Sunday, July 21, 2013

"Preserving the Constitution"

Sandy Levinson

I have just discovered that the presentations given at a  panel on "Preserving the Constitution," which was part of a conference at Princeton in May, sponsored by the James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions,  headed by Robert George, are available on C-Span,  The first talk is by Amherst Professor Hadley Arkes, followed by myself, University of Virginia Professor of Government James Ceaser, and Georgetown Law Center Professor Louis Michael Seidman, with some comments by Harvard Professor  Harvey Mansfield, Jr., the honoree of the conference.  As you might gather, there was a genuine diversity of views represented on the panel (though I was the only person advocating a new constitutional convention).

UDATEe:  I've been taken to task for referring to this panel, which did indeed consist entirely of white males (and middle-aged and even older to boot), as offering a "genuine diversity of views" with regard to the issue under discussion, i.e., the desirability of venerating/preserving the existing Constitution as against more-or-less ignoring it (Mike Seidman's argument in On Constitutional Disobedience) or having a new constitutional convention for the purpose of considering necessary amendments in order to make it less dangerously pathological.  I don't want to argue that our panel was an absolutely perfect panel, nothing better than which could possibly be imagined, and I will readily agree that some topics of debate cry out for "diversity" as that term is often defined, often remarkably unhelpfully--see the opening essay in my book Wrestling With Diversity--in our contemporary public language (including, especially, the opinions of the United States Supreme Court, by whomever written).  But I continue to believe that the panel put together by Robert George in fact provided conflict of ideas, courteously but strongly presented, relevant to the issue of constitutional preservation.  I do not think there would have been anywhere near the relevant intellectual diversity had, for example, Justice Thomas replaced Mike Seidman or Sandra Day O'Connor spoken in my stead.  With very mixed feelings, I have decided to allow comments, though, perhaps naively, I would far prefer that they actually address the various presentations available courtesy of C-Span instead of the higher metaphysics of "diversity," save for those people who actually take the trouble to track down and read my book! 



I am increasingly in agreement with you that we are in a constitutional crisis, that crisis is an institutional one, and we need a constitutional convention to remedy the problems. However, I suspect our views of the problems and solutions would diverge significantly.

My concerns are to restore liberty and democracy, in that order.

The concept of a constitutionally limited government was sound, but the Founders did not consider the rise of the modern progressve and socialist state in their design.

A convention would not only have to restore the original structure of checks and balances, but also add new ones to address the bureaucracy, judiciary and welfare state.

Sandy, the panel is very interesting and absorbing as individual presentations. I just listened to the whole thing! However, it was even more frustrating than usual that the presentations and the presenters did not speak to each others points. You all had individual shticks and stuck to them. Except for the DiIulio intervention at the end there is no real conversation here.

I'm truly grateful to jkt for watching the whole program. I'm estopped to deny the validity of his comment. The problem, if such it is, is that presumably a lot of people in the audience, including C-Span, don't know our shticks, and I hope it was helpful to hear them spelled out. But I certainly agree that it would have been highly desirable to have much more back-and-forth. I'm glad you noted John Dilulio intervention. He gave an absolutely terrific presentation at the symposium (which was, alas, not covered by C-Span). He's a really impressive guy.

I actually have your WWD book (a true family affair that is recommended) but will leave others to comment on this presentation.

If I have the right one, Robert George has promoted the "conflict of ideas" discussion ... he wrote a supportive blurb on a book that argued against the position of his own book on the subject. (marriage)


Actually, Robert George was kind enough to write a supportive blurb for Our Undemocratic Constitution. He has not weighed in on Wrestling With Diversity.

To be specific, my reference was to Robert George's blurb to "What's Wrong with Homosexuality?" by John Corvino [supportive of same sex marriage] while being a co-author of a "defense" of "traditional" marriage himself.

John Corvino has done his own yeoman effort supporting debate with the other side. PSA: I find such debate deeply helpful, which makes it somewhat unfortunate that it is not always handled that well here. Again, I thank blogger Mr. W for playing an important role.

Thanks Joe!

The problem, if such it is, is that presumably a lot of people in the audience, including C-Span, don't know our shticks, and I hope it was helpful to hear them spelled out. fut 14 coins  elo boosting  fifa ultimate team coins  lol boost


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