A Correction

 

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.

FILED UNDER: Blogosphere, Quick Takes
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020.

Comments

  1. Tex Lovera says:

    Now that is how you graciously correct an error.

    And Glenn graciously noted (and quickly!) that you had posted your correction, quickly!

    THIS is the true “new civility”, which is really just good old-fashioned manners.

  2. Brian Macker says:

    I’ve got a better idea. Don’t allow lawyers and judges to run for executive or legislative office.

  3. Jay Tea says:

    God help me, I’m sticking up for Obama: we were pretty much boned, in this sense, in 2008. Both parties nominated Senators. Obama’s veep choice was a Senator and a former rival. Four other Obama rivals — including the last one standing — were Senators or former Senators. And on the Republican side, yet another Senator was in the race.

    In brief, Democrats: Obama, Biden, Clinton, Dodd, Edwards, Gravel. Toss in Bayh, if you like; we as both a Senator and a Governor. And let’s not forget Representative Kucinich.

    Republicans: McCain, Brownback.

    J.

  4. Herb says:

    Hmmm….still seems like a solution in search of a problem. Fact is, there just isn’t any pressing need to do anything to the 17th amendment. I don’t think Rick Perry will be talking too much about this one, unless he really really wants to be hit with the “out of touch” label.

  5. Marty says:

    @Jay Tea:
    Just looking at your list of Senators from 2008 convinces me that Reynolds is on to something. What a horrible collection of self-important un-accomplished egotists, none of whom except McCain (the McCain of 40 years ago, the USN squadron commander, not the 2008 version) would I trust to run a McDonalds franchise, let alone the US Executive Branch.

  6. Neil Ferguson says:

    Heads up. This is shown by my (Firefox) browser when I reached this site:

    “Warning: Dangerous Site
    Whoa!
    Are you sure you want to go there?

    https://www.outsidethebeltway.com/a-correction/ may be risky to visit.

    Why were you redirected to this page?

    When we visited this site, we found it exhibited one or more
    risky behaviors.”

  7. Herb says:

    @Jay Tea: Jay, I think you hit on why Reynolds wants to keep senators out of it….

    The Dems have the distinguished senators. The Republicans have the distinguished governors. Make it so the senators can’t run……..advantage Republicans.

  8. Ron says:

    @Herb:

    I disagree completely. The 17th amendment strips the states of their representation with the Federal Govt. Without that representation, states have been burdened with endless unfunded mandates. Because of this, the U.S. has been steadily moving in the direction of a federally directed bureaucratic state; far too similar to France for comfort. The 17th should not only be repealed, it should be replaced with a mandate that Senators be appointed, not elected.

  9. Step lightly when you’re quoting a guy who uses Shih tzu’s for slurpies.

  10. Jerry Gilfore says:

    Nice post, Doug. Indeed, we ALL make mistakes, and you handled this error with grace.

  11. Franklin says:

    It’s good to apologize, but the idea of making Senator ineligible for President is so arbitrary that you might as well have not posted anything. Basing it on a statistically meaningless sample of three people (one of which hasn’t had the benefit of history to judge yet) is even more stupid.

    Not to mention, someone with Presidential ambitions would just find another route.

  12. Akatsukami says:

    @Ron: I suggest another way: abolish the Senate entirely, and have its functions exercised by the action of an appropriate number of state legislatures.

  13. SongDog says:

    @Ron: Not to mention federal judges running roughshod over the states in all kinds of cases from the school desegregation era to the more current legislation dealing with illegals. Here in Texas a federal judge ran the state prison system for many years and it literally took an act of Congress to shake him off.

    Something tells me lots of those judges wouldn’t have been confirmed, maybe not even nominated, if the senate still represented the states instead of just another slice of electorate.

  14. Herb says:

    @Ron: I dunno, Ron. The 17th has been on the books for a hundred years now, arguably our most prosperous century, and the problems you describe don’t seem large enough to justify changing it.

  15. kwo says:

    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.

    Nixon was a senator before being selected as Eisenhower’s running mate in 1952. So while he didn’t ascend directly from the Senate to the Presidency, I think he should be added to the above list. Which I think further strengthens the point.

  16. Jay Tea says:

    kwo, Nixon had tenure as a veep and governor of California before he got elected president. That, to me, kind of “washes out” the Senate taint.

    On the other hand, Abraham Lincoln went from Senator to president…

    J.

  17. Jay Tea,

    Not to nitpick, but Nixon lost his race to Edmund Brown in 1962 for Governor of California. Hence the phrase “You won’t have Nixon to kick around anymore.” Nonetheless, you are right that Nixon had Executive Branch experience prior to becoming President, partly because Eisenhower allowed him to do more than previous Vice-Presidents.

  18. Alternative: allow senators and governors to run for president, but require that they resign their current office when they do so.

    That way we don’t get situations where people are robbed of their representation or governance for two years because someone is more interested in running for president than doing the job they were elected to do.

  19. Tano says:

    .@Jay Tea:

    Nixon had tenure as a veep and governor of California before he got elected president.

    Nixon was never governor of California.

