Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Chicago Wednesday 30 May 2012 

Editors, The New York Times


The New York Times article “Our Imbecilic Constitution” by a prominent national Law School professor [Monday 28 May 2012] presents a number of questionable points, starting with “... critics across the spectrum call the American political system dysfunctional...” concluding that “...the Constitution itself in generating the pathology.”

The same was said 225 years ago by people who wrote the Anti-Federalist papers. They failed in their attempt, and here we are, two centuries later, the most successful civilization/society in world history. Something must be right about that Constitution.

But the professor slogs on, complaining about “...the Senate and its assignment of equal voting power to California and Wyoming; Vermont and Texas; New York and North Dakota.”

James Madison wrote in Federalist 62 about this, “equality of representation in the Senate... the result of compromise between... the large and the small States, does not call for much discussion.... Another advantage accruing from this... is additional impediment... against improper acts of legislation. No law or resolution can now be passed without the concurrence, first, of a majority of the people, and then, of a majority of the States.... it is not impossible that this part of the Constitution may be more convenient in practice than it appears to many in contemplation."

The professor continues his tirade: “Consider... a majority of Americans... have registered opposition to the Electoral College, we will participate this year in yet another election that 'battleground states' will dominate while the three largest states will be... ignored.” Is this because two of those three states are solidly Democrat, the third equally Republican?

Further the professor refers to “...four branches — the House of Representatives, the Senate, the White House and the Supreme Court....” Don't most law schools teach about three branches: executive, judicial and legislative, the latter consisting of a house of representatives and a senate?

Next, the professor declares “... the worst single part of the Constitution, it is Article V, which has made our Constitution... difficult to amend. The last truly significant constitutional change was the 22nd Amendment, added in 1951, to limit presidents to two terms.” Of five amendments since then, giving the Presidential vote to to DC residents(23) and monkying around with Congressional pay (27) are certainly insignificant, but does the professor really consider 24 (barring poll taxes in federal elections,) 25 (Presidential disability and succession), and 26 (lowering voting age to 18) insignificant?

The professor concludes: “In the election of 1912, two presidents — T. Roosevelt and Wilson — seriously questioned the adequacy of the Constitution.” The next year saw the enactment of direct election of senators. The founders thot election of senators by state legislatures insured state governments would have a say at the national level. This amendment made them just like House members. Most significant, after three successive senate elections, the nation got it's first Senate party leader. Just think – a Senate w/o a Harry Reid.

Arnold H Nelson

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