our dysfunctional Constitution (continued)

Sanford Levinson SLevinson at law.utexas.edu
Mon Nov 28 07:46:43 PST 2005

Re Jim's message below.  He may be right about the inadequacy of the polling methodology, but, arguendo, presume he's not.  To some extent his reply is a version of "you're wrong on the facts" (which I may be:  Perhaps people who know the "real Dick Cheney" would admire him (unlike, say, Brent Scowcroft, who was quoted in the New Yorker as saying that he no longer recognizes his friend of 30 years).)  But if I'm right on the fact, then I think we have a problem.  And Jim can't seriously believe that "everyone agrees that what we have is the preferable system of government over others presently in operation around the world."  I think we have a radically deficient Constitution, and that many other systems around the world are better in significant respects.  Does he really believe we have a "perfect Constitution"?  (I assume the answer is no.)   
I guess I am trying to figure why the judgment of the House and the Senate is preferable to that of the Electoral College, which is admittedly a pale reflection but a reflection nonetheless of the direct intentions of the People.  What indication is there that the people of the United States trust less their own judgments in these matters?
The answer is that the electoral college makes no independent judgment.  They ratify the monarchical, even whimsical (see, again, Dan Quayle), decision of the presidential nominee.  For better and worse, there is no evidence that most voters take the identity of the VP nominee into account when casting their ballot.  

	This would, presumably, save us from any more Dan Qualyes as VPs.) 

And it would likewise save us from any more Gores too.  The difference of course being that Quayle hadn't maintained an environmental disaster on the family farm.
If you detest Gore, then Jim's point is altogether well taken.

	2) Is there a genuine value in having a vice president who cannot be bounced when an overhwhelming majority presumptively believe he/she is unfit to be president (assuming, arguendo, that there is some value to retaining in office a President who is also believed by the majority to be lacking in integrity, as is our present situation)?  

Jim:  If there is not, then let the Constitution be amended in due course by the means provided.  
But the point is that, as a matter of practicality, the Constitution cannot be amended "in due course by the means provided."  One of the truly terrible features of our Constitution is Article V itself, which makes the US Constitution the most difficult to amend constitution in the entire world.
Jim:  The vice president, of course, can be impeached and upon conviction removed from that office.  If so few people find Cheney in fact not to be honest and ethical, perhaps that is the course that the matter should take.  Why must the Constitution always be bent, rather than employed?
I would be delighted to see some Representatives with enough backbone to suggest that Dick Chency has systematically corrupted the processes of democratic governance and should be impeached.  It would be better, though, if there were a simpler process of a "declaration of no confidence" by 2/3 of each House of Congress, which would avoid all of the legalistic arguments about what counts as a "high crime and misdemeanor."
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