As Glenn Reynolds notes this morning, in my post about Rick Perry from earlier this week, I was incorrect in lumping him in with those who have called for a repeal of the 17th Amendment. Here’s what he actually said in the paper that I linked:
It’s even enough to get some people calling for a repeal of the Seventeenth Amendment, which required direct popular election of Senators, whose selection was previously left in the hands of state legislatures.
I don’t know what I think of this idea — you want to think that anything would be an improvement over what we’ve got now, but heck, that’s probably what people thought when we ratified the Seventeenth Amendment — but I have heard it proposed more than once recently. (Some somewhat more serious criticism of the Seventeenth Amendment can be found here.) And this is surely a bad reflection on the Senate as it exists now.
My own proposal for reform would be a bit different: Make anyone who serves in the Senate ineligible to run for President. That wouldn’t be much of a loss, really — Senators do very badly in the Presidential election business anyway. But while legislatively selected Senators might have been smart guys, or at least politically wise men, Senators elected in statewide races are likely to be ambitious politicians who see the Senate as a stepping stone. My proposal would steer those people elsewhere, which might improve the Senate.
That’s not a bad idea, actually. Considering the three Senators who have actually been elected President — Harding, Kennedy, and Obama — history would suggest that it’s best to avoid electing anyone for the Upper Chamber to the Presidency.
My apologies to Professor Reynolds for mis-stating his argument.