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PROOF: Issue 1 (pp. 56-57)

PROOF: Issue 1 (p. 58)

Current events & politics
How to Save American Democracy

First, burn the Constitution . . .

Proposal by Bruce J. Schulman


Excerpt: The bizarre aftermath of the 2000 election led many prominent Americans, including New York Senator Hillary Clinton, to call for the abolition of the electoral college. They rightly noted that this device for choosing a president, designed to solve the peculiar problems of the late 18th century, makes little sense as Americans enter the 21st. The nation need never again inaugurate a president with so disputable a claim to the White House as the current occupant. Do away with the electoral college, say the reformers, and the American promise of government by the people comes that much closer to fulfillment.
   But why stop there? This latest crisis offers the perfect opportunity for Americans to rethink many obsolete, unworkable features of their national compact—to hold a new constitutional conclave, as the founding fathers expected of each succeeding generation. After all, they never dreamed that their handiwork would remain in place for centuries. Living through a period of tremendous constitutional ferment, with states constantly writing and rewriting their fundamental laws, the framers would laugh at our reverence for the document. Indeed, they inserted into the Constitution not only a mechanism for amendments, but also a procedure for calling a new Constitutional Convention to replace their creation.
   It is time for Americans to take up the founding fathers’ suggestion, to draft a new blueprint that will align our bedrock democratic ideals with present-day reality and common sense. Here are some essential features. . . .


About the writer: Bruce J. Schulman is director of the American Studies program at Boston University. His most recent book is The Seventies: The Great Shift in American Culture, Society, and Politics (Free Press, 2001).


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