointed
    official. To be just as powerful in the hands of the people, they should be empowered
    to “EXPRESS THEIR WILL ON ALL ISSUES!”

    Leave the Constitution alone. It's working fine just the way it is.

    It is a perfectly good fig leaf, why change it? Surely, it hides the grotesque genitals of capitalism and classism from innocent eyes. In changing it from a fig leaf to a g-string or jock we risk nudity. "God" decrees death to children who uncover their Furher's nakedness.

    Will we castrate the beast or become unashamed naturists, letting all greed and selfishness hang out? When our fascist ideal was virile such heresies were unthinkable. The big rod stood tall behind the curtain and we ached with a f**king-fantasy- what we would do to the rest of the world! But now as the spin doctors mix ED cocktails of Cialis-Viagra-Levitra for a sucked out economy, perverted alternatives come to mind. We must admit Wall Street has buggered Uncle Sam and that every orifice has a price tag affixed.

    They used to myth make about the emperor having no clothes. In reality, the Constitution we had de juris was routinely worked around de facto so the big boys could get summa dat. The only thing new is that we have nude photos en flagrante delecto. Quick Mama, wrap yo' ass in de flag!

    I can't believe I supported the electoral college. Of course it's dangerous, and of course it's a holdover of a class-based political system. Of course it needs to be removed from our Constitution as fast as possible.

    I still can't believe that I deliberately overlooked its two major failures at the beginning of this century and continued to support it. The EC has already proven potentially dangerous to our republic; it's time for it to go.

    Hows this?

    The country has gotten too big to run as is...even if all the people in all 3 branches were good people.


    Make the presidency litterally more like prime minister, where he handles foreign policy & war.

    The vp is the president who handles domestic & internal policy..or similar.

    And we continue using the teams of experts, but that we require or ask major business leaders to chare advisory committee to be voted on by congress.

    Also, make the military one branch.

    Force congress to not do pork.

    Line item veto.

    REquire open vote on everything except military or top secret.

    Updown votes on judges or appointments..

    No philibuster.

    Realign the fed to be as originally intended..


    @K. Donovan:

    First, I'll correct a fact: the U.S. does not have a figurehead president; our president has real political power and control over the military.

    As you say, the Senate needs to be retained in its current form (however, I think it needs to have a little more power). We differ on the electoral college (EC) which needs to be retained.

    The EC protects the American people from gross errors in judgment where a charming but idiotic cab driver becomes president. Although it failed to protect us in 2000 and 2004, the institution still has value. Even if it's 80 years before the EC is provided with an opportunity to overrule the American people and select a president better than what they wanted, the EC will have performed its job.

    Even if the EC only needs to use its power to overrule the people once in American history, it likely will have performed the job for which it was created.

    The Constitution is very carefully constructed, and its parts must not be disposed of frivolously. Only when the EC is proven to be absolutely poisonous to the Constitution and destructive to the republic should it be abandoned.

    The complexity of the EC is not an excuse for its abandonment; every other part of the Constitution is more complicated. The failure of the EC to protect us in 2000 and 2004 is also not a reason to abandon it. The United States was intended to continue for multiple centuries, and the electoral college was made part of the U.S. Constitution because it was deemed important. Two failures at the beginning of this century do not justify the dismantling of the EC.

    It may take several decades for the EC to perform that job for which it was created, but when it does so, the framers of the Constitution will be viewed as having an almost supernatural level of foresight.

    @gv, you say that our failures are failures "of values not of constitution."

    If we endure several decades where our values are out of sync with the Constitution, we need another Constitution--one that is in sync with our values.

    If we endure several decades of bad leadership under our Constitution, we need another Constitution--one that promotes better leadership.

    A serious effort is now underway to convene a National Constitutional Convention as authorized under Article V. The ultimate aim is AUTONOMOUS REGIONAL GOVERNMENT. It's time to diffuse the power of the oligarchy. . . while we still have a VIABLE nation left!!

    http://groups.yahoo.com/group/NationalConstitutionalConvention06

    one simple way to create a democracy in the us

    abolish the presidency, and the senate

    the executive would come from within the house

    it'd create a parliamentary democracy

    The USA does not need another constitutional convention. It does need a Supreme Court which upholds the existing Constitution. For example, the existing Justices would not recognize a violation of the Establishment Clause even if James Madison were to rise from the grave and repeat what he wrote into the First Amendment. The revisionist Justices who now sit on the Court are in contrast to those who sat there in 1947 and ruled in Everson v. Board of Education. Strongly guarded as is the separation between Religion and Government in the Constitution of the United States, the Constitution has not changed, but the Justices have. Unfortunately, the media is too often as history ignorant as the Justices often illustrate themselves to be.

    Levinson is right on the money! Unless the participants to a Constitutional Convention are randomly selected (with some basic minimal requirements for eligibility), sequestered (no press allowed), and allowed an extended timeframe to understand the issues/concerns, what went on when writing the original Constitution (to better appreciate the give-and-take there), and then allowed to brainstorm like any organization would (i.e. any "stupid" idea gets thrown out for debate). I bet you they would come up with a profound document. By the way, Jefferson said the Constitution should be revised every 20 years; he was smart enough to realize the original document was fluid and needed to be updated for the prevailing conditions.

    I must respectfully disagree with Mr. Capo. His fear that somehow the United Nations would somehow take over our nation if we obey the law of the Constitution and call an Article V Convention as Congress is currently required to do and has admitted for the public record that it is so required to do, does not mean we will be taken over by the United Nations.

    Indeed, a mere reading of the Constitution itself shows that such an action would never occur as any amendment offered must amend "this Constitution" meaning an amendment can only effect our Constitution. Beyond which he completely ignores the ratification process which would certainly turn down any such attempt.

    When I read such ridiculous reasons as this I have to ask one fundamental question: if so and so group is so powerful that they could do this if a convention is called, why haven't they done so already as it would require the control of nearly three quarters of the states to accomplish it? What are they waiting for? And while we are on the subject, could Mr. Capo please name these so-called powerful groups including actual people he believes have such political power but are simply holding it in reserve in the blind hope that some day a convention might be called? If these so-called powerful groups had such power doesn't it stand to reason they would have already used it?

    As to his reference regarding the Annapolis meeting where five states met to discuss the issues of the nation before Congress called a convention in 1787, the main issue at that time was (1) the fact that Rhode Island vetoed every action at the national level making it impossible to run any kind of central government whatsoever and (2) it was obvious to all that a stronger centralized government was required to address the issues of that day.

    That was the issue then. It is not what we Americans would focus on today. One only need to read the subjects of the applications to realize the general trend of any convention will be to increase state power at the expense of the central government. And I remind Mr. Capo that if movements occur to the contrary, even if they somehow manage to get through a convention, without massive state support (which of course would be absent)that movement will never be ratified.

