Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Larry Sabato

Fans of Sunday morning political talk shows will be familiar with analyst Larry Sabato. Those with a greater thirst for political analysis may also subscribe to his Crystal Ball emails. His new book, A More Perfect Constitution, is aimed at the politically aware and focused individuals interested in government reform. Sabato argues that the current government structure limits effective governance, gives too much power to incumbents, provides too much power to small states, and fails to adequately unify the nation, among other problems.

As the title suggests, Sabato proposes a total of 23 reforms to the Constitution to make a more perfect Union. These range from the uncontroversial, as in banning faithless electors in the Electoral College, to the popular but perhaps not popular enough, like Universal National Service to the highly controversial, including the addition of Senators, Representatives and Supreme Justices.

The chapters are organized around the branches of the government and then issue areas, like the presidential electoral process. For each, Sabato outlines the pros and cons of each proposal and then makes an overall recommendation. I tend to like this even-handed approach, but those wanting a more strongly normative viewpoint may tire of the back and forth.

Individually Sabato's reforms could be passed as laws, but he argues that a new Constitutional Convention would be required to adequately reform the government. He believes this would provide a renewal of the national spirit as well as launch a new level of political engagement. Because this task is more than a little daunting, Sabato spends quite a bit of time talking about the process and prospects of a new Convention (in case you are wondering, there has only been one).

While I can only recommend this book to the heavily politically engaged, I was surprised how open it made me to the ideas that the Constitution can be safely adjusted to meet the needs of today's nation. Even if only small changes came of it, a new Convention would serve to rebuild civic awareness in the US.

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