What if we wrote the Constitution today?

The conservative team, composed of Robert P. George of Princeton, Michael W. McConnell of Stanford, Colleen A. Sheehan of Arizona State, and Ilan Wurman of Arizona State, focuses on structural reforms designed to improve the country’s political discourse. Many of their proposed changes, they write, “are designed to enable elected officials to break free of the grip of faction and once again to deliberate, with the aim of listening attentively to, as well as educating, public opinion, and promoting justice and the public good.” The changes they describe as most “radical” are reducing the size of the Senate to 50 members to encourage genuine deliberation, increasing senatorial terms to nine years and the presidential term to six years—both with no possibility of reelection—and (in a proposal the libertarian team also put forward) reintroducing senatorial appointment by state legislatures. In their view, these reforms would encourage elected officials to vote their conscience and focus on the common good rather than partisan interests.

The progressive team, composed of Caroline Frederickson of Georgetown University, Jamal Greene of Columbia, and Melissa Murray of New York University, also finds much to admire and preserve in the original constitutional structure. “We wanted to make clear our own view that the Constitution, as drafted in 1787, is not completely incompatible with progressive constitutionalism,” they write. “Indeed, in our view, the original Constitution establishes a structure of divided government that is a necessary precondition for a constitutional democracy with robust protections for individual rights.” The goal, in their proposed changes, is to secure the blessings of liberty and equality promised by the Declaration of Independence, by doing more to strengthen the “structural protections for democratic government.” Rather than abolishing the Senate, the progressive team would make it more representative, with one senator for each state and “one additional senator [for] every one-hundredth of the national population.” For example, California would have 13 senators, Texas would have seven, Florida nine, and 22 states (including Washington, D.C.) one. Senators would serve for one six-year term. The progressives would also decrease fundraising pressure on representatives by extending the House term from two to four years, and by making clear that the government has the power to set both spending and contribution limits in political campaigns. Their proposed Progressive Constitution would also codify judicial and legislative protections for reproductive rights and against discrimination based on gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, pregnancy, and childbirth.

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