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October 06, 2007

More Constitutional Tinkering

by Nicholas Beaudrot of Electoral Math

Larry Sabato starts his list of constitutional reforms with a set of changes surrounding war powers. In essence, Sabato proposes enshrining something similar to the War Powers Act into the Constitution. It's not clear to me that procedural issues are the main reason we got into Iraq (and are staying there); it feels like public hysteria, and a willingness of the GOP to politicize foreign policy, and the equating of "defunding the war" with "opposing the troops" are larger culprits. Outside of that, though, it would seem good for the country if the President actually sought a declaration of war before a land invasion, and required a two-thirds vote in the House. Such requirements would not have prevented the escalation in Vietnam, but might have given skeptical Democrats enough leverage to force the President to do a little more international coalition building and take seriously Democratic suggestions on how to manage the postwar period.

His new book has a website, if you're interested.

October 6, 2007 | Permalink


Hm. I think that's a valid point. Some form of powerlevelling service would help to restore the balance between the legislative and executive branches, and gold-farming could help with the ongoing depreciation of our currency.

Posted by: Anthony Damiani | Oct 7, 2007 12:15:36 AM

Actually, gold farming leads to inflation. And then everything costs more, leading to the necessity of... more gold farming.

MMO economies are great, they are like little Econ 101 petri dishes.

Posted by: NBarnes | Oct 7, 2007 12:20:27 AM


But, okay, seriously: it seems to me that requiring a two-thirds majority in the House might actually make it easier to resist waves of government-generated hysteria like the one that got us into Iraq.

I assume that some of the Democrats who voted for the war were behaving strategically, figuring they weren't going to be able to stop the war from happening so there was no point taking an unpopular position and voting against it. Now suppose there was a two-thirds requirement -- isn't it possible that in private, at least one-third of the House had serious doubts about the war or were persuadable in that direction? Maybe if the rules had been such that they could actually have blocked the war instead of futilely voting against it, they would have done the right thing.

Posted by: Tom | Oct 7, 2007 5:24:32 AM

Firstly, delete that fucking spammer's comment!

Ok, and now to Sabato: Regardless that many of his proposed ammendments are about issues that aren't really broken, do you expect us to take his proposals for serious when they don't address the most serious problem of the constitution, the totally antiquated electional college that results in not every vote having an equal weight? Come on!

Posted by: Gray | Oct 7, 2007 7:52:07 AM

Hey, he's selling books. No, he selling a dream to that small sliver who feel powerless. Remember, when you can't win the game, change the rules!

Posted by: El Viajero | Oct 7, 2007 8:05:40 AM

No, he selling a dream to that small sliver who feel powerless. Remember, when you can't win the game, change the rules!

Well, there's a perfect summation of the right-wing worldview. Remember, Sabato is talking about making it harder to take the nation to war, in great part because of the mass humanitarian tragedies that have resulted from aggressive American military action in Iraq, also in Vietnam.

To El Viajero and his compatriots, what matters is not the human suffering unleashed by war. It's not even the projection of American power across the globe. It's that they "won" the partisan "game" by pushing a disastrous war through Congress and then milking war hysteria for two election victories.

The people, Iraqi and American, whose lives have been ended or filled with pain, are collateral damage in the game of electioneering. It's sick, but it's hardly surprising after the last six years.

Posted by: DivGuy | Oct 7, 2007 9:51:48 AM

If the Congress had the backbone to do their job, a declaration of war would have been required, and debated, and we wouldn't have open-ended appropriations spanning decades for the military.

Page Smith covers a lot of this quite nicely discussing the first 16 years of government under our Constitution. The part that's broken isn't the Constitution.

Posted by: serial catowner | Oct 7, 2007 12:57:46 PM

I find Sabato's initiative refreshing precisely because most Americans I've talked with are caught up in a "serial catowner" view of the world.

If the provisions in the constitution are repeatedly unenforced, then as is similar in the case of other laws, it's reasonable to think about addressing this through fixing the constitution. The reason being, expecting all the politicians to suddenly be better human beings from now on is likely to be less effective.

Posted by: Meh | Oct 7, 2007 1:17:35 PM

If you're going to constitutional tinker, go big. Throw out Article I and Article II and institute a unicameral parliamentary government.

Nancy Pelosi, Prime Minister of the United States. Mmmmmm.

Posted by: Vidor | Oct 7, 2007 4:31:39 PM

Eh, to me this is actually a problem for the Supreme Court to fix. Not gonna happen for the next 30 years, I know, but I think the war powers clause of article 1 *ought* to be interpreted to require congressional authorization, at least by any reasonable reading.

Posted by: North | Oct 8, 2007 7:25:31 AM

And yes, to add to what's been said, I think if we're talking constitutional reform here, I'd also want to revisit the electoral system. Further, lets give some of the fundamental rights recognized under the 14th their own amendments, so Scala-ro-lito-mas doesn't get too crazy.

Posted by: North | Oct 8, 2007 7:30:20 AM

Are there no 'Hoos reading this blog? Gawd. Larry flipping Sabato? What is it about that guy?

(On my honor as an alumna, I have neither given nor received aid on this blog comment.)
CLAS (GFA) '93

Posted by: ajw_93 | Oct 11, 2007 4:12:11 PM

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