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Repeal the 17th Amendment?

I should start by acknowledging that repeal of the Seventeenth Amendment is hardly a mainstream issue and certainly not anything likely to come about (which is an understatement).  However, the fact that there are people out there seeking its repeal is sufficient to garner comment, especially since said persons were significant enough within factions of the Tea Party movement to actually get some Senate candidates to state that they were in support of the repeal.

Further, every once in a while I will get a commenter who is favor a repeal, so it seems worth some discussion.

The proximate cause of this post is the following from TPMDC:  Tea Party-Backed Repeal Of The 17th Amendment Gets Republicans Into Trouble

The “Repeal The 17th” movement is a vocal part of the overall tea party structure. Supporters of the plan say that ending the public vote for Senators would give the states more power to protect their own interests in Washington (and of course, give all of us “more liberty” in the process.) As their process of “vetting” candidates, some tea party groups have required candidates to weigh in on the idea of repeal in questionnaires. And that’s where the trouble starts.

To wit:

In Ohio, Steve Stivers — the Republican attempting to unseat Democratic Rep. Mary Jo Kilroy in the state’s 15th District — came under fire from Democrats when it was revealed he had checked the box saying he would repeal the 17th Amendment on a tea party survey (see question 11here).

[…]

In Idaho, Republican Vaughn Ward is in a similar pickle. Ward, the NRCC’s choice to challenge Rep. Walt Minnick (D), is currently locked in a primary fight with state Rep. Raul Labrador. As happens so often in Republican primaries these days, the candidates are doing their best to appeal to the ultra-conservative vote. (And considering that Minnick is the lone Democrat to be called a Hero by the Tea Party Express, we’re talking extra tasty crispy conservative here.)

So as to avoid almost verbatim cut-and-paste of the TPMDC post, I will leave out the flip-flops and clarifications of the candidates, save to note that they came.  Surf over to read the details.  There is also discussion of Tea Party Boise’s reaction to the retraction of Ward.

It also worth noting that this is not just a Tea Party-linked issue:

There are, of course, plenty of conservative Republicans who favor repealing the 17th Amendment. Tim Bridgewater, the man who got the most votes at the Utah GOP convention that ousted Sen. Bob Bennett, says on his website that he’d support rewriting the constitution to put the power of choosing Senators in the hands of the states. And Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX) has actually put forward legislation that would repeal the amendment.

In all truth, I find the whole notion to be a bizarre one.  Here are some reasons why.

1)  The notion that somehow having the state legislatures choose Senators is more representative of the state’s interest than having the voters of the state choose the Senator is odd on its face.  It assumes that the state legislature is more representative of the state than the state’s citizens.  Since the former is a non-random sample of the latter, it is rather unclear to me why this would be the case.  Further, since the state legislature is chosen by the citizens of the state I am wholly unclear on why giving them the power to choose Senators makes that selection better for the state than allowing the citizens to select the Senators.  Why the addition of  a group of middle-men/women would improve the quality of selection is beyond me.

Why would this:

Citizens—>State Legislature—>Senators

be superior to this?

Citizens—>Senators.

The logic is strange insofar as it assumes that voters should be the fount of power for the legislature, which is the key power of state government, but the voters can’t be trusted to choose Senators.

Further, it assumes that politicians (i.e, state legislators) actually deserve more trust than voters.

This especially odd, as most citizens don’t pay all that much attention to their state legislators so ceding the power to that body to select Senators is like tossing it into a black box.

2)  A corollary to the above:  how can we say that there is a “state interest” that is separable from the interests of the people in a given state?  There is a weird fetish here that reifies the state as though it is an entity at least in part separate from the people that live within its borders.  If all the people left the state of Texas, then so, too, would Texas lose any “interests” as a state.  It would just then be a lot of land.

3)  It is wholly unclear (despite what “The Campaign to Restore Federalism” argues here) that Senators selected by state legislatures would behave all that differently in terms of things like pork barrel spending and the basic behavior of the federal government than one elected by the citizens.  What, state legislatures don’t like highway and education funding?

4)  There is no reason to associate the nature of selection of Senators with the quality or existence of federalism.  Despite what some argue, the states still maintain a great deal of policy autonomy in a number of areas (the same ones they have for a long time now, like criminal justice and education) and the very nature of the Senate, with co-equal representation further solidifies federalism.  The way those Senators are selected really have very little to do with any of that.

