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  • States’ Wrongs

    States’ Wrongs


    Conservatives’ illogical, inconsistent effort to repeal the 17th Amendment.








    Over the past year, an increasingly central plank of conservative and Tea Party rhetoric is that constitutional change is needed and that the 17th Amendment in particular, which gives state residents the power to elect senators directly, should be repealed. (Previously, senators were selected by the state legislatures). Hard-right figures across the country, from Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) to Georgia Senate candidate Rep. Paul Broun to a steady drumbeat of state officials, have now called for repealing the amendment and giving the power to select senators back to the state legislatures. Radio host Mark Levin’s book The Liberty Amendments, calling for repeal, among other constitutional changes, was the best-selling book on constitutional law last year. Clearly this is an idea with legs.

    This boomlet of energy for repealing the 17th Amendment is not the first in recent memory. Back in 2010, repeal was similarly endorsed by a bevy of conservative bigwigs from Justice Antonin Scalia to Gov. Rick Perry to now-Sens. Mike Lee (R-Utah) and Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.). Back then, support for repeal was mocked in Democratic campaign ads as kooky, but perhaps it’s time to concede that it is no longer a fringe idea. Given the ascendance of the right flank of the GOP, it’s worth taking the argument for repeal seriously.

    But the real paradox, if you study the amendment’s history and effect, is that conservatives—all conservatives, moderate or Tea Party—should love the 17th Amendment. Why? Because without it, state legislative elections would turn entirely on the identity of U.S. Senate candidates. State legislatures, in effect, would become mini-electoral colleges for choosing senators, except with the residual power to make state law. To love states and federalism, as conservatives claim to, you need to believe that democracy works at the state level, that voters punish badly performing legislators and reward good ones. Repealing the 17th Amendment would ruin state democracy.

    The main repeal argument—laid out in its best form by my colleague Todd Zywicki and now-Judge Jay Bybee—is that the power of senatorial selection once gave state governments crucial influence over Washington. Once that power was removed by the 17th Amendment, the argument goes, state governments lost their pull in Washington, leading to a bigger, greedier, and more powerful federal government at the expense of states’ rights and interests.

    But this simply ignores how state elections work. How do we know repealing the 17th Amendment would turn state legislative elections into proxies for national debates? Because we’ve seen it before. Consider the most famous Senate race in history, when Abraham Lincoln squared off against Stephen Douglas on the question of the expansion of slavery in 1858. We tend to forget, all these years later, that neither man was actually on the ballot. Instead, Illinois voters were choosing Republican or Democratic state legislators, who would, in turn, pick either Lincoln or Douglas. Because the state Legislature had the power to choose the next senator, and because slavery was the burning national question, there was precious little attention for, say, road building or local tax policy or whatever else the Illinois state Legislature had been up to. The only thing that mattered was a national question and the candidates debating it. In effect, in that election, Illinois chose its state lawmakers without paying much attention to the performance of state officials.
    Colonel Vogel : What does the diary tell you that it doesn't tell us?

    Professor Henry Jones : It tells me, that goose-stepping morons like yourself should try *reading* books instead of *burning* them!

  • #2
    I've never understood the distinction being made that Representatives represent "the people" and that Senators are supposed to "represent the state".

    I would entertain an amendment which states that both senators from a given state cannot be members of the same party.

    I would also support weighting Congressional seats and electoral votes by population.
    The year's at the spring
    And day's at the morn;
    Morning's at seven;
    The hill-side's dew-pearled;
    The lark's on the wing;
    The snail's on the thorn:
    God's in his heaven—
    All's right with the world!

    Comment


    • #3
      But the real paradox, if you study the amendment’s history and effect, is that conservatives—all conservatives, moderate or Tea Party—should love the 17th Amendment. Why? Because without it, state legislative elections would turn entirely on the identity of U.S. Senate candidates. State legislatures, in effect, would become mini-electoral colleges for choosing senators, except with the residual power to make state law. To love states and federalism, as conservatives claim to, you need to believe that democracy works at the state level, that voters punish badly performing legislators and reward good ones. Repealing the 17th Amendment would ruin state democracy.
      And with this, David manages to simultaneously prove that he: a.) doesn't know what the hell he's talking about; b.) can't count; c.) flunked civics in high school, and; d.) bases everything he says, thinks, and does upon his bigoted Leftist stereotype.

      Newsflash, dummy: democracy does work at the state level. It works ten billion times better at the state level than it does at the federal level, you moron.

      Having the Senate elected by the legislatures would bring the governance much, MUCH closer to the goverened, which is a very good thing. It's not the TEA Party's fault, David, that you are too damned stupid to engage in simple arithmetic to see this for yourself. Repealing Amendment XVII would be a tremendous boon to state democracy, not ruin it.


      Perhaps if you took off the federal-sugar-government-knows-best goggles for a minute and looked at things in the real world you MIGHT just understand.
      It's been ten years since that lonely day I left you
      In the morning rain, smoking gun in hand
      Ten lonely years but how my heart, it still remembers
      Pray for me, momma, I'm a gypsy now

      Comment


      • #4
        There has always been an interesting discussion of this amendment but it's not close to being a 'central plank' of any conservative or Tea Party group I've ever worked with and I'm involved with a few.

        This is just more spin to distract from other issues or maybe fantasy-fueled speculation on the part of the writer. Whatever some politicians or commentators may think of this, it's not on the radar of the grassroots supporters who do the work of raising issues and getting out the local vote. There are too many other things that need immediate attention.
        "Alexa, slaughter the fatted calf."

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