A more perfect constitution: 23 proposals to revitalize our Constitution and make America a fairer country

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Walker & Company, 2007 - History - 342 pages
22 Reviews
“No society can make a perpetual constitution, or even a perpetual law. The earth belongs to the living generation.”—Thomas Jefferson
“A constitution intended to endure for years to come [is] consequently to be adapted to the various crises of human affairs.”—John Marshall
 “This book will ask readers to set aside their own political loyalties, to look past the current ‘values’ debates and hot-button issues, to consider this very real possibility: that the failure of the nation to update the Constitution and the structure of government it originally bequeathed to us is at the root of our current political dysfunction.”—Larry Sabato The political book of the year, from the acclaimed founder and director of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia. Larry Sabato has one of the most visionary and fertile political minds in America. Like so many, he is increasingly alarmed at the growing dysfunction and unfairness of our political system. To solve this, to restore the equity for ordinary citizens that is at the core of our democratic society, we must take a radical step—to revise the Constitution, the document that guides our political process, for until some of its outmoded provisions are reformed, we will only have more of the same.
The original framers fully expected the Constitution to be regularly revised by succeeding generations to reflect the country’s changing needs; yet, apart from the ten amendments in the Bill of Rights, it has only been amended 17 times in 220 years, and most of those amendments had minor ramifications. Today, partisan gridlock dominates Washington; 17 percent of voters elect a majority of senators; the presidency has assumed unprecedented and unintended powers; while politicians spend as much time campaigning for office as they do governing; and average Americans feel more and more disconnected from the political process so that half or more don’t vote in many elections—all of which would have horrified Jefferson and Madison.
A More Perfect Constitution presents twenty three creative and dynamic proposals to reinvigorate American governance at a time when such change is urgently needed. Combining idealism and pragmatism, and with full respect for the original document, Sabato's thought-provoking ideas range from the length of the president’s term in office and the number and terms of Supreme Court justices to the structure of Congress, the vagaries of the antiquated Electoral College, and a compelling call for universal national service—all laced through with the history behind each issue and their potential impact on the lives of ordinary people.
Aware that such changes won’t happen easily, Sabato urges us nonetheless to engage in the debate and discussion they will surely engender. As we head towards a presidential election year, no book is more relevant or significant than his.The founder and director of the renowned Center for Politics at the University of Virginia, Larry J. Sabato has been called "the Dr. Phil of American politics." He has appeared on every national television and radio program, including 60 Minutes, the Today Show, Hardball, The O'Reilly Factor, and Nightline. A Rhodes scholar, he received his doctorate in politics from Oxford, and has been on the faculty of UVA since 1978. He is the author of countless articles and some twenty books, including Feeding Frenzy: Attack Journalism & American Politics, The Rise of Political Consultants: New Ways of Winning Elections, and most recently The Sixth Year Itch: The Rise and Fall of George W. Bush's Presidency, and he coanchored the BBC's coverage of the 2006 election. In 2002, the University of Virginia gave him its highest honor, the Thomas Jefferson Award, given annually to one person since 1955.

Larry Sabato is increasingly alarmed at the growing dysfunction and unfairness that he perceives in our political system. To solve this, to restore the equity for ordinary citizens that is at the core of our democratic society, he believes that a radical step must be taken—to revise the Constitution, the document that guides our country’s political process.  He suggests that its outmoded provisions are holding the United States back and that those elements of the document must be reformed and updated in order for positive change and progress to take place.

The original framers fully expected the Constitution to be regularly revised by succeeding generations to reflect the country's changing needs; yet, apart from the ten amendments in the Bill of Rights, it has only been amended 17 times in 220 years, and most of those amendments had minor ramifications. Today, partisan gridlock dominates Washington; 17 percent of voters elect a majority of senators; the presidency has assumed powers that are unprecedented and likely unintended by the original authors; while politicians spend as much time campaigning for office as they do governing; and average Americans feel more and more disconnected from the political process so that half or more don't vote in many elections—all of which would most likely have horrified Jefferson and Madison.

A More Perfect Constitution presents twenty three dynamic proposals to reinvigorate American governance at a time when, Sabato argues, such change is urgently needed. Combining idealism and pragmatism, and with full respect for the original document, Sabato's thought-provoking ideas range from the length of the president's term in office and the number and terms of Supreme Court justices to the structure of Congress, the vagaries of the antiquated Electoral College, and a compelling call for universal national service—all laced through with the history behind each issue and their potential impact on the lives of ordinary people.