    In sum, there is nothing to fear from a convention. But there is a great deal to fear from allowing our government a criminal "right" to veto the law of the Constitution which is what, whether he realizes it or not, Mr. Capo is advocating and supporting.

    Either the Constitution is obeyed or it is not obeyed. Mr. Capo supports that it not be obeyed.

    I invite all who are seriously interested in finding out the true facts about an Article V Convention to visit our website at www.foavc.org.

    Applying contemporary "Best Practices" and Delphi Techniques, we don't have to guess at what a new constitutional convention convened on Levinson's premise would produce. We can look to either the UN Declaration of Human Rights or the EU Constitution.

    Contrast Section 29 Article 3 of the modern UN Declaration of Rights...

    "These rights and freedoms may in no case be exercised contrary to the purposes and principles of the United Nations."

    ...with the preamble to our out-dated Bill of Rights:

    "The conventions of a number of the States having at the time of their adopting the Constitution, expressed a desire, in order to prevent misconstruction or abuse of its powers, that further declaratory and restrictive clauses should be added..."

    Many of those pining for a constitutional convention (like those who turned up at our last Meeting of the States) are seeking to increase the powers of a central government rather than to increase the protection of our unalienable/natural rights.

    We should just return strictly to the original constitution. The U.S.A. has strayed to far from it.

    Excellent posts on this subject--such is the value of discussion, hearing all sides. Thanks everyone, you've broaden my scope.

    Of course we need a constitutional convention! What a mess. We should adopt a parliamentary system in which 1)the chief executive has far less power and can more easily be replaced; 2)the undemocratic Senate would be eliminated; 3)members of parliament would be increased so that representation is commensurate with our population;4)the electoral college would be eliminated; 5)public financing of campaigns institued; 6)election day would be moved to Veteran's Day or declared a separate holiday; 7)voting should last for a week; 8)elections with less than 50% turn-out would be disqualified; 9) the length of campaigns would be limited to 3 months; 10)the secular nature of our government should be more clearly defined, etc., etc.

    "Communist" is a boogeyman word. In actuality, some of my best friends and associates are Marxist scholars. Others unknowingly express humanistic aspirations that would define them as generic or substantive communists. I myself have a view of the commons (collective enterprise and less privatization) that would make me seem communistic to worshippers of wealth and the market. I live in a town where city fathers will not allow the state to erect an historic marker describing a strike that occurred in 1929; because of their fear of the C word.
    You would think the days of such fears are over now that the capitalist religion dominates China and Russia, but some demented fools think slurs can prevent workers from seeking justice and respect, here or abroad. I have learned to expect violence from property obsessed individuals who resort to such insults. They can't admit those they fear are human and they can't empathize using the Golden Rule. Please put yourself in our places and do not lump us with criminals and warmongers, especially since we seek a better world. Okay, so I need to quit lumping you freetrading individualists under the F word (fascism) too. Why not stick to the issues and be more considerate. It will go a long way to achieving the Constitution and justice all people deserve. Why we old extremists might find ourselves practicing reciprocity and actually compromising on workable solutions!

    Great. Just what we need. Another Coummunist trying to change our form of government. (Not like we have enough of them in the mass media). Has it ever occured to Levinson, that our REPUBLIC is not working properly, not BECAUSE of the Constitution, but because we are NOT ADHERING to the Constitution? Let's start obeying it, and enforcing it!!! CAPICHE?

    Great. Just what we need. Another Communist trying to subvert our government. (Like we don't have enough of them in the mass media). Has it occured to Levinson, that maybe why our REPUBLIC is not working properly is not BECAUSE of the Constitution, but because we are NOT ADHERING to the Constitution? Instead of changing it, let's obey and enforce it!!! CAPICHE?

    The Constitution, itself, has provisions for modification, so there is nothing wrong with holding a Constitutional Convention. The Founding Fathers were not so arrogant as to think the future might not hold things they could not foresee. Though they were very careful to separate church and state because of the problems in Europe, they could not and did not foresee the rise of the military-industrial complex. Eisenhower warned us of this in the middle of the last century and what he warned of has come to pass. But it has happened even on a larger scale that he envisioned, because it has become global in reach. The idea of an amendment to the Constitution that would separate corporate business from state in the same manner as church and state is long overdue. If you look at most of the problems this country currently faces, you will be able to trace almost all of it back to the power elite and their money and their agendas. This is not anything new on the political scene, but it has gotten so bad that it has begun to seriously erode the very foundation of the country and is moving us toward fascism (in the corporate/state definition - "what's good for business is good for the state.")

    Part of all this is the vast cost today of running for office and then staying in office. The money has to come from somewhere and who is glad to supply it? Special interests.

    However, in looking at the Ron Paul campaign (as a campaign) you see thousands of individual citizens getting involved in politics, some for the first time. Look at the money pouring in. There are even websites springing up to recruit others to hold office all up and down the chain of command of government from federal to community - or to become delegates. Last I looked some 3000 people had signed up.

    All of this operates outside the "special interests", outside the money and possibly demonstrates a model of democracy that will return it to the ideas in the Constition. It removed the money and corporate influence completely. If someone like Ron Paul can get as far as he has with virtually no "vested interest" income, then others can. And if we get together and put an Amendment together that bars ANY corporate donations and will only accept individual donations of less than $2300, we might just get the country back to the Constitution guidelines. It's not that the Constitution is out-dated, it's course of action has been disrupted by something the Founding Fathers could not have foreseen.

    We must protect the Constitution by making it stronger, always with the idea the Constitution was written to protect the people from government. We must protect the people, ourselves, since the current political scene will not do that by nature. We must allow men and women of good will the opportunity to step forward and lift up their right hands and swear to uphold the Constitution and then do so.

    Prof. Levinson's ideas are very interesting, and I can't say I disagree with him in any fundamental way. However ...

    Were we to hold a Constitutional Convention today, under the current conditions of corporate control of government, my sense is that it would be the real beginning of the end of our democracy.

    Why not just make corporate lobbying illegal? Corporate lobbying of our government, not just of the legislative branch but of the other branches as well, is the far greater threat to our one-person/one-vote ideal, than is how the Constitution is currently written. I cringe at how corporate money would influence a Constitutional Convention today.

    This is something that really must be done. I think the fundamental question when considering this is what truly is the role of our government? What role do we truly want it to play? How do we insure a better checks and balances system? Even with the pros and cons of initiating something like this, it would truly be exciting.

    As Nazism raged in Germany a visionary group met at a secluded estate to formulate a post WWII constitution designed to prevent the recurrence of such a disastrous (but legal)fascist takeover ever again. At present my folkschool is engaged in such a process though we are at a theoretical stage. There should be thousands of little unofficial Constitutional Conventions all across our nation, dissidents hoping for a survival after the Deluge.

