Framed: America's 51 Constitutions and the Crisis of Governance

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Oxford University Press, USA, Apr 3, 2012 - History - 437 pages
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In his widely acclaimed volume Our Undemocratic Constitution, Sanford Levinson boldly argued that our Constitution should not be treated with "sanctimonious reverence," but as a badly flawed document deserving revision. Now Levinson takes us deeper, asking what were the original assumptions underlying our institutions, and whether we accept those assumptions 225 years later.In Framed, Levinson challenges our belief that the most important features of our constitutions concern what rights they protect. Instead, he focuses on the fundamental procedures of governance such as congressional bicameralism; the selection of the President by the electoral college, or the dimensions of the President's veto power--not to mention the near impossibility of amending the United States Constitution. These seemingly "settled" and "hardwired" structures contribute to the now almost universally recognized "dysfunctionality" of American politics.Levinson argues that we should stop treating the United States Constitution as uniquely exemplifying the American constitutional tradition. We should be aware of the 50 state constitutions, often interestingly different--and perhaps better--than the national model. Many states have updated their constitutions by frequent amendment or by complete replacement via state constitutional conventions. California's ungovernable condition has prompted serious calls for a constitutional convention. This constant churn indicates that basic law often reaches the point where it fails and becomes obsolete. Given the experience of so many states, he writes, surely it is reasonable to believe that the U.S. Constitution merits its own updating.Whether we are concerned about making America more genuinely democratic or only about creating a system of government that can more effectively respond to contemporary challenges, we must confront the ways our constitutions, especially the United States Constitution, must be changed in fundamental ways.

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FRAMED: America's 51 Constitutions and the Crisis of Governance

User Review  - Jane Doe - Kirkus

Constitutional law scholar Levinson (Law/Univ. of Texas; Our Undemocratic Constitution: Where the Constitution Goes Wrong (And How We the People Can Correct It), 2006, etc.) studies the many flavors ... Read full review


1 Introduction
2 Of compromises and constitutions
3 What is the point of preambles in contrast to the rest of a constitution?
4 How does a republican form of government differ from democracy and to which should we be committed today?
5 Elections and a republican form of government
6 Bicameralism
7 If two opinions are good is a third opinion with the power to kill the decisions of the first two opinionmakers even better?
8 Presidentialism and gubernatorialism
12 How independent a judiciary do we really want?
13 On the judiciary and supreme court as guardian of the constitution
14 Federalism
15 Amendment
16 Exigencies emergencies and adherence to constitutional norms and settlements
17 Conclusion

9 So what precisely does one get as a constitutional matter upon being elected president?
10 Executive duration in office the possibility of impeachment and the role of the vice president
11 Divided government

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About the author (2012)

Sanford Levinson is Professor of Law and Political Science at the University of Texas-Austin. His books include Our Undemocratic Constitution, Constitutional Faith, and Wrestling with Diversity.

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