Hey kids! Let's have a Constitutional Convention!
Professor Sanford Levinson has written a book where he advocates that a new Constitutional Convention be convened in order to "engage in a comprehensive overview of the US Constitution and the utility of many of its provisions to twenty-first century Americans."
"Framed: America's Fifty-One Constitutions and the Crisis of Governance" is reviewed by former Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens and if you read his very long, very interesting analysis of Levinson's reasoning, you will almost certainly hope that the good professor's wish is never realized.
Who would be the framers of this new Constitution? Levinson "would advocate that delegates from each state, proportionate to overall population, be selected by lottery, with very limited restrictions on selection (the most obvious one being age)." He would pay the delegates
the salary for two years of a Supreme Court justice or senator, given the public importance of their job, and also to make possible service by the less well off. They would also collectively operate with a budget sufficient to allow hearings all over the United States and the world that would allow them to make the most informed choices possible regarding the kinds of issues examined throughout this book.
In that final chapter of his book, as well as in the first chapter, Levinson quotes respected commentators and the results of opinion polls that support the conclusion that our present government is "dysfunctional." According to those polls, over 80 percent of Americans disapprove of Congress. Moreover, recent events involving state governments as well as the national one lend support to such public skepticism:
As the manuscript moved toward publication, the Minnesota state government was shut down for three weeks because of the inability of its divided state government to reach agreement on a budget.... In some ways even more dramatic, because it goes to the heart of what one ordinarily thinks of as a basic attribute of government, is the possibility that the civil justice system in San Francisco will be functionally shut down because of drastic cuts in the judiciary's budget.
And, after the recent crisis concerning the federal debt ceiling, Standard & Poor's downgraded American debt from AAA to AA status, explaining that
the downgrade reflects our view that the effectiveness, stability, and predictability of American policymaking and political institutions have weakened at a time of ongoing fiscal and economic challenges.
Why would we want "hearings all over the United States and the world" on what our own Constitution should be? What business is it of other countries? It's stuff like this that makes one shiver at the prospect of a new constitutional convention.
And do we need a new Constitution replete with all sorts of new "positive" rights, the likely loss of Second Amendment protections, and probably the vast expansion of federal power all to solve a budget crisis brought about by political gridlock? Seems to me that Levinson wants to use a nuclear bomb to kill a gnat. We don't need a new constitution to balance the budget - but a constitutional amendment would be in order.
And that's really the point. The Constitution makes it possible to fix what ails us through the amendment process. Is it hard to accomplish? Rightly so. The founders didn't want their descendants mucking up their handiwork unless it was deemed necessary by the vast majority of the people.
Liberals like Levinson want a short cut to achieve their Utopia. Tossing out the old Constitution and writing a new one - even though it would forever alter the character of the United States - is the quickest way to limiting or eliminating many of the freedoms we now enjoy.