    The first thing to admit is that the current government uses the Constitution as toilet paper. The second thing to admit is that the good old USA is in its death throes (thanks Dick) as a Superpower. The third thing to admit is that humanity must overthrow Global Corporatism to achieve a workable world.
    The fourth thing to admit is that Capitalism (above and beyond transactions of individuals face to face in community) must be abolished. It leads to destructive inequality! The fifth thing to admit is that clean water and wholesome food, as well as basic medical care, are a human right that must supercede frivolity.
    When we get together to discuss the future we will fill in the details.
    Levinson's idea (when the time is right) of choosing new founding mothers and fathers by lottery sounds good to me. They would be no worse than the greedy businessmen, slaveholders and gentry who held the 1780s sessions.
    There is much to discard: Frankenfood, hydocarbon addiction, celebrity and wealth worship, superstitious sadism masquerading as religion, war (with the accompanying sexism, rascism and terrorism), organized sports for profit and the gambling it fosters, video masturbation of the mind...
    I could go on and on, and so could most of us. So start talking it up. That may scare the greedy and violent back to sanity. The Constitution is nothing but an unfair contract. Let's go on strike!

    The following statement disturbed me: That Congress,"outside of their fund-raising responsibilities" is too busy to address the more-numerous challenges than existed in 1959. This sounds like the author is a "Congress-wannabe", because it is fact that Congress has worked far fewer days in Washington than ever before in our history. Could it be that their jobs are just too desireable, too enriching, that they are partisan slobs that primarily care about extending their elected vacations?

    The Senate was designed to give each state an equal voice regardless of population. If you think that wrong, you must alter or abolish it. There is nothing in the constitution mandating a 60 vote threshold in the Senate for ending a filibuster. It has been changed more than once and is nothing more than a Senate rule. The discussion of the "nuclear option" a few years ago was merely the last threat to change a systyem that ensures nothing much will be done.

    There is no bar to increasing the size of the House of Representatives;more important is to reform districting which now is an almost perfect system of incumbent protection and further insures a skewing of opinion toward the fringes of each party.

    If electoral votes were awarded by Congressional District with the overall winner of the state receiving the two electoral votes representing the Senators, the dynamics of presidential elections would change and, I believe, cause something more closely resembling a national campaign. There are other possibilities short of abolition of the electoral college that ought to be explored.

    Limiting Supreme Court Justices to a single term of a fixed number of years ought to be explored. The Court has become more overtly political and more frequent shakeups could be salutary.

    I find the discussion of altering the US Constitution as dangerous for the reasons stated. Those failures discussed are of values not of constitution. The founding fathers nailed human nature within the most practical process possible. What we are currently experiencing is a failure of values, no more no less. The person misses the whole point of the senate. The length of service on the supreme court is is designed against lame duck behavior and any fixed term will produce just that. The only flaw I see that needs changing is the fixed terms for the president. We don't need to fix the constitution, we need to fix our own present values. The last real value we have is our constitution. We just have to live up to the responsibilities it requires of us. To think of how many of us have died defending it and to have this lightweight question its values tells me we're more danger than we ever thought. There is a reason why it is the longest continuous national charter, it works. We're in real need of leadership, leadership that will rule within the bounds of our present Constitution.

    "Wrong, wrong, wrong… [,]" to paraphrase Mr. Moyers in his introduction; in the considered opinion of this senior working-class American, Mr. Sanford V. Levinson is to the U.S. Constitution as George W. Bush was to WMDs in Iraq. In reality, it is the cultivated ignorance, misinterpretation and/or deliberate violation of various provisions of the Constitution which needs to be addressed, not the genius, spirit and wisdom of the Founders. For certain, there is both room, and some need, for improving the 'supreme Law of the Land,' but not without employing the Amendment and impeachment provisions, extensively, first.

    Much of Mr. Levinson's criticism pertains, specifically, to failures of past and present politicians to apply the Founder's intention, principle, purpose, spirit and letter (context and law), as stated in the Preamble (as much an integral, inseparable and enforcable part of the Constitution as any Article or Amendment), to all federal acts, issues, judgements and programs, minimally.

    With so much more that could be quoted from the Constitution, and more objectively interpreted than by Mr. Levinson, suffice it to say if Mr. Levinson is truly tenured at the University of Texas, Law School, it is the worth of the constitution (and faculty) of the university, and/or Texas, that deserves to be questioned.

    Note your comment about how you like tenure. If the teachers union would agree to teach our children about government from 1st grade to 12th grade, they would be experts by the time they graduate and can vote. It's that simple. One class every day about how our government works. But that's too simple Mr. Tenure, isn't it.

    Mr. Levinson, aside from the propaganda "our" subversive mass media spews out, we are not a democracy. Our Republic was designed as a safeguard AGAINST democracy. Our founders knew very well the dangers of a tyranny of the majority, where 60% of the people can vote away the rights of the other 40%. (A mobocracy if you will). Perhaps you should go back to law school? As Benjamin Franklin said: "A democracy is two wolves and a sheep voting on what to have for dinner."

    I thought that I heard myself talking, because I have said this for many years.
    Beyond the Bill of Rights I see nothing sacred about this wonderful document, which in 1789 created and saved the United States. Jefferson did say that constitutions are good for 20 years and then are outgrown (see it engraved in stone in the Jefferson Memorial in Washington.
    Senator La Follette said in 1946(?) "We ive in an atomic age with a horse-and-buggy government. All this makes me a heretic and a rebel but is it not time to go to a parliamentary government; we should have overcome our fears after more than 200 years in busines. Incidentally business organizations reorganize constantly.

