Tuesday, October 1, 2013

The Root of the Federal Governance Problem in the US

It's not the Republicans, or the Democrats, or the electorate, or the media, or the money that is at the root of the latest US government crisis.

It is the Constitution of the United States, an outdated document that either requires or permits all kinds of pernicious impediments to compromise, consensus-building, and collective action. They include, but are not limited to, the electoral college, the Senate filibuster, equal representation for states in the Senate regardless of population, and partisan gerrymandering of congressional districts.

And because the time-worn and faulty document is so difficult to amend, mainly due to the very pathologies it facilitates, getting rid of those pathologies is extraordinarily difficult. In a sense, our Constitution has become (for functional democracy) what the Supreme Court has long argued it is not (for national security): a suicide pact. Some argue that a constitutional convention is needed to replace our current, outdated governing document. Given the circumstances, I'd be concerned that the cure might prove worse than the disease.

It stands to reason that no other country in the world has tried to emulate our constitutional structure. The real American exceptionalism is not our democracy or our balance of powers, but our dysfunctional constitution.

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