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About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is Professor and Chair of Political Science at Troy University. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. He is the author of Voting Amid Violence: Electoral Democracy in Colombia and is currently working on a comparative study of the US to 29 other democracies. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging at PoliBlog since 2003. Follow Steven on Twitter

Comments

  1. James Joyner says:

    most citizens don’t pay all that much attention to their state legislators so ceding the power to that body to select Senators is like tossing it into a black box.

    This point can’t be emphasized enough. Whether it was true in the 18th Century or not, the fact is that we’ve reversed the presumptive order of things. People pay attention to national politics, to the extent they pay attention to politics at all, and ignore the state in local.

    (Dave Schuler assures me this isn’t the case in Chicago. It is most everywhere else in the US.)

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  2. I have gone back and forth on this issue many times over the past few years. I don’t consider it a “crackpot” idea at all, especially not when people like former Reagan Advisor Bruce Bartlett is among one of it’s more well known proponents, but I keep coming back to two points:

    1. The pre-17th Amendment Senate was hardly any more admirable than what we have had since 1917

    2. From a procedural point of view the 17th Amendment is certainly one of the factors that has made the expansion of Federal power, and the erosion of Federalism, more easy to accomplish. Returning to direct election of Senators *might* have a positive impact, but that will only happen if the Senators elected have a proper understanding of their role under the Constitution. Given the fact that the legislatures that would be appointing them are now well aware of the benefits of federal largesse, it’s not at all hard to believe that they’d appoint Senators likely to bring that largesse home.

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  3. Brummagem Joe says:

    It isn’t going to happen so the point is entirely moot. I wonder if you Jim and Steven read that piece in the New Yorker by George Packer a week back about just how totally dysfunctional the senate has become. If you haven’t I recommend it. I’m fairly cynical about the process but it was a bit of an eye opener even for me. Given the scale of the problems the country faces over the next half century and the imminent rise of China and India, you have to wonder how long this state of affairs can continue. At some point the lid need to come off this place.

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  4. Doug,

    I would argue that the growth of the federal government has nothing to do with the 17th amendment–but rather it happened at about the same time that such was largely inevitable due to the effects of the industrial revolution. The federal government’s overall role was going to grow whether the Senate was elected by the state legislators or by the voters. Indeed, I have an difficult time understanding how it would be the case that Senators elected by state legislators would be less prone to engage in growing the federal government than would lose elected by voters. As I note in the post, state legislatures aren’t known for rejecting federal dollars.

    I really think that a lot of people who think that federalism can be restored to a late 19th century version are seriously downplaying (if not totally ignoring) the serious implication of the move from a rural, agrarian country to an urban, industrial one.

    B. Joe: I am familiar with the piece. The dysfunctional nature of the Senate is a function of the rules of the chamber, not of the method by which they are elected.

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  5. sam says:

    “The “Repeal The 17th” movement is a vocal part of the overall tea party structure. Supporters of the plan say that ending the public vote for Senators would give the states more power to protect their own interests in Washington (and of course, give all of us “more liberty” in the process.) ”

    I trust the irony of a “populist” movement plumping for a decidedly unpopulist electoral procedure has not escaped everyone. Smoke-filled rooms in state legislatures make those at the federal level look like clean rooms.

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  6. [...] thoughts on that from me @OTB: Repeal the 17th Amendment? addthis_url = 'http%3A%2F%2Fwww.poliblogger.com%2F%3Fp%3D19338'; addthis_title = [...]

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  7. PD Shaw says:

    sam, the Lincoln/Douglas debates were an open campaign for the Senate seat, so it wouldn’t necessarily need to be a smoke-filled room decision.

    The reality though seems that if the 17th Amendment were repealed, all or most states, would pass some sort of state referendum that is a de facto direct election.

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  8. Brummagem Joe says:

    “The dysfunctional nature of the Senate is a function of the rules of the chamber, not of the method by which they are elected.”

    Exactly but the repeal of the 17th is advocated as one of the means of fixing it. In practice it would make no difference whatsoever. The senate is a mess because of polarization and a rule system that allows the minority to exercise an effective veto on any action without a super majority. It’s a negation of democracy.

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  9. Dantheman says:

    PD Shaw,

    “sam, the Lincoln/Douglas debates were an open campaign for the Senate seat, so it wouldn’t necessarily need to be a smoke-filled room decision.”

    Umm, no. Lincoln and Douglas were having the debates while campaigning for candidates for the state legislature. Moreover, the smoke filled room aspect of electing senators in the 1800′s kept Lincoln from serving in the Senate (see 1855 Senate election section).