    Do you agree with Levinson that many of America's challenges are rooted
    structurally in our aging Constitution? As Levinson asks, "Is the Constitution
    sufficiently democratic?" No, I do not think it is sufficiently democratic.
    Do you think holding another national Constitutional convention would be a
    good idea? Is it feasible? Yes.
    If there were to be another Constitutional convention, which issues would you like
    to see addressed? Articles I, III, IV, V, XV, XVI, XVII
    I do not agree with Mr. Levinson that “the Congress is to busy with health, education,
    the environment, urban policies, issues of war and peace of nuclear arms are ever
    more complicated than they were...”. This is a poor excuse!
    Is it feasible? The Congress just borough and approve $70 billion dollars for
    the WAR for 2009! They have money and time for an illegal and unjust war but
    no funds for constitutional convention!
    “Whatever the issue is....”? “"If it ain't broke, don't fix it." It has been broken,
    it needs to be fixed. The sooner the better.
    The “CONSTITUTION” is very important issue, it should be amended to serve ALL!
    The Congress – Senate has breach their duties, accountability, responsibility to investigate,
    impeached the president and plunge the country on a falls pretense into a WAR, DEBT,
    EARMARKS of FUNDS, WASTE [of over $19 billion dollars in military parts],
    denied the “people to express their will on All issues”. One of many issues is, such as
    “unreasonable search”, “the front doors of the courthouse will have an X-ray machine.
    Visitors will not be allowed to pass the checkpoint”. We have prison build to house
    millions of people they can house the courts official to conduct legal procedures in the
    same buildings since the buildings are already secure.
    I have stated some of the reasons, and I agree with Mr. Levinson, that we do need to
    amend the CONSTITUTION! “The spirit of Karl Marks is alive, It provides a guidance
    for solving social function in a contemporary society” and it has been ignored.
    “Harm done by professionals can be considerable when they placed themselves as
    gods and enforce their views and will on others.”
    The Duty of the Congress should be as they legislate to permit “the people to express
    their will” before any laws, funds etc. are being approved by the public and certified
    by Congress.
    There are those who believe that the country is still republic and democracy, I see it as
    full blown dictatorship! For those who have a full glass it is freedom and democracy for
    others who have empty glass is tyranny, oppression, hunger, modern slavery etc.
    Yes, indeed, I too can only "Imagine that the United States Constitution contained a
    provision whereby every 20 years, the electorate could vote for a new Constitutional
    convention that would assess the Constitution, and recommend changes."
    Mr. Levinson is correct, we have a government from the rich, by the the rich, for the rich!
    “Find out to what people will submit and you will find the exact measure of injustice
    that will be imposed on them”! “The persons you see on the other side of the mirror
    applies to everyone, as well as to Congress”.
    “THE TRUTH AS AL WAYS IT HURTS”.
    You have provided us with a very talented scholars and it has been a pleasure to listen!


    I disagreed with two items of criticism posed by Sanford Levinson regarding OUR UNDEMOCRATIC CONSTITUTION. Bill Moyers did not question or clarify one of the items, namely election of the Senate.

    The Senate:
    I was taught and currently believed that the Constitution, by its original convention, created a document designed for checks and balances regarding power. The House is elected by population distribution, or popular votes. The movements of populations among states or within states affect, fairly or unfairly, the distribution of voters that may influence bills passed that discriminate against regions or states with the least populations.

    In English parliamentary discussions, there was concern that votes by uneducated populations would “trump” important government decisions that educated elite were better able to decide. An appointed Senate, to represent the educated or moneyed elite, was given power to override or check such populist mentality for the good of the country. In Canada, Senate appointees are life memberships. However, the ruling party can influence Senate approval of House decisions by adding new seats to the senate to give its party t he majority of votes.

    In the United States, the check for regional disparity or discrimination was the carryover institution of a Senate, with two provisions. Each state’s equality for critical “federal” decisions is accommodated by giving each an equal number of votes (2). As well, the population of each state votes on whom its 2 Senators shall be, to avoid favoritism by appointments of any federal party currently in power.

    To me, this is an important regional and states’ rights best compromise to ensure our Constitution is DEMOCRATIC, non UNDEMOCRATIC, which should remain.

    Periodic Constitutional Conventions:
    Elections for states’ House of Representatives and Senators are the most important elections our citizens have, not the Presidency, to ensure democracy in action and regional representation. The President can veto Congress bills, but Congress can ultimately over-ride or veto anything the President vetoes or proposes. To me, in the historic perspective of our Constitution, if it works in the long run, don’t fix it by calling up repeated constitutional conventions to revise it based on current problems or perspectives about what is wrong today. That is why amendments can be appended, after many years of wrangling to address an instance of current inequality or injustice, left specifically unanswered, but allowed, by the constitution process.

    Finally, Agreement:
    The Electoral College, to me, is the most insidious holdover idea from parliamentary government to ensure election of a figurehead of government by educated/moneyed elite that was given up by election of a Senate. The College representative can declare the persons vote regardless of popular vote. In some states, majority of Electoral College votes in their district are subsumed and handed over to the statewide majority of Electoral College votes. In some states, the state regional EC voting remains. Why bother with such a flawed system, which, in addition means candidates for President campaign for Electoral College votes, rather a popular votes. Most Citizens believe popular votes decide a Presidential election. They are taken aback every four years when they realize and discuss injustices about popular votes cast and who is pronounced as the Figure Head President. This was evident in Bush/Gore campaign. It is repeatedly emphasized by anti-Bush spokesmen who state belief that Gore, even Kerry, were elected President, but Bush somehow illegally commandeered a rigged appointment to the office.

    What does it take to make this system go away and why does it still exist? Sanford Levinson offered similar criticism, but no solution on the program.


    Article V is beig violated.
    Whether some one thinks it is a good idea does not change that.
    So, if we are going to selectively enforce and ignore the parts we like or don't like, what good is the Constitution?

    Where is the law, Supreme Court statement, or case that trumps the U.S. Constitution?

    Congress clearly has a conflict of interest (as do all branches). Also, it should be obvious that our government is becoming (or has) a Plutocracy, as evidenced by a tiny 0.15% of all 200 million eligible voters that make 83% of all federal campaign donations (of $200 or more) while the remaining 99.85% of the 200 million eligible voters haven't a chance of out-spending that kind of abuse of vast wealth to control and influence government.

    It does not help matters that too many voters are complacent and apathetic, 40% to 50% don't vote at all, and most of those that do simply reward Congress with 95% to 99% re-election rates. 90% of elections are won by the candidate that spends the most money (usually the incumbent).

    It is unlikely that government will become more responsible and accountable until enough voters do. That's not going to happen by rewarding incumbent politicians with 95% to 99% re-election rates, which are helping strengthen the increasing Plutocracy.

    Sanford Levinson is right. All 50 states have submitted 567 amendment applications, but Congress has flagrantly ignored them (despite the only requirement for applications from only two-thirds of the states ; i.e 34 applications).

    So, if we allow one (or more) violations of the Constitution, what's next? Again, what good is the Constitution if it is going to be selectively enforced and/or ignored?

    See FOAVC.ORG to find out more.

    Mikem would certainly be surprised to know that the most significant founders thought the Constitution far from a finished work. They regarded it an experiment that would need revision. Jefferson, in particular, thought that every 10 or 20 years it should be reviewed and amended. Regrettably, the amendment process was made very difficult in order to protect slave-holders and small states. Unfortunately, this rigidity produced our first (but not last) constitutional failure: the Civil War. Madison concurred with Jefferson on the need for constitutional revision from time to time to meet changing circumstances.

    Our Supreme Court, after Reconstruction, interpreted the 14th amendment, which was supposed to protect freed blacks against the states, was interpreted to give corporations the same rights as human beings: corporations are "persons", the Court said. We now are stuck with a corrupted system of campaign finance that is burying our country. Reason, under the interpretation, corporations - as persons - are entitled to the same political rights as human citizens. What rot!

    The idea that a parliamentary system places the government on too short a leash is wrong. On the contrary, it gives a majority government unlimited power to enact legislation. The check is the ability of the parliament to vote out the government through lack of confidence.

