Publick Occurrences 2.0

January 12, 2009

Our Intoxicated Republic

Filed under: Constitution,Presidency — Benjamin Carp @ 8:45 pm

Via Matthew Yglesias, here’s a sharply worded article by University of Baltimore law professor Garrett Epps in The Atlantic, entitled, “The Founders’ Great Mistake.”  Well, that’s just catnip for us here at Publick Occurrences.  Epps argues that the Constitution, in its current form, gives presidents appalling license to do the country harm.

One quote that struck me:

Intoxicated by the image of the hero-president, unencumbered by any direct political check, stubborn presidents . . . have no incentive to change course.

This gets at Jeff’s media criticism in the post below.  It’s not just presidents who believe their own hype, but a media and public that feeds an almost monarchical conception of the presidency in all its majesty.  Now, somewhere Brendan McConville is probably saying, “I told you so,” although that’s a gross simplification of his thesis.

Epps has a few suggestions for reforming the presidency.  First, we should get rid of the electoral college, and shorten the “interregnum” period between the election and the inauguration.  Secondly, the powers of the presidency ought to be specifically enumerated.  Third (and here things get a little weird), if a president’s party loses seats in Congress, he should be forced to shuffle his Cabinet.  Finally, the executive should be split—perhaps by separately electing an independent attorney general during the midterm elections.

Epps isn’t the first person to suggest a radical overhaul to the Constitution—there have been a number of books with that thesis in recent years.  But heck, Epps’s article is shorter.  Let’s have at it.

Which provisions of the Constitution would you change, and what features would you add?


Recent Occurrence at Publick Occurrences

Filed under: Common-Place — Jeffrey L. Pasley @ 1:26 pm

Sharp-eyed readers, and aren’t you all, will have noticed a new name attached to some recent posts. In response to last week’s help wanted notice, Prof. Benjamin Carp of Tufts University is joining me here as a guest blogger to try out the whole “Publick Occurrences” experience. With any luck, he may even stay a while.

Ben is a University of Virginia Ph.D. whose book Rebels Rising: Cities and the American Revolution was published by Oxford University Press in 2007. (I see from Amazon that the paperback edition hits the streets this coming March.) He is currently completing a much-needed new study of the Boston Tea Party. I think I will let Ben tell anything more he wants readers to know about himself himself, but I feel lucky that such a distinguished young scholar is interested in helping out with our quirky little enterprise here. Welcome!


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