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.
Oxford University Press; March 2012
- ISBN 9780199890767
- Read online, or download in secure PDF or secure EPUB format
- Title: Framed
- Author: Sanford Levinson
Imprint: Oxford University Press
In The Press
"From America's greatest revolutionary constitutionalist, a profoundly important book, that will be at the center of the next reform movement."--Lawrence Lessig, author of Republic, Lost
"Anyone who cares about America's future should read Sandy Levinson's book. His fresh thinking illuminates old debates and his understanding of political nuance gives power to his analysis. You don't have to agree with him to know you are in the presence of a scholar who is a constitutional giant." --Senator Bill Bradley
"Sandy Levinson has authored an important, and cautionary, book-one that needs to be read as much by those who disagree with him as by those who share his analysis." --Glenn Harlan Reynolds, Professor of Law, University of Tennessee College of Law, founder of Instapundit
"I've been Framed! Levinson sparks a long-overdue conversation about the relationship between America's current governing crisis and the American Constitution-or rather, 'constitutions,' since he takes the unusual and valuable step of looking at state constitutions as well. His message: Pay attention to the 'Constitution of Settlement,' the established rules of the political game, not just the 'Constitution of Conversation' that sparks continuing legal dispute. It is a measure of the success of his stimulating book that he makes what once seemed settled appear newly ripe for debate." --Jacob S. Hacker, Stanley Resor Professor of Political Science, Yale University; co-author, Winner-Take-All Politics
"The most remarkable feature of Levinson's most remarkable book is his effort to place himself and his readers in the positions of the founding fathers and the founding generation." --Tulsa Law Review
About The Author
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.