    We have a system in which the executive cannot enact its domestic program, except sometimes during its first 100 days. In matters of foreign policy, the president is more successful, because he most often does what the ruling consensus of corporate imperialists want done. Once "crowned", our president is a fixture for 4 years, no matter how poorly he performs - short of high crimes and misdemeanors. Often, even these are not enough to remove him.

    The Congress is also unaccountable because it is composed of largely two parties, and they frequently share responsibility for big mistakes, like going to war in 1964, 2001 and 2003.

    Our system lacks accountabliity. Political bad judgment, even criminality often go unpunished. It also fails to allow a government to enact its programs and then be held to account for them.

    It is a failed system, and we are declining as a nation on those grounds. We are an international debtor. Our currency's fall has placed our national assets on the bargain counter and bodes us ill for future inflation. We are mired in senseless and unsuccessful wars (drugs, terrorism), unable to pursue more reasonable policies to combat our enemies and to meet the goals of the Constitution's preamble.

    I could not disagree with Sanford Levinson more.

    The founders and writers of the constitution had a real fear of the “tyranny of the majority”. They lived during the French revolution, when the majority was cutting the heads off thousands of the minority. They purposely designed a Republic- not a democracy, apparently to the dismay of Sanford.

    In order to protect the minority, our founders put in...
    Ÿ 60 votes needed to get things done in senate
    Ÿ Life time appointment of judges
    Ÿ Ability of courts to rule laws illegal
    Ÿ Electoral college election of president
    Ÿ Bill of rights
    Ÿ Presidential veto power
    Ÿ Senate being elected by the state legislatures
    Ÿ Power of small states

    Our founding fathers RIGHTLY FEARED democratic excesses so they designed a constitutional republic as the best way to protect liberty.

    The provisions Sanford is complaining about were put in by the founders precisely because of their concerns about democracy. I will put my vote with these distinguished intellectual giants rather than the whining of Sanford Levinson, who has another opinion, any day.

    The real issue is- the majority needs to work with minority to get small things done versus getting nothing done. We the voters need to elect people that will work together to accomplish the people’s business, not the party business. The system is working precisely as our founders designed it- long live the Republic.

    I do not believe that regularly opening the Constitution to reform it is a good idea. There would be no guarantee that basic parts of it would be kept in nor any guarantee that other, undesirable parts might not be put in. To think that randomly chosen citizens could work together and come up with an improved document every few years is very scary. You might have radical fringe folks, folks with substance abuse, anarchists, etc., in the revision group. We need to leave the basic parts "in concrete" so to speak. My US Government teacher (many years ago) said to be suspicious of any attempt to redo constitutions. Too much risk.

    Yes, there are many things not right with our country and government but this route to fixing things should never happen. A better idea would be taking big money out of government... for starters.

    A democracy or a republic, that is the question! To my understanding, a republic is a government ruled by a group of people who are empowered to represent a broader ruling class. When that broader class is the entire citizenry, we call it a representative democracy. Ours, regrettably is not a representative democracy. The ruling class is composed of those who can finance the elections of the representatives. The ruling class also controls the media and the schools, and by such means is able to exert great control over the elections. Many of the comments on this forum display the inculcations received in the schools and through the media. They are naieve.

    Do schools and media teach people to think or to believe? Unquestionably, they teach political beliefs rather than political thought. Every morning students recite, "One nation (under God), indivisible, with liberty and justice for all" is the inculcation of a belief that is far from the reality.

    As Professor Levinson admitted, he relies on his tenure to allow him to express his political beliefs. He is not relying on our commitment to free speech to preserve his livelihood. A wise man!

    Teachers in the public schools do not have the protections of tenure that the Professor has. They must be careful about what they teach. Such teachers may be able to teach arithmetic, but they cannot teach history or civics. They must adhere to the sanitized curricula.

    We are not really one nation, We are divisible by growing economic and cultural differences, with liberty and justice for the class that can enjoy excellent legal representation, media access and political connections.

    As previously noted, the alternate to the problems discussed is a changeover to the parliamentary system. However, the parliamentary system is not without fault. The most glaring difficulty with the parliamentary system is that it places government officials on too short a leash. Officials need time to work out solutions and time to implement them.

    Interesting guest. He displays the classic knee-jerk reaction of most Americans now-a-days. Something bad happens; something doesn't go their way; the government can take care of it for us, e.g the Patriot Act. Look, I know there are numerous people out there bitter over the last couple of elections, but that doesn't mean we need to start talking about re-writing the constitution. I think the Founding Fathers were brilliant. They setup a system that makes it very hard for any one group to acquire total power. The electoral college serves its purpose well. It forces politicians to take into account the needs of ALL the states. Mr. Levinson's idea would cause the government to focus only on the needs of the large urban areas. The rest of the country would be forced to live by rules created for the likes of LA, NY, Boston, etc.

    If you really want to make America a better place, take as much money out of the election process as you can. Our judicial system really let us down when they decided that giving money to political parties was "free speech". Ha! Next, give more power back to the states. People get more interested in local elections, because those local elections get better coverage from the news media. Thus citizens will participate more in our political process.

    A New Constitutional Declaration of Equality

    We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect or equal union, establish equitable justice, insure domestic as well as universal tranquility, provide for a common defense against inequity, promote a general equitable welfare system, and secure the Blessings of Liberty, or more simply the true Freedoms of Equality, to ourselves, our posterity, to all things, must declare and practice a new constitution, based on the ultimate truth, the truth and powers of Nature’s equality, the separate and equal station in which Nature’s God entitles all, the self-evident truth that not only all men, but equally all things are truly created equal, that all is truly One. Then and only then, will mankind as well as the entire universe, that he through the course of human events so unlawfully, so unnaturally, so destructively, so unjustly and so terribly and inequitably divided, be truly united, and equally set free. The time has come to dissolve the bands of inequity that divide us, the time has come for a new declaration, a revolution based on truth, a new constitution powered by nature’s true equity, true unity, true oneness, the time has come to unite all things and set the universe free.

    And only the truth shall set us free.

    =
    MJA

    Bill, you and Dr. Levinson are like a breeze from the ocean! Nothing lately, absolutely no one, no thing, has presented such foresight, understanding, and purposefulness as the two of you, world-wide. I've felt as if I came to the wrong planet--I'm so concerned about our nation, and the world's peoples--everything is out of kilter.
    We're a charitable bunch, but until we're healed, and healthy, we cannot help others--only our own right now.
    I'm proud to be a Dallasite/Austinite!

    Bill, you and Dr. Levinson are like a breeze from the ocean! Nothing lately, absolutely no one, no thing, has presented such foresight, understanding, and purposefulness as the two of you, world-wide. I've felt as if I came to the wrong planet--I'm so concerned about our nation, and the world's peoples--everything is out of kilter.
    We're a charitable bunch, but until we're healed, and healthy, we cannot help others--only our own right now.
    I'm proud to be a Dallasite/Austinite!

