The Heritage Foundation has put on-line its Guide to the Constitution, co-edited by David Forte and Matthew Spalding. This is a line-by-line commentary with major essays by significant legal scholars. Heritage does terrific work with its instant digests on contemporary policy issues, but this is something different, yet relevant to policy debates.
Take this analysis of the first line of Article II of the Constitution, on the nature and scope of executive power, "the vesting clause." There's even a teacher's companion guide, besides the essay by UVA law professor Sai Prakash and a brief (and diverse) bibliography of legal scholarship.
Or consider co-editor Forte's thoughts on the commerce clause, now at the heart of the Obamacare case, to be decided by the Court this term. Are you clear on the meaning of "to ... regulate commerce ... among the several states"? And so it goes, line by line, through the whole Constitution.
The achievement deserves favorable comparison with the best encyclopaedias of legal thought, such as the grand project of the late Leonard Levy. And besides Heritage's is on-line, will be constantly updated (not a living Constitution, but a lively commentary) and free.
The unethical investigation (and subsequent 2008 conviction) of the late Senator Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) for alleged ethics violations reveals a crisis in democratic government: When Department of Justice investigators influence elections--in this case, one that gave Senate Democrats a veto-proof majority--they are showing themselves to be the rulers they have in fact become.
In many reapportionment schemes, the legislators pick their constitutents. In the Stevens investigation, where the judge held government lawyers in contempt after the trial, the bureaucrats in effect knocked off a Republican incumbent, who lost by fewer than 4,000 votes a week after the trial. The court-appointed counsel concluded that the prosecution withheld potentially exonerating evidence from the defense. Even Eric Holder had to discipline the lawyers, with one committing suicide. (It should be noted that a Republican Administration might not have been able to control their own staff.)
of those polled disapprove of Congress, according to a recent poll. But surely some poll has broken down the stats in following ways: Do you disapprove of Congress because it is too Republican, too Democrat, blocking Obama, ignoring the deficit, etc. Those numbers should be added to the total who approve of Congress, perhaps considerably improving the figures. (Occasionally there are polls showing disapproval of the Tea Party, etc.) Those results would be more important for the congressional elections, though of course reapportionment slashes the effects of general disapproval. Has anyone drilled down to get these numbers?
Has anyone polled Congress on the approval/disapproval numbers they give to themselves? Bet it's not far from the public figures.
Men and Women
Public approval for Congress dips into the single digits. I'm not surprised for the reason often given--people (especially in gerrymandered districts) like their own crook--and distrust all the others. Hence, a better measure of how people will vote would be reflected in, e.g., whether they think Obamacare should be repealed.
But I also raise the question whether the members of Congress would give any higher rating of their own institution. Somehow I doubt it. The separation of powers and the bicameral Congress create such frustrations. But there is only one President.