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Questions Sabato would put to the candidates

ASK THIS | December 08, 2007

In a new book, Larry Sabato of the University of Virginia puts aside issues of the day to take a more long-range look at the structure of government in the U.S.

By Larry J. Sabato

Q. Do you believe that we should return to the war-making balance of powers favored by the Founders, where Congress had a larger role in the conduct of foreign wars? Specifically, would you favor a constitutional amendment mandating that both houses of Congress, at least once a year in any year when the U.S. forces were fighting abroad, vote up-or-down to continue or end the war? Why or why not?

Q. You are enduring what has been described as the most insane primary scheduling process ever. Do you believe that Iowa and New Hampshire should always be first in line during the primary season? Would you favor instead a regional primary set-up, with the order of the regions determined by lottery, with perhaps a couple of smaller states—any of the 20 states with few electoral votes—also selected by lottery to begin the process? Would you favor a law or constitutional amendment that would organize the process better—delaying the start of primaries until the spring of an election year, for instance?

Q. Do you believe it’s fair for over 14 million Americans—legal Americans who played by the rules to become citizens—to be permanently barred from the Presidency because they are not “natural-born”? Would you favor or oppose permitting any American who has been a citizen for at least 20 or 25 years to run for the Presidency? Shouldn’t every American child, natural-born or not, have the right to dream as you dream—to one day be sitting in the Oval Office?

Q. Will you push for a law or a constitutional amendment mandating non-partisan redistricting for the U.S. House and all state legislatures, thus ending the long reign of incumbent-driven gerrymandering that so upsets many Americans?

Q. Only a few public officials are calling for reinstitution of the draft. But how about a broader program of universal national service—where every young American between the ages of 18 and 26 would give two years to the military, a government agency like the Peace Corps, or a qualifying non-profit group in the private sector? Could it be time for the nation to begin to stress, not just rights, but also the responsibilities all citizens have to the country that has given us so much?

In my new book A More Perfect Constitution, I discuss these five proposals at length, along with others dealing with every branch of government. For example, I propose expanding the Senate to 136 members to make it more representative, granting the 10 most populous states two additional Senators, the next 15 most populous one additional Senator, and the District of Columbia one Senator. On the presidency, I’d have one term of office for six years—with an up-or-down referendum on whether the incumbent should serve another two years. For the federal judiciary, I’d eliminate lifetime tenure and replace it with non-renewable 15-year terms. These are a few of the changes I deal with in the book, some of which would require a constitutional amendment.

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