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  10. PD Shaw says:

    The Wikipedia entry for the Seventeenth Amendment states “By 1912, as many as 29 states elected Senators either as nominees of party primaries, or in conjunction with a general election.” That’s over 60% of the states (28/48) So, for 28 out of the 36 needed to ratify it, the Seventh Amendment merely made something easier to do that was being done already indirectly.

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  11. PD Shaw says:

    Dantheman,

    In 1858, Lincoln and Douglas had both obtained an agreement from their party that if their party won the state legislature, he would be appointed to the Senate. They both openly campaigned with this understanding. A Republican voter knew that if the Republicans won the state legislature, Lincoln would be their Senator. It was under this background that the debates were held. More Democrats won a seat in the state legislature, so Douglas went. More people actually cast a vote for a Republican though.

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  12. And the scenario that PD outlines certainly raises the question as to why we would wish to return to such a convoluted process or why such a scenario would all be deemed to be better for a given state or somehow make federalism function “better.”

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  13. Dantheman says:

    “More Democrats won a seat in the state legislature, so Douglas went. More people actually cast a vote for a Republican though.”

    And even more legislators elected in 1858 were Republicans than Democrats. However, there were more Democrats among the holdover legislators (elected in 1856), so Douglas won in the legislature. I am not sure why you think that contradicts what I said, that they were campaigning for the legislators, not themselves directly.

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  14. DC says:

    Wasnt the point of the 17th Amendment that the Senate was perceived as out of touch and corrupt…? I should also like to cite the example of two countries with indirectly elected upper houses, France and Germany, are not exactly paragons of libertarian purity. Indeed the German Bundesrat is literally representative of the state government.

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  15. Sookie says:

    >> The notion that somehow having the state legislatures choose Senators is more representative of the state’s interest than having the voters of the state choose the Senator is odd on its face. <<

    No it's not odd on it's face. The Senate would better represent the state it is elected from rather than the interest of DC. Additionally it would take a lot of the money out of the race. Senators might lobby the state and local officials for the job. They wouldn't lobby industry. I don't even know how you can make a such a bizarre statement.

    Don't get me wrong. There would be issues with this but on the whole I think it would force Senators to be closer to their constituents back home. Or at least closer to those elected at the state and local level back home, rather than above them out in DC. My state senator and or congressman would be part of the process of choosing my federal senator. I know both of them.

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  16. André Kenji says:

    The State Legislature already does the redistribution of the Congressional District. It seems to work well(irony here). In most states, there is the additional problem of machines controlled by either party that are mostly corrupt. The South and states like California and New Jersey and Illinois are problematic, but in most of the states one party has almost total control of the Legislature.

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  17. @Sookie:

    The Senate would better represent the state it is elected from rather than the interest of DC.

    First, how are Senators now representing the interests of DC? What does that even mean? And at the moment they have to publicly explain why they should be returned to office every six years. If the legislature picked them that would not be the case.

    There would be issues with this but on the whole I think it would force Senators to be closer to their constituents back home.

    This makes no sense–how would putting an intermediary between the citizens and the Senators make them “closer to their constituents back home”? Unless you mean that the legislators would then be their constituents, which is a problem in and of itself.

    My state senator and or congressman would be part of the process of choosing my federal senator. I know both of them.

    That’s great, but you do realize how atypical that is, yes?

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  18. Doug says:

    I respect your thoughtfulness in trying to write about the subject but….

    The arguments for WHY senators were not originally directly elected are clear from both the notes of the constitutional convention, Federalist papers and letters/memoirs of the founders (especially Madison).

    If you wish to argue that repeal of the 17th amendment is a bad idea you must first come up with arguments against the original design for appointment of senators as written by Madison. It was not decided arbitrarily. There were specific reasons laid out. I would add that you should be careful to avoid the common mistake of thinking the REASON of the existence of the senate is somehow unrelated to HOW Senators were originally elected.

    There really is no reason at all to even have a Senate under the current scheme. The second chamber was not primarily just to be a more deliberate body.

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  19. Doug,

    That’s quite easy: it was a political compromise designed to placate the smaller states so that they would abandon the Articles of Confederation and sign on to the Constitution so as to prevent the utter disintegration of the the experiment known at the USA.

    Indeed, Madison originally wanted the Senate to be chosen by the House–and apportioned based on population.

