Sanford Levinson feels the impeachment clause and presidentialism are deeply flawed 

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Political science speaker speaks about what is wrong with the impeachment clause on Tuesday in Monteith 104. The talk focused on problems with the clause, how it could be changed, and what it would mean for the United States.  Photo by Adam Giroux/The Daily Campus

Political science speaker speaks about what is wrong with the impeachment clause on Tuesday in Monteith 104. The talk focused on problems with the clause, how it could be changed, and what it would mean for the United States. Photo by Adam Giroux/The Daily Campus

In his speech “Why the impeachment clause is broken” at the University of Connecticut on Tuesday night, Sanford Levinson from the University of Texas Law School touched on issues he has with the impeachment, the presidency and the Constitution as a whole. 

As stated in the U.S. Constitution, the impeachment clause allows for removal “from office on impeachment for, and conviction of, treason, bribery or other high crimes and misdemeanors,” something Levinson feels has been twisted in recent years. 

“The impeachment clause says that you can get rid of a public official only if you can show that the public official has committed high crimes and misdemeanors. What does that mean?” asked Levinson. 

Lawyers have spent decades debating the definitions of high crimes and misdemeanors, and the discussions are always reinvigorated when a new push for impeachment is brought about, said Levinson. To alleviate this issue, Levinson suggests integrating a vote of no confidence system into the American political sphere. 

“Under any presidential system, I would, if not substitute a vote of no confidence for the impeachment cause, which as I said I think is a failure, I would at least put in a vote of no confidence as a very important complement to the impeachment clause because a vote of no confidence has no real room in it for lawyers,” explained Levinson. 

Additionally, he feels that there are inherent problems of presidentialism in the present day. 

“I will confess that I now, more than before, believe that presidentialism has turned out to be a defective system for practically any country in the 21st century,” Levinson said. 

While he admits that presidentialism is not inherently a negative system, he highlights several key issues that he feels are the results of presidential systems: The issues surrounding the electoral college in the modern-day world, the winner-take-all nature of presidential elections and the conflicting ideas of the president being both a servant and a representative of the people and his or her party. 

To Levinson, the current system in place is in need of another major discussion surrounding it. He feels that the U.S. Constitution, as it currently stands, does not need to be a given and should be scrutinized by a greater number of people around the nation. 

“Along with all of these other aspects of political culture and state of the economy, et cetera, we ought to be aware of the extent to which these formal institutions, including the impeachment clause, contribute or work to our detriment in terms of making this a policy that we really do feel committed to, in terms of its achieving what I really do think are the magnificent aims of the preamble of the Constitution.” 


Thomas Alvarez is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at thomas.alvarez@uconn.edu.

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