My final post about my book, Constitutional Cliffhangers, will deal with fixing and preventing constitutional cliffhangers.
One of my pet peeves is when an article identifies a potential constitutional problem and then concludes blithely that the best solution is just to amend the Constitution. Even passing a statute is tough. Heck, just getting Congress’s attention is hard. A few years ago, I wrote an article about a 50-square-mile swath of Idaho where (according to my theory) people can commit crimes with impunity. Orin posted something about it here and it went viral. A bestselling novel was even written about it. And yet, of the scores of members of Congress I wrote to trying to get them to close the loophole, only a couple even acknowledged my letters.
My book thus wrestles with the very real barriers to fixing the traps I identify, either before or after the nation steps in them. The final chapter of my book offers a lengthy analysis along these lines. I’m not going to say much about that in this post, other than to talk a bit about my conclusion that some cliffhangers are not really worth trying to fix in advance.
There are two kinds of cliffhangers: those in which the main problem is a bad result, and those in which the main problem is uncertainty. An example of the former is Chapter 1, where a sitting president might get prosecuted (with the attendant disruption) or might not (with the attendant injustice). The fact that, in the meantime, presidents and prosecutors go about their days unsure of the answer is much less of a problem. The chapters on self-pardons and late impeachment fit in this category as well. Legislation requires energized consensus, and there wouldn’t be one. Best, then, to just wait for an [...]