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  20. I’d further say this: if we have to have the Senate, and there are arguments for having it, then I cannot see a good reason why we should want the Senators chosen by anyone other than the citizens whom they ostensibly represent. It is wholly unclear to me why it would be the case that one could say that Senators chosen by the legislature would be more representative, more honest, more efficient, or even better at representing the state than elected ones. I certainly am unclear on why such persons would be less prone to federal spending. Part of the problem is that federal spending get spent on people who live in states and is often funneled through state governments. Why would Senators chosen by state legislators be more allergic to said cash than Senators chosen by voters? I am not sure that they wouldn’t actually be more prone to seek such dollars.

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  21. Contrary to your assertion in (3) above, the Campaign to Restore Federalism site does not argue that, “Senators selected by state legislatures would behave all that differently in terms of things like pork barrel spending…” The essay actually says that Senators representing state legislatures would reject legislation containing unfunded mandates to the states. As to the more general question as to how the Senate would be different as to the “basic behavior of the Federal Government”, the obvious answer is that “acting in their own self interests” means to limit the power and scope of the Federal government such that real power remains in the hands of those in the states, those state representatives closest to the source of that power: the people.

    Fundamentally, the structural considerations of the original constitution are based on the answer to this question: If you had to bet your liberty on it, would you rather a) count on government officials behaving altruistically, or b) count on government officials acting primarily in their own self interests, just like every other human on the plant. The pre-17th Amendment America answered B. The post-17th Amendment has answered A, and our spending / debt is the fruit of that belief. We currently believe that people are good and are only looking out for the good of others (see “health care reform”). The original philosophy – upon which the entire U.S. Constitution is predicated is: People can always be counted on to act in their own self-interests, for good and for bad, so our system of separation of powers (in two houses) and checks and balances (in different branches) must account for this reality.

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  22. People can always be counted on to act in their own self-interests, for good and for bad, so our system of separation of powers (in two houses) and checks and balances (in different branches) must account for this reality.

    And so, if I have to choose between a system that relies on the self-interest of voters versus the self-interest of state legislators, I will go with the voters, recognizing that any such system will be far from perfect.

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  23. Also, the model seems to ignore that a Senator chosen by, say, the Massachusetts is going to still be likely behave in a way that reflect the political and ideological predilections of the state and therefore still be prone to vote for policies like health care.

    Do you, for example, doubt, that Ted Kennedy would not have been a Senator for Mass?

    Further, do you doubt that Scott Brown would have been selected by the Mass legislature?

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  24. Fundamentally, the structural considerations of the original constitution are based on the answer to this question: If you had to bet your liberty on it, would you rather a) count on government officials behaving altruistically, or b) count on government officials acting primarily in their own self interests, just like every other human on the plant. The pre-17th Amendment America answered B. The post-17th Amendment has answered A, and our spending / debt is the fruit of that belief.

    Even accepting that this is true, I think it’s simply illogical to believe that changing the way that Senators are picked is going to change the way they behave in office unless there is a change in the way that the American public views the government and the relationship between the states and the Federal Government

    The 17th Amendment was, yes, a major change in the Constitutional structure. But it did not happen in a vacuum. It happened because of the rise of the Progressive movement in American politics, a rise that has led to significant changes throughout government. Merely changing one thing isn’t going to erase almost 100 years of history.

    I used to be one of the people who thought that repealing the 17th Amendment was some kind of cure-all. I was wrong.

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  25. If you wish to argue that repeal of the 17th amendment is a bad idea you must first come up with arguments against the original design for appointment of senators as written by Madison.

    Given that the 17th Amendment has been part of our Constitution for almost a century now, the burden is on those arguing for repeal to explain why changing 100 years of practice and taking out of the people’s hands the right to choose their Senators directly is a good idea.

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  26. Without the 17th, Senator Kennedy would certainly have been the Senator from Massachusetts, but he would not have voted for U.S. Universal Health Care. Why would he have done so? Massachusetts already had an almost identical system, so his people were cared for in the way of their choosing, which is their right and privilege to do so. The people of Massachusetts – under this new plan – will be paying disproportionately for the health care of people outside of their state (as they already pay into the national coffers more than they receive), and now they’re also saddled with a critical mass of new unfunded mandates. Why should they want to do that?

    The unchecked self-interest of voters being represented in both houses of the legislature is not fundamentally immoral, it’s simply unsustainable. Pure representation of the people’s will is a noble goal, but historically it always and inevitably turns into mob rule, and bankruptcy. Democracy has practical limits. The pre-17th constitution tried to maximize the benefits but correct for the extremities of this ideology.

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  27. I don’t believe that anyone here is arguing that a repeal of the 17th is a “cure all”. I believe that people are arguing either a) the 17th was a bad solution for real problems encountered around the turn of the last century, or b) that constitutional structure is more important, and more reliable in the defense of liberty than merely electing the right sort of politicians.