    Come learn the truth about our constitutional right to an Article V convention at www.foavc.org and become a member

    Prof. Levinson has expressed a common desire by many Americans to update the Constitution to address cultural changes and technical advances over the past 230 years. The concept that he put forth of an active constitutional committee is a good starting point but, before we start to remodel our centuries old roadmap beyond the sole designated method of Constitutional Amendment, we need to resolve some basic problems that cannot be fixed by a face lift of our most cherished document.

    The most pressing problem is the complacency of most citizens who have been led to believe that Democracy is a spectator sport where the actual players on the field must be drafted from the wealthy class; the only class with the intellectual where-with-all and a significant economic stake to justify their sole right to make the really important decisions. This comes from a period in our past when the right to vote was restricted to only those citizens of wealth who owned real property. Yet we continue to allow the length of election seasons to extend, as in the 08 election season, which predisposes well healed candidates to stay the course over those with limited funding.

    Our right to freely elect our leaders is the most important element of our Democracy and gives each person in this country a right that is denied to a majority of people on this planet, the right to self-determination. With only one third of the voting age population showing up at the polls, and little to no participation by younger voting age citizens, the alarm bells are ringing and what happens in the next 11 months could very well be the last hurrah for this country.

    Very interesting and thought provoking! Professor Levinson indicates, as I have been thinking for some time, that the Framers of the Constitution could not have envisioned many of the issues and problems that we now face, and did not, or could not have, provided for them.

    I would certainly support a Constitutional Convention made up of ordinary citizens, perhaps chosen much as a jury is selected. Perhaps in the new constitution, a similar method of selection of members of the House and Senate might be considered. Selected randomly, as a jury is selected, we would see a more representative cross section of America, and certainly, no greater proportion of fools and thieves than we now have. And another benefit, assuming a single, non recurring term, would be to finally break the power of big lobbyists. I think that appealing to Congress for a "redress of grievances" is a good thing, but that phrase was the foundation of the inordinate pressure of special interests.

    This is madness but thank God it will lead to nothing. Our constitution is more than adequate and no individual or group of individuals living today has the character needed to change it. In fact I think we are all lunatics for even considering such nonsense. But if you do get any traction here I hope you adopt the Israeli Constitution to pattern after and not the new Iraqi one; then I will leave the country for good.

    A leading, respected political figure in the US must come forward and declare that our Constitution is highly flawed and needs repair, before others will discuss the problems in public. One difficulty is that we do not have a leading, respected, political figure in our country. There are no recognizable George Washingtons, whom everyone trusts and loves. There is no pre-eminent political scholar, a Thomas Jefferson, to say that the Constitution needs frequent re-examination and revision, as he did. What we have are very wealthy interests, major corporations, that would fear a convention that could limit their political power. At the same time, we are a divided nation on the place of religion and the rights of individuals to make private choices. We have media that are committed to profit through entertainment and unwilling to risk the bottom line by offending the president, his regulatory agencies, Congress, pressure groups. We are stuck with a Constitution that did not work even when we were protected by two oceans and business was small business. Nations and empires crippled by systemic inflexibiities and corruption fade because they cannnot meet current challenges. We are lamed by such problems and are in decline. Nothing can be done about them. Things will get worse, I am sorry to write.

    I have been reading some of the blog writings and find it very informative. I am kind of suprised by the amount of anger and maybe fear being displayed by so many with the suggestion of creating a very active and pliable democracy. I have to say the preamble to the constitution of the united states inspires me to a faith in the incredible possibilities of people through collaboration. whether this country is currently a Republic or a corporatocracy... I want a Democracy!
    I want to unplug this television, call on my neighbors and have a town meeting. Thank you Bill and thank you Sanford.

    Tell a boy he is the son of Ra, and he will believe he is Pharaoh. Tell a man who ran an energy company, a baseball team, and the state of Texas into the ground that he should try and run for President and... Well, believe what you will, but a few benefit from the failures. Now he's running a country as he sees it. And so, while we have tolerated the controls and corrupted interests of corporate affairs on our government, this has served as the reassertion of idiot nobility on our democracy. What has our pride in the office delivered us other than blindness? We think we look for leadership, but the ideals are set upon the head of yet another product of this incest like a crown. The interests of those people who say they serve at his pleasure and the people they represent have created him for this particular date with destiny. But he is supposed to represent all of us, or at the least the human rights of all of us over the financial interests of those who put him there. So how about we dispense with all of that? Let us organize ourselves around solutions to real problems instead of collecting ourselves behind false ideas propped on the heads of pirates in neckties like so many crowns. Because he did represent our ignorance, not our interests when he declared sixty years into the binge that we were addicted to oil. Instead of representing the ignorance of the mean of our understanding, why didn’t he enlighten us? Why didn’t he promote the great example that he is? His estate in Texas is passive solar, has all the bells and whistles to "get off the grid" as it were. Why? Is he preparing for something we should know about? But we know: He does not technically represent the interests of the people. He represents the people. He is the sad state of the Union standing there, articulating in speeches the incompleteness of our knowledge. And he is not lying, because we do not know.
    So here's an idea. Let us all do what those who are moving toward having it all are doing. And I'm not talking about the fakers borrowing themselves into the ultimate sell out. I'm talking about the ones that are leveraging that debt of this our last great bull market. For what are they preparing that we should not all be preparing?
    Let us recognize the collectivization of us all because of our blind following of leaders based on what they say. And instead believe in what we can organize based on what they do. Indeed what we should all do? Prepare. For sure, what we can all do together? Without stern warning to future administrations, we face eminent and further deterioration in the relationship between the people of this country and our government. Instead of allowing the game to be played as usual, we should assert our efforts in a direction that speaks to change. This Executive has buffered itself from access and accountability. An unwilling Congress that has not gotten the message clearly enough is resisting our only recourse of impeachment. A Supreme Court majority appointed almost exclusively by Republican administrations needs adjusting before its disservice to the system of checks and balances stifles even further our ability to evolve democratically. Our representative Republic is in need of repair, and no candidate speaks of a plan to fix it. No single person can stand and face this system and act as an authority of change. It is a plural authority that must be asserted on our Executive. For this we can choose to stick with the system or we can speak to the world and show the people of all nations what real power is, what the real great and unique instrument our freedoms provide. It is in our interest as a people to educate one another and organize to tell this Executive and the world that it is our government, that we are in charge, that it is truly a light to the world: a government for, of and by the people.


    In case anyone thinks the U.K. has a better system than the USA think again. I'm British living in the USA and our countries are in a political quagmire, neither actually represent the majority, in the U.K. we have a first past the post system which gave Blair the power to wage war with only about 37% of the voters support. Like the USA it is almost impossible for a 3rd party to represent the voters wishes because the elections are rigged in the 2 party's favour. As for a benign Queen, forget it they're just a very expensive nonentity with a German accent.