Sabato is aware that such changes won't happen easily, but he urges us nonetheless to engage in the debate and discussion they will surely engender.

"Sabato, founder of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia . . . argues that the founders never intended the Constitution to be timeless . . . Sabato's reforms are consistent with the values he believes underpin the Constitution—fairness, idealism, pragmatism and focus on the needs of the present and the future—while attempting to mitigate social inequities. His lucid if unorthodox suggestions include a single six-year presidential term that could be extended another two years by referendum; limiting federal and Supreme Court justices to a 15-year term; a larger House of Representatives that would, among other benefits, allow for greater diversity in Congress. His reforms encompass the entire citizenry, who would be required to perform two years of national civilian or military service in what he calls a Bill of Responsibilities . . . Sabato makes strong, cogent arguments."—Publishers Weekly

"An ambitious project. Sabato seeks to create a national discussion about changes needed to create a better Constitution, one suited to the needs of a 21st-century superpower that spans a continent . . . These are controversial proposals, worthy of debate."—The Charlotte  Observer

"Interesting and well conveyed . . . This is food for thought deserving a place in public libraries."—Library Journal

"Sabato, founder of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia, takes on the most sacred of American political cows, the U.S. Constitution. Noting that the Constitution has been amended only 17 times in 220 years, Sabato argues for the need for revision, not radical change, to reflect the needs of a nation that has changed substantially since the founding fathers pondered our system of government. Indeed, Sabato argues that the framers fully intended for the Constitution to be revised to insure its basic principles. Among Sabato's suggestions are to increase the number of senators and house members; to modify their terms of office, and codify term limits; to change the term of office for the presidency to one six-year term, subject to referendum for an additional two years; to increase the number of Supreme Court jurists from nine to 12, changing their terms from lifelong to one 15-year term; and to create a regional lottery system in scheduling party nominations to offset the front-loading of primaries. Sabato's thought-provoking book provides insights for an important debate."—Vernon Ford, Booklist

"Sabato, founder of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia, ventures bravely into the controversial waters of constitutional reform. Sabato argues that the founders never intended the Constitution to be timeless, but rather understood that government structures, ossified by constitutional neglect [can] become fundamentally unfair and tilted to those already in power. Sabato's reforms are consistent with the values he believes underpin the Constitution—fairness, idealism, pragmatism and focus on the needs of the present and the future—while attempting to mitigate social inequities. His lucid if unorthodox suggestions include a single six-year presidential term that could be extended another two years by referendum; limiting federal and Supreme Court justices to a 15-year term; a larger House of Representatives that would, among other benefits, allow for greater diversity in Congress. His reforms encompass the entire citizenry, who would be required to perform two years of national civilian or military service in what he calls a Bill of Responsibilities . . . Sabato makes strong, cogent arguments."—Publishers Weekly

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Review: A More Perfect Constitution: 23 Proposals to Revitalize Our Constitution and Make America a Fairer Country

User Review  - Philip - Goodreads

Larry Sabato (Director of the Center for Politics at U. of Virginia) is respected by both Left and Right. His suggestions here probably lean Left of Center. This book is the start of a conversation ... Read full review

Review: A More Perfect Constitution: 23 Proposals to Revitalize Our Constitution and Make America a Fairer Country

User Review  - Chris Doherty - Goodreads

He has some great ideas. Every American should be exposed to his ideas. It is clear that the constitution was meant to change as our country grew. Read full review

Contents

Preamble
1
CHAPTER ONE CREATING A CAPITAL CONGRESS
19
CHAPTER TWO PERFECTING THE PRESIDENCY
76
Copyright

7 other sections not shown

Common terms and phrases

About the author (2007)

The founder and director of the renowned Center for Politics at the University of Virginia, Larry J. Sabato has been called “the Dr. Phil of American politics.” He has appeared on every national television and radio program, including 60 Minutes, the Today Show, Hardball, The O'Reilly Factor, and Nightline. A Rhodes scholar, he received his doctorate in politics from Oxford, and has been on the faculty of UVA since 1978. He is the author of countless articles and some twenty books, including Feeding Frenzy: Attack Journalism & American Politics, The Rise of Political Consultants: New Ways of Winning Elections, and most recently The Sixth Year Itch: The Rise and Fall of George W. Bush’s Presidency, and he coanchored the BBC’s coverage of the 2006 election. In 2002, the University of Virginia gave him its highest honor, the Thomas Jefferson Award, given annually to one person since 1955.