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  28. Since Senator Kennedy was directly elected by the voters of Massachusetts, one must presume that he reflects their views on the issue. What evidence is there that his position would have been any different if he had been appointed by the legislature instead, especially if the passage of “Health Care Reform” would mean that Mass could shift the costs of it’s own health care program to citizens of other states ?

    I understand the argument you’re making. I used to agree with it. The problem is that the reasons that America has strayed so far from Constitutionally limited government are far more complex than simply the question of how we elect Senators. Changing that one thing isn’t going to have very much impact at all.

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  29. Brian says:

    I posted this discussion to my web-log, Repeal the 17th Amendment, and hope this can take on a larger discussion.

    Best regards,
    Brian

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  30. sam says:

    @Doug

    “I don’t consider it a “crackpot” idea at all”

    Maybe not, but I think we should all understand that it’s an attempt to undo the outcome of the Civil War, the one where we stopped saying the “United States are” and began saying “The United States is.”

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  31. sam says:

    Which last led me to think: If we repeal the 17th, shouldn’t we rewrite the Pledge?

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  32. sam says:

    How about this:

    I pledge allegiance, provisionally, to the flag of the United States of America. A country divisible into 50 sovereign states, with liberty and justice to be determined by the legislatures of said sovereign states consistent with the United States Constitution, specifically the Bill of Right: The 10th Amendment.

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  33. Brian says:

    Doug said:

    “I understand the argument you’re making. I used to agree with it. The problem is that the reasons that America has strayed so far from Constitutionally limited government are far more complex than simply the question of how we elect Senators. Changing that one thing isn’t going to have very much impact at all.”

    Doug:

    In the Army we taught soldiers when they get lost to go back to the last known point to re-orient themselves and then make another go at trying to find the land navigation point. If we have strayed so far off from limited government at what point do we at least stop and regain our direction rather than continuing forward while being lost.

    Repealing the 17th Amendment is not the end all elixir, but is one of a few needed remedies to stop the tremendous growth of the federal government. I would argue as well that the 16th Amendment should as well, but we can wait for the good professor to post about this later. But at the end of the day when we consider that the deficit is $1.7 trillion and growing, almost ten years of straight war and not to forget the that we have almost been in constant state of war since WWII, economic conditions that are more accurately called a depression rather than a back to back recession, and a federal government that is growing by leaps and bounds isn’t time we did something different. May be something different from electing the same jokers year after year. Maybe “limiting” their power. Maybe “balancing” their power. Maybe “checking” their power.

    No one’s calling for turning back the hands of time to 19th century, but maybe the framers got a few things right, and maybe in 1913 the progressives got a few things wrong.

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  34. sam says:

    “If we have strayed so far off from limited government at what point do we at least stop and regain our direction rather than continuing forward while being lost.”

    But that’s begging the question, in the logical sense: You’re assuming that had we not passed the 17th Amendment, we wouldn’t be, roughly, where we are now in terms of size of government. That’s an unprovable counterfactual. Would we still have the largest economy in the world? Would the Depression not have happened? Would WWII not have happened? Would the Cold War not have happened? These are the things, basically, that led the growth of government. Do you really think the absence of the 17th Amendment would have changed the course of history so drastically?

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  35. sam says:

    Let me ask you a question, Brian. How would the pre-17th regime have prevented the passage of the Smoot-Hawley Tarrif, generally believed to have mightly contributed to the severity of the Depression? The Wiki page says:

    The House passed a version of the act in May 1929, increasing tariffs on agricultural and industrial goods alike. The Senate debated its bill until March 1930, with many Senators trading votes based on their states’ industries. [my emphasis]

    Are you willing to argue that the legislative selection of Senators would not have led to this same result? (In fact, it looks just like the kind of result you would expect to see under the no 17th model: Senators voting to benefit their constitutionalities. I.e., no difference at all.)

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  36. sam says:

    constituencies,of course. not constitutionalities (to quick on clickin the spell check ok).

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  37. Rick says:

    Get rid of the Senate entirely. It’s the ruling elite billionaire’s club of 100. It is becoming the hatching nest for out -of-touch, clueless Presidents. Along with getting rid of the Senate, we should at the same time get rid of the Supreme Court. Again, an un-accountable, un-elected cabal of elitist tyrants.

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  38. Tim S. Dalton says:

    We are all familiar with the balance of power between the three branches of the federal government. But there is also supposed to be a balance between the federal government, the State governments, and the people. This is why the people elected congressmen to the House of Representatives, “The People’s House”; the States appointed the Senators to maintain the balance of federalism; and the Electoral College elected the President to help insure his independence.

