Paul Campos, the CU law professor and Rocky Mountain News columnist, needs to acquaint himself with James Madison, the father of our Constitution and fourth president of the United States. In a piece published on election day, Campos enthuses over a book called Our Undemocratic Constitution by fellow law prof Sandy Levinson of Texas. With iconoclastic bravado he entertains such daring questions as "whether [anyone's] lifelong devotion to the [Constitution] makes sense" and "whether some of our most basic political arrangements need to be overthrown." What Campos and Levinson overlook is merely the little problem of how any large and populous republic can avoid self-destructing through a tyranny of the majority. Madison, Hamilton, and Jay, co-authors of The Federalist Papers, struggled in print with this age-old difficulty, after they and 50 other gifted statesmen -- next to whom these pompous profs are as pygmies -- had struggled with it in convention for months at Philadelphia. Federalist No. 51, penned by Madison, sums up the challenge this way:
"...what is government itself, but the greatest of all reflections on human nature? If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary. In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself."
Campos suavely labels the checks, balances, and compromises of the Philadelphia Convention's workmanship as "products of political choices made 220 years ago... that are ripe for revisiting, given that the world has changed somewhat since the 18th century." He offers no proof, however -- nor could he -- that human nature with its failings and its power-lust has changed one bit in all these years. Indeed he shows no comprehension at all that abuse of political power is even a problem.
Apparently on Planet Campos the angelic conditions are present which Madison found lacking here on earth. O happy fortune to live in Boulder, where there is no need to "oblige [government] to control itself."
Note: After writing the above for the Gang of Four blog on PoliticsWest.com, I was delighted to receive supporting fire from Joshua Sharf on that same blog, and from Denver attorney Roger Castle as cited below:
Somebody with more voice than me needs to "school" these two law professors about the Constitution, and about logic! These are truly hare-brained ideas.
1. Who said anything should be, or is, best as a pure democracy? He assumes it is, without first establishing that. Shallow!
2. Did he ever read his history books about how the States agreed to come together, only with protection for their States' independence and rights? Moreover, his argument assumes that the "undemocratic" Senate reigns supreme, unchecked by the "democratic" House? Why is that wonderfully "democratic" House letting that nasty undemocratic Senate "steal" all those federal tax dollars? And why does he believe the "democratic" House's majority power should henceforth be allowed to "steal" tax revenues from the smaller (Senate) states against their consent?
3. Because both houses have to agree and the President can veto, he complains that this makes "legislative reform" difficult? Isn't that a choice word! In plain English, he really means that two houses make it more difficult to "pass new laws". Those Constitutional provisions limit the power of government and slow the process of knee-jerk change. It also gives some respect to the status quo and tradition. Those are principles to which the "progressive" law professor is no doubt opposed, but to which the vast majority of the "democratic-voting" Americans would readily agree. How many times have you heard someone complain recently about there not being enough laws being passed?
4. If, under our representative system, "only the rich and powerful can get laws passed", why would we want to give them even more ease in passing those laws....er,sorry..."reforms"? If a purely "democratic" Congress is the answer, why doesn't the current "democratic" House already block all those laws designed by the Senate for the "rich and powerful"? After all, the Senate and the President can do nothing alone!
5. Right now, we sure don't have too much partisan political posturing, campaigning, mudslinging, and carping do we? Our Congressional leaders are all just wholly committed to simply doing the business of the people? Right! *&%#@*^+**. So what do these two professors want to do? Have Congress constantly debating/posturing to have the current "incompetent" President removed early! Because after all, changing Presidents and having Presidential campaigns are just not happening enough to suit our tastes!
6.Query: why didn't Campos/Levinson advocate this Presidential removal provision during the Clinton years? It couldn't possibly be due to their politics, so it must be their newly enlightened view of how wonderful pure democracy is -- but which they don't bother to explain to us.
7. While technology, etc., has changed, human nature and political power have not changed one iota since "220 years ago" or the "18th Century". They still need to be held in check! And these two guys are prime examples.