    While ever the filthy rich decide who holds the power in any country and indoctrinates the children with religious nonsense in order to install a control mechanism then democracy is a distant dream.

    2002 saw democracy in action as the rush to war with gusto made Bush the classic Roman Republic dictator, an action taken by the democratic Roman senate to fight a war. Rather than six months, we give dictators four years, and after starting the war and screwing it up royally, the democratic process gave Bush another four years as dictator.

    I imagine Bush-Cheney looked to the future when Republicans would be given long term dictator status as the Roman Republic did marking the conversion to the US Empire like the Roman Empire. A growing consensus is opposed to such a move.

    An alternative to democracy is consensus, which is difficult to imagine for a large diverse nation. The current system strives for something like that.

    However, the winner take all aspect of voting, you must pick a winner and thereby make all others losers by your vote, serves to create division. Changing to approval voting would mean that the one who gains the approval of the most people from all factions becomes the elected choice for that person is the closest to consensus.

    Here's a message for "Professor" Levinson: I don't know what law school you went to, but we are a REPUBLIC, not a "democracy" (or, as John Adams so eloquently put it, MOBocracy). Our founding fathers warned us to beware of people like you. I am also shocked that you are teaching American Law as a tunured "professor", and you don't even know what kind of government we have in this country??!!! Hello??!!!! E.T to Levinson, anybody home?

    Levinson is a SUBVERSIVE PINKO! And he's teaching LAW? Give me a break!!! He ought to go back to the Soviet Union or Cuba, or wherever the hell he came from. Possibly try him for treason??? He should at least have his tenure at the Univeristy of Texas stripped away from him, and be fired!! Maybe Guantanamo?

    Concerning the subject of 'original intent', the following article may be of interest:

    http://hnn.us/roundup/comments/30559.html

    We don’t need a complete overhaul. What we need to do is free the market in politicians. Right now we have a de facto duopoly between the Democrats and the Republicans; the barriers to entry for holding national office include (a) getting the approval of your party’s apparatus and (b) getting large amounts of financial backing. Because of these distorting factors, the representation in our representative democracy is rather skewed.

    You can fix (a) using ranked-choice voting techniques like the Single Transferable Vote, which would make it possible to vote for a third party without worrying about the “spoiler effect”, and (b) with public financing of electoral campaigns. Try making those (relatively) small adjustments and then let the system reach a new equilibrium before taking more drastic measures.

    For the professor - what leads you to believe the document creating a "democracy" needs itself to be 'democratic'?

    A President can veto legislation 100%$ of the time, if he (or eventually shee) so chooses. The CHANCES of a veto are 1 in 2 - a fair chance. The chance of an override is 1 in 2.

    The professor also mentions the "disability" of an elected representative as paralyzing - not so. In such an event - up next would be a court ruling declaring vacancy to exist if a member is unable to perform his or her duties, setting the stage for elections called by a state's chief executive. As we had no clear disability "rule" in the case of the President until an Amendment was passed - so too we don't have one now for members of Congress. However - our system is flexible enough to allow for a temporary work around. I don't suggest it's the BEST solution, but is a WORKABLE one.

    The brilliance in the Constitution is not in what it assures - but in what it allows for. It allows for whatever the people wish - eventually. The Constitution allows for an official state religion. It allows for a monarchy. It allows for a national sales tax. It allows for 55 states... it doesn't FORBID much - and even that is up for negotiation. :-)

    While i usually am a firm and strong believer in prerserving the Constitution i must admit he did bring up some good points. I dont think we should alter the Constitution myself, maybe some amendments first in the area such as government positions. This country has grown and will continue to grow for as long as this planet allows therefore so should our government officials. They should grow on every level from grass roots local to the House and Senete. This would be a wonderful thing for bringing back togather the people and thier comunities as well as bring some trust back to the people for their government, hell it may even get them out there to vote!

    In this Republic we live in the only democracy we have is that we have the right to fight for it. Dosent matter what it is, we can fight for it. Of course that does not come with a sure win as all to many of us know.

    The bottom line is this, this country is spinning hay wire and out of control very fast, We The People have to stand up and fight for how we want this country to be. Its all to easy to laugh and point fingers and fumbling Baffons but we need to remeber that this is the time we need to get togather and unite on behalf of our government. Its time We The People took responsibility for the actions of our government, after all its us who votes them in and us who sends them packing.

    In answer to Melba: and people like you scare me! Do you really believe a the vote of a citizen in Wyoming or the upper midwest should carry the same weight as thousands of votes of citizens in more densely populated states? Are we not all Americans, equal in the eyes of the law? Or is it right and proper that residents of sparsely populated states should have more of a voice in our government?

    Here's a thought the interview inspired for me: what if schoolchildren were required to recite the preamble of the Constitution in addition to or instead of the Pledge of Allegiance? Before you flame me, consider: what defines this nation? Is it the flag (a symbol), or is it the aggregation of ideas and the rule of law (described in the Constitution) that we should truly honor? Moreover, why not put a copy of the Constitution on the wall of every classroom in America? Perhaps these small changes would foster a greater understanding of the ideals on which our society is founded... and perhaps spur some much needed dialog.

    Imagining that people could make a better document for government in these jaded times than was originally made at the founding of the country struck me as highly fanciful given the dumbing down of the entire population - it would seem that those who have any education at all are busily engaged in using it for their own financial gain and ignoring the needs of the world in power plays and whatever will sell a book. Call me jaded, but it is Christmas time and even Mr. Moyers couldn't bring himself to feel happy about that, so I think I'm in good company there. Our Constitution would work fine if we had some more honorable and brave people in government following its dictums, specifically the impeachment part. It totally sickened me to see Harry Reid on the Newshour tonight saying how much he liked George Bush personally. What planet is he from? I can't face my little grandchildren this Christmas; I really can't.

    This episode was an egregious waste of the Journal's time, I felt. Anyone who pompously announces that he spends part of his time in Massachusetts and part in Texas doesn't have much care for the mess this planet is in.

    Oh gee, I'm turning into a curmudgeon. But I can't say the words "Merry Christmas" any more, and I am not to blame for that, goodness knows. I did not darken the door of any store in any mall for any unneeded gifts. I wrote poems and made a rag doll, and only drove to the post office to mail them.

    We don't need a new Constitutional Convention. We need new resolve and sharpened wits. Oh, how we need them.

    The issues discussed by Mr. Levinson can only be solved by an Article V Convention. They are, as he pointed out, systematic problems. We can work together to solve them and we as a nation need to sit down and look at our problems and where we as citizens wish this nation to go. We can no longer hope the next election will solve these problems for it should be obvious to all they can not nor will those who seek election be inclinded to solve those issues.

    I am a co-founder of the group Friends of the Article V Convention (FOAVC) a non-partisan group dedicated to bringing about the calling of an Article V Convention. I would hope all who read this blog will view our website at www.foavc.org and join in our cause.

