Great Debate Series Kicks Off with Broken Constitutional System

By Melanie Perez

(TEANECK) – The Network for Responsible Policy had its first debate of the season on Sept. 22 from 7:30-9:30 p.m. on whether or not the US constitutional system is broken.

The format was a discussion-debate between Lisa L. Miller, professor of political science (specifically, constitutional law) at Rutgers University, and Earl M. Maltz, constitutional scholar and distinguished professor at Rutgers University School of Law who has authored 9 books.

Peter Coy, the economic editor for Bloomberg Businessweek, moderated the debate. He took his first question off the advertisement for the debate: “Given our political dynamics, many believe features of the Constitution have been lost, compromised or ignored. Is that really the case?”

Miller said that the Constitution is being ignored, but that the dynamic of the world is different.

“The world has changed – it’s not the 18th century – in a way that the Constitution was not set up to address,” she said.

Miller also asserted that the Constitution inhibits governmental capacity.

“There is a democratic deficit in the United States,” she said.

Maltz agreed with Miller’s comments on a changed world.

“What we have not is a fundamental transformation from what the Constitution was to what the federal government is today,” he said.

Coy followed up with a question on whether or not the Constitution is endangered. Neither Miller nor Maltz directly answered the question, but they did each discuss their opinions on what the Constitution was designed to do.

Maltz said that the Constitution was established “to make it difficult for federal government to do things.”

“I don’t agree that the purpose of the Constitution is to constrain power. I think it was to empower. The Articles of Confederation were just a disaster,” Miller said.

Both Miller and Maltz did agree, however different their views on the purpose of the Constitution are, that judicial review is a big problem in the U.S.

“I would get rid of judicial review (courts can change rule of law by overriding it apply different rule of law),” Maltz said. “It imposes additional rigidity costs on the system.”

His example was Anthony Kennedy.

“If he [Kennedy] had not changed his mind, all affirmative action would be gone,” Maltz said.

Miller said that the system of judicial review in the U.S. is essentially saying, “we can’t be trusted to run our own democracy.”

When asked what form the Constitution (and consequently, judicial review) should take – fundamentalist or “living document” – Maltz said, “Either the Constitution is law or is not law. Nobody says that we ought to have ‘living statutes’.”

He further described himself as “an originalist with a strong deference for judicial review.”

Moderator Coy asserted that Donald Trump is making the issues of law and order mainstream in a way that hasn’t been done since Nixon and asked the debaters to comment.

Miller’s most recent book, “The Myth of Mob Rule: Violent Crime and Democratic Politics,” dissected whether or not that statement was accurate.

“A lot of Liberals worry that Trump will have a violent effect, but I think people are more aware of their situation than other people think,” Miller said.

Regarding Trump, Maltz said, “For those of you who are upset about Donald Trump: the problem is the primary system.”

Maltz did not refute Miller’s statements about violence, but did give his opinion on guns.

“I think every gun should be taken away from every person,” Maltz said.

He also said that he thinks it should be legal to enter people’s homes in order to confiscate their guns, but acknowledged the impracticality of his statements.

At the end of the program, the debaters left time for audience questions, which they debated on.

One audience member asked if the Constitution would be necessary if there were no judicial review. Maltz responded that the Constitution was necessary to establish branches and structures of government.

“Some judiciary power would be needed to say what powers are executive and what powers are legislative,” Maltz said.

The next debate in the series is “What’s Gender Got to Do with It? Women and Electoral Politics Today.”  It will be on Thursday, Oct. 6 in Wilson Auditorium from 7:30-9:30 p.m.  The event is free and open to the public.