    On the other hand, Abraham Lincoln went from Senator to president…

    Lincoln was never a Senator.

  20. Ron says:

    @Herb:

    Don’t look now, but there’re getting larger by the day. The EPA is in total overreach mode, the NLRB is attempting to mandate which states that companies can locate in; OSHA has tried before to intrude into home businesses, and that’s just off the top of my head. Once a bureaucracy is established, it will always attempt to expand its reach and power. What we see today is the cumulative results of those last hundred years.

  21. StoneHeads says:

    Tex Lovera says:
    Saturday, September 3, 2011 at 09:12
    Now that is how you graciously correct an error.

    And Glenn graciously noted (and quickly!) that you had posted your correction, quickly!

    THIS is the true “new civility”, which is really just good old-fashioned manners.

    Tex Lovera nails it. Now, if only the supposedly ‘mainstream’ media with their ‘layers of editors and fact-checkers’ could follow the example set by a pair of mere bloggers. But I guess that would upset the preferred narrative. For instance, I note that the New York Times STILL hasn’t corrected the many errors in their Eric Lichtblau-created hit-piece on Darrell Issa. Ah, well, their descent into irrelevancy will merely accelerate. Faster, please…

  22. StoneHeads says:

    @Stormy Dragon:

    Great idea!

  23. Tano says:

    Maybe we should forbid governors from running for President, given the examples of George Bush and Ronald Reagan and Jimmy Carter.

    Or maybe we should forbid Texans, given Bush and LBJ.

    Or maybe we should forbid all males from running, given the lot of them.

    As you may guess, I think this post is pretty idiotic.

  24. StoneHeads says:

    @Brian Macker:

    Considering that courts have ruled on more than one occasion that lawyers ARE officers of the judiciary, that makes total sense. Let the judiciary interpret, but don’t let them make the laws. I am firmly convinced that a large percentage of our current problems can be traced directly to lawyers’ obfuscation. As someone once said (wish I could remember who said it), lawyers don’t care if something is right or wrong – they only care about finding a loophole to exploit.

  25. Freddie Sykes says:

    @Ron:

    I completely agree: the Senators should work for the states and the Representatives for the people. A perfect balance between a democracy and a republic which would lead to limiting the federal government to those powers that a majority of each group agreed upon.

  26. Billsv says:

    Before including Warren Harding in this group it would be useful to review his record on handling the economic depression in 1920. That Period was worse than what Obama faced in 2008. He did exactly opposite to Obama. He cut federal spending 50%, cut taxes and did not print dollars. The economy started turning in 6 months and was off and running in18 months resulting in the roaring twenties. Kennedy cut taxes.

  27. Phos says:

    @StoneHeads:

    “lawyers don’t care if something is right or wrong – they only care about finding a loophole to exploit billable hours.”

    FIFY

  28. Billsv,

    Harding was a horrible Executive, which is typical of legislators. The economic program can be attributed largely to his Secretary of the Treasury Andrew Mellon

  29. WR says:

    @Tano: Yes, but it’s in line with current Republican thinking. They’re dropping the mask of “vote fraud” now and coming right out and saying what they believe — only wealthy white males should be allowed the vote. The “American Thinker,” which Jan insists is an important and influential journal, published such a piece yesterday. And it turns out that Forbes has also run one.

    The Republican philosophy is simple: Only people like me should get to vote, and they should only get to vote for the people I pre-approve. Apparently when the Tea Party says they want to “take our country back,” the people they want to take it back from are all those who don’t look and think exactly like them.

    And yes, we all know Doug is “not a Republican.” But he’s sure embraced this plank of their platform.

  30. Tano says:

    I completely agree: the Senators should work for the states and the Representatives for the people.

    What a wonderful idea. Take away half of the political power that is in the hands of the people, and turn it over to governments. We got a real winner here!

  31. @Tano:

    Take away half of the political power that is in the hands of the people, and turn it over to governments. We got a real winner here!

    Indeed.

    I do not understand the notion that giving politicians control of politicians is somehow considered to be a net bonus.

  32. Hal Duston says:

    Benjamin Harrison, Franklin Pierce, and Andrew Jackson were also presidents whose previous election position was senator, although Jackson was military governor of Florida before being serving in the Senate. Abraham Lincoln was elected some years after having served in the House of Representatives.

  33. michael reynolds says:

    Considering the sheer volume of Doug’s work it’s impressive that this isn’t a daily feature.

    But just to undercut all this civility I think I’ll “dislike” every other comment.

  34. Ron says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    That’s easy. Knowing that his re-appointment is up to the governor, no senator wishing to be re-appointed is going to vote for measures that will force that governor to raise taxes, or impose unwanted regulations.

    In short, senators will be more motivated to protect the interests of their respective states.

  35. Jay Tea says:

    Er… um… I made those mistakes about Lincoln and Nixon JUST so that I, too, could be like Doug and say “yup, I was wrong. Sorry about that.”

    Yeah, that’s the ticket…

    J.

  36. WR says:

    @Ron: No, they’ll be more motivated to protect the interests of the governors of their