    There is one point Mr. Levinson did not point out that I will merely mention here briefly. The Constitution specifies that if two thirds of the state legislatures apply for a convention, Congress must call one. The ratio two thirds is obvious and clear. The call is based on a numeric number of states applying for a convention call. Thus the Constitution only requires that two thirds of the states, currently 34 apply for a convention call.

    The public record is clear on this matter. All 50 states have applied for a convention submitting 567 applications for a convention. Congress has ignored them, clearly violating the law of the Constitution. It is for this reason that FOAVC was formed and we hope all Americans will come see the urgent reasons, many of which were touched on by Mr. Levinson, why a convention must be called and why it need not be feared. Working together Americans can solve any problem.

    I applaud Mr. Levinson for his position and stance. Thank you sir for supporting a much needed and entirely peaceful, legal and constitutional means by which Americans can resolve the systematic issues now facing our nation.

    As an answer to RE Mant,
    Do you really thik we have a Democracy when the president has powers of an absolute ruler?
    I find Parliamentary Government much more Democratic than ours.
    At least, with such a government, the people have the power to overthrow a government that is not supported by the majority of the voters.!
    Mr. Levinson's coments were very thought provoking --
    I believe the Constitution has to be revised but that in itself will be a very complex problem since many factors will be influencing such a revision, such as honesty,knowledge,education,and purely patriotic sentiments without any alterior motives or influences from special interests- that was not a problem our founding fathers had to face.. Perhaps some ammendments would be good for a start.

    Professor Levinson:

    A very trivial minor suggestion, if I may be allowed:

    I suggest to you, that any proposed changes to the allocation of Senate power be based not on Population (which is the role of the House,) but on the grounds that the Upper chamber should represent, and exercise political power, over the banking, general interstate commerce, interstate transportation, and food distribution and transactions on a more equitable political power arrangement.

    My understanding is the House of Representatives is where political power is allocated by population.

    However, the current urbanization of our country has the following imbalances also between the small population states and the states with large urban metropolitan centres:
    -Volume of interstate commerce transactions
    -Volume (and economic value of) Imports and Exports
    -Quantity and value of Agriculture transactions (to feed the urban populations.)
    - Economic investment of public money into transportation systems including roadways, harbours, and waterways.
    -Banking system transactions, and value of deposits, loans, and payroll
    -Federal taxes collected, spent and allocated from all sources of revenue, including Social Security
    -Postal System
    the list goes on.

    The point is the Senate's imbalanced political power between the small population states, and those few states with very large urban metropolitan centres may also affect the role of the Senate to it's duty.

    The forces that caused (permitted?) the huge urban metropolitan centres could not have been envisioned by the framers of the Constitution. And yes, the imbalances I mentioned are caused by populations, the imbalances are more than just population. There is only one Wall Street, only one L.A. harbour, only one Washington DC (with no current Senate seat.)

    I don't know the best way to re-calibrate the Senate's power. I would suggest to keep the current 2-per-state, but add additional Senatorial seats to represent solely the large metropolitan areas. And hopefully add a seat for the Metro area of Washington, DC.

    Sorry for the long post.

    As an answer to RE Mant,

    Do you really thik we have a Democracy when the president has powers of an absolute ruler?

    I find England's Parliamentary Government much more Democratic than ours.

    At least, even though they have a Queen, the people have the power to over throw a government that does not support the will of the people!

    Mr. Levinson's coments were very thought provoking --
    I believe the Constitution has to be revised but that in itself will be a very complex problem since many factors will be influencing such a revision, such as honesty, annd pure patriotic sentiments but not
    alterior motives. Perhaps some ammendments would be good for a start,

    Sanford Levinson's suggestion that we have a Constitutional Convention is intriguing, to say the least. We the people would engage in the work that Congress has no time for, because of the many recesses they have in the course of each year. Just picture in your mind each of us discusssing with one another our ideas for improving this union of states. We would be involved in perfecting the union! Imagine the interest and the fervor that would be generated by such study and discussion. And best of all, we would be perfecting ourselves as citizens along with perfecting the union itself! I'm all for the Constitutional Convention.

    Yes, Mant, but do we really want a republic? I thing that is the point.

    To my mind, the political problems of political disenchantment and cynicism with government stem directly from the opening of media markets in the 1980s: that's when all of the partisan political wonks hit the waves. Our politics have suffered as a result.

    What scares me is not legal scholar Sanford V. Levinson's suggestion. But the gigantic mess we're in makes me cringe and think of the oft-quoted "No democracy can last more than 200 years." Our government is not a democracy; it's a republic.My late hubby said "The best form of government is a benign king (or queen) with a healthy brain." My generation thinks it's time for another revolution in this country. We won't see it, but our grandkids will remember and suffer through it.

    It scares me that you would be able to influence your students with your personal "wishes". So what if Wyoming has the same number of Senators as California! Sure, let the East and West coast dictate to the rest of the country! You sound like a hard core socialist and Moyers sickening smiles a your suggestions to change the constitution show how objective he is. I'm for the government we elect, regardless of who is President. If he or she is that bad, impeach him/her. Remember Nixon? He got what he deserved and the country was better for it. People like you scare me

    the program was very helpful.It made 911 even more scarey.Maybe the was there plan to kill some of the house to miss up the goverment.

    Problem here is that those aspects of the constitution which were originally designed to balance a federation of states with quite different populations and economies objected to by Levinson, were meant to balance developing areas with developed ones. Personally, I think the mid-west should have seceded from a union dominated by the coasts long ago. You could say the same for rural areas vis-a-vis urban areas. If we are going to abandon this part of the Constitution, then we will have to move to a parliamentary system. The preamble to the Constitution was by all accounts worded by Gouverneur Morris with the precise motivation to bypass the states first in the ratification, and later to lead the country to a monarchy via first creating a democracy. Democracy always comes about by a bankrupt monarch bypassing the aristocracy and making a corrupt deal with merchants in urban areas. You see this is Athens and Rome, England and France. Aristocracy is the foundation of a republic, and it is a republic which the founders wanted to found.

    Post a comment

    THE MOYERS BLOG is our forum for viewers' comments intended for discussing and debating ideas and issues raised on BILL MOYERS JOURNAL. THE MOYERS BLOG invites you to share your thoughts. We are committed to keeping an open discussion; in order to preserve a civil, respectful dialogue, our editors reserve the right to remove or alter any comments that we find unacceptable, for any reason. For more information, please click here.

    THE MOYERS BLOG
    A Companion Blog to Bill Moyers Journal

    Your Comments

    Podcasts

    THE JOURNAL offers a free podcast and vodcast of all weekly episodes. (help)

    Click to subscribe in iTunes

    Subscribe with another reader

    Get the vodcast (help)

    For Educators    About the Series    Bill Moyers on PBS   

    © Public Affairs Television 2008    Privacy Policy    DVD/VHS    Terms of Use    FAQ