    Over time, the vulnerability of the people to both the State and federal governments has resulted in the need (in the 14th Amendment), for the federal government to protect the civil rights of the people from abusive State governments. But the power of the States must be such as to be able to protect the civil rights of the people, as well, from an abusive federal government.

    In the beginning, it could be argued that the federal government had no authority *at all* to interfere with the people, one way or another. The people were citizens of their States, so if the federal government wanted something from the people, it had to go through the States to get it. Even soldiers for the military.

    While Washington was the first president to violate the constitution, sending troops against citizens in the Whiskey Rebellion, the problems began in earnest in the 1810 Supreme Court decision Marbury v. Madison, which both established the power of the Supreme Court, and established that the President was effectively above the law.

    From that point, most every time the States tried to assert their constitutional authority, they were threatened with force of arms by the President. Andrew Jackson threatened to hang everyone who had voted for nullification in South Carolina to Dwight Eisenhower sending in the 101st Airborne to force integration in Little Rock.

    The judiciary also entered the fray, today now ordering State legislatures to appropriate money for the whims of the judge, and putting their State offices under special masters to insure obedience, as well as levying fines for non-compliance.

    The real offense is against the people, however. From the start of our nation, we never had an effective means of levying taxes to pay for the federal government. Constitutionally, the federal government cannot demand that the States pay taxes, so it should be up to the States to figure out how much of the people’s taxes they wish to give to the federal government. How about that for having a balanced budget?

    So it was no coincidence that the 16th Amendment, The Income Tax, happened in close proximity to the 17th Amendment. The federal government wanted direct taxation of the people without the States as intermediaries. But of course, with this power came a great ability of the federal government to control the people. Yet State appointed Senators would clearly stand in the way of this power.

    Thus, by making the US Senate more democratic, the federal government got far more power to control the people. The States are no longer able to protect us from them.

    Yes, we need to repeal the 16th Amendment as well, and create some new means of taxation that does not inherently empower control over our lives.

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  39. Ken says:

    I don’t see how you don’t recognize the propensity of legislators(politicians) to protect and advance their own power, even when that protection may go against the current will of the people.

    For example: The state may want money for various things from the Federal Government as that money inevitably comes form other States. Whereas the people might not care so much in exactly how that money is spent and thus their inclined to let the Senators indulge themselves and their political fancy dictating to the State how to spend the Federal Money. the State legislator on the other hand will care as they will want the money given to them with little or no strings attached so that they may choose how it spend that money.(Thus more practical autonomy for each region and less corrupting vote buying power for Washington D.C.).

    By placing the senate in the hands of the State legislators as the Founding Fathers places it, we help to make it more likely that the Senate will be elected to preform its basic constitutional function of protecting the power and autonomy from Federal intrusion.

    It won’t cure all our problems but it will help slow the bleeding.

    The industrialization excuses for the centralization of power is largely a farce the state is just as capable of deciding how to regulate industries as the federal government and with only minor federal help in enforcing those rules to prevent flight, we can have something closer to the best of both worlds.

    Instead what we have right now is a Federal government that cares little for the autonomy and self-determination of our states, as the people vote for them as if they were 1 big government rather then 50 smaller competing States.

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  40. sam says:

    @Ken

    By placing the senate in the hands of the State legislators as the Founding Fathers places it, we help to make it more likely that the Senate will be elected to preform its basic constitutional function of protecting the power and autonomy [of the states] from Federal intrusion.[I think you'll agree with my interpolation, ok?]

    Well, that’s the crux. The argument, as I understand it, is that senators, being beholden to the state legislature for their being a senator, would be disinclined, strongly, to support legislation at the federal level that the legislature believes would disadvantage the state. Of course, and this goes unacknowledged, the same senators would be strongly inclined to support legislation at the federal level that the legislature believesadvantages their state. Now, consider that blue states are, for the most part, the wealthier states and that it’s established that the red states are net importers of federal dollars, the blue states, net exporters. Can you think of a reason why, under the Senate as bastion of parochialism regime, the blue states would not become progressively far more wealthy and powerful and the red states progressively more impoverished and weak?

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  41. Tim,

    A lot could be said, but let me stick to fundamentals:<blockquote>Thus, by making the US Senate more democratic, the federal government got far more power to control the people.  The States are no longer able to protect us from them</blockquote>

    The major problem you have in the above quoted passage, and in the entire discussion, is that assumption that the interests of the states are ultimately separable from the interests of the people in those states.  However, given that the interests of the states derives directly from the people in said states, you have a rather serious problem with your reasoning.

    Further, you are really missing the fundamental point about the origins of the system:  this was not a grandiose scheme of balancing the people and the states via the Senate.  Rather, it was a political compromise to get the small states to go along with the process.  Again, as noted above, if you look at the Virgina Plan, as written by Madison, the his preference was for a Senate chosen by the House and apportioned by population.

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  42. Ken says:

     
    @Sam

    Well, that’s the crux. The argument, as I understand it, is that senators, being beholden to the state legislature for their being a senator, would be disinclined, strongly, to support legislation at the federal level that the legislature believes would disadvantage the state. Of course, and this goes unacknowledged, the same senators would be strongly inclined to support legislation at the federal level that the legislature believesadvantages their state. Now, consider that blue states are, for the most part, the wealthier states and that it’s established that the red states are net importers of federal dollars, the blue states, net exporters. Can you think of a reason why, under the Senate as bastion of parochialism regime, the blue states would not become progressively far more wealthy and powerful and the red states progressively more impoverished and weak?

     
    So your telling me that the blue states would suddenly become interested in not exporting their dollars to the red states via federal Taxation and spending?
    I can’t think of a more wonderful thing that could happen.  Ideologically the Red State population’s don’t want this redistribution of wealth cause its unethical, but the “blue state” population keep voting for politicians that force it upon us, with of course numerous strings of control attached.   What better way to end this madness then to get them to face reality.
    Let each state stand on their own merits free of each other.
     
    @Steven L. Taylor

    The major problem you have in the above quoted passage, and in the entire discussion, is that assumption that the interests of the states are ultimately separable from the interests of the people in those states.  However, given that the interests of the states derives directly from the people in said states, you have a rather serious problem with your reasoning.

     
    Steve I’m afraid your mistaken in that the interest of the states as expressed by the politicians running the state are Not derived excursively from the people.   Instead the interest of the State as expressed by its leaders(politicians) is also derived from the personal power-interest of the same politicians.
    It is exactly that power-interest which will incline politicians to select senators that resist federal encroachment upon their “power”.   That is the function of the senate in helping to structurally maintain the Federal system.
     

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  43. sam says:

    “Ideologically the Red State population’s don’t want this redistribution of wealth”

    You’re sure of this, right, that as a matter of ideology, the red states are fine with becoming more impoverished and weak?

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  44. Brian says:

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    Sam said:

    “Let me ask you a question, Brian. How would the pre-17th regime have prevented the passage of the Smoot-Hawley Tarrif, generally believed to have [mightily] contributed to the severity of the Depression?”

    Sam:

    My estimation is that they would not have passed such an act. There may have been a minor adjustment but nothing like Smoot-Hawley. You’ll note that it was also at this time in which the Federal Reserve kept interest rates artificially low in conjunction with the tariffs. It can be said that the free markets were rejected in favor of Keysian economics.

    Smoot-Hawley might have contributed to the depression, but certainly based upon the research conducted by Freidman, Rothbard and others, one can conclude that the depression resulted primarily from the Federal Reserve.

    Here is the reason we can’t look at the 17th in a vacuum and say things like it prevents democracy. In actually the 17th is tied to both the 16th Amendment and the Federal Reserve Act and formed a tirade of trouble ever since. Just look at the headlines of today and see how the US Senate works hand and glove with the secretive Federal Reserve, just like when Smoot-Hawley was passed.

    The states are the watchdog of the federal government, without it we have what we have today…economic meltdown.


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  45. sam says:

    @Brian

    “My estimation is that they would not have passed such an act.”

    But Brian, I think the history shows just the opposite. My point in bringing up Smoot-Hawley was contained in this:

    The Senate debated its bill until March 1930, with many Senators trading votes based on their states’ industries. [my emphasis]

    </blockquote

    That is, the political dynamic would have been the same, 17th or no 17th: The senators voted their states' advantage, as they saw it. Absence of the 17th would not have changed that dynamic one whit, I think. BTW, the voting history of the act is interesting:

    The impact of the Depression helped to secure the final few votes necessary to put together a slim majority in the Senate in favor of passage of the bill. Final passage in the Senate took place on June 13, 1930 by a vote of 44 to 42. Final passage took place in the House the following day by a vote of 245 to 177. The vote was largely on party lines. Republicans in the House voted 230 to 27 in favor of final passage. Ten of the 27 Republicans voting no were Progressives from Wisconsin and Minnesota. Democrats voted 150 to 15 against final passage. Ten of the 15 Democrats voting for final passage were from Louisiana or Florida and represented citrus or sugar interests that received significant new protection under the bill.

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  46. sam says:

    sigh, sorry for lousy framing…

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  47. Idahoser says:

    it isn’t at all hard to understand why the 17th was done when you realize who did it- Have you heard of Woodrow Wilson lately by chance?  The ‘progressive’ element knew that the fedgov could not achieve ‘perfection’ with those pesky states always keeping their own authority to themselves.  THAT is the power the fedgov has accumulated- that which the states were no longer able to protect when the senators were no longer their representatives.
    The former Senate became a second, perverted, House of Representatives.  The Republic became a ‘former’ in the process.

    This is how runaway federal government happened, and repealing 17 is the necessary first step to whittling it back down to size.

    Unless you yourself are one of these ‘progressives’ that wants to see DC run every miniscule aspect of our lives, you have things you want to change.  I’m here to tell you that you won’t get it unless you first repeal the 17th.

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  48. Idahoser says:

    The Senate was the original ‘party of no’.  The House would come up with every wacky kind of way to spend my money for this silliness or that, but the senate, as required by their employers, would prevent the fedgov from exercising that power in favor of keeping those decisions local.
    When the Senate transformed into another House, they started competing with the Constitutional House for ever more wacky ways to spend my money to buy votes.  NOBODY is saying ‘NO’.

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  49. Idahoser says:

    Ted Kennedy (MHRIH) would never have been interested in being a senator if they were still anonymous employees of the state, subject to the state legislature’s instructions on threat of recall.

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  50. Ted Kennedy (MHRIH) would never have been interested in being a senator if they were still anonymous employees of the state, subject to the state legislature’s instructions on threat of recall.

    The states never possessed a right to recall Senators before their term expired

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  51. they were still anonymous employees of the state

    If you think Senators were “anonymous employees of the state” I think you need to review your pre-17th Amendment history.

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  52. Brian says:

    Sam:
    Are you still quoting from Wikipedia?
    The Congress only raised tariffs one other time in US History (1836 or 39?). We can assume that had the Federal Reserve not existed, Senate not working behind the scenes with Wall Street, and Wall Street bankers had not kept interest rates artificially low it would never have happened and likely the ill effects of 1929 would have not blossomed into what became the worst depression this country has known…until say the one that is taking shape right now.
    The senate was not working for the best interest of their “state” industries; they were using the power of government (meddling) to shape the financial environment. Like the Congress of today, the Congress of 1930 fell victim to following the advise of Wall Street rather than Main Street.

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  53. Brian says:
  54. Brian says:

    Mr. Taylor:
    Thanks for the opportunity to come over and engage in the discussion.
    Best regards,
    BD
    Repeal the 17th Amendment Web-log

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  55. sam says:

    @Brian

    “Sam:
    Are you still quoting from Wikipedia?”

    Yes, and you’re still missing my point.

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  56. Steve says:

    The same year the 17th was ratified, the 16th was too.  The combined repeal of the two, by the states in convention, can save the country, and here’s how:

    By repealing the 16th, the states can take over complete control of all direct income tax revenue.  California, for instance, could instantly balance its budget by raising taxes on its citizens to cover their $60 billion deficit.  The citizens of California currently send about $500 billion to Washington through direct taxation.  So, how would the federal government get its hand on at least a portion of the rest of the $500 billion?  The federal government would have to impose a tax on the state treasuries (apportioned according to population, as required by Article I).  With the repeal of the 17th amendment, the states would be in control of the senate and there is no way the the states would approve of the current size of the federal government.  Unfunded mandates would disappear, and the states would determine just how large the federal government would be.

    The states, who are facing bankruptcy, have every incentive to do this.  And doing this would save the country.  Once done, the states would have to compete with one another for people and business.  The return of federalism and competition would ensure that the social welfare programs and taxes would stay in balance.

    Remember, the Founders were suspicious of “the people.”  They set up a government with checks and balances to slow down and diffuse power, not to eliminate corruption, but to pit factions against one another.  The horizontal checks are in place (except for the growth of judicial power) but the verticle check–between the states and the federal government– was destroyed with the passage of the 16th and 17th amendments.  The states are now simply agents, in many respects, of the federal government.

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  57. [...] whether we should repeal the 17th Amendment — a moot topic that’s so two weeks ago — Ezra Klein asserts that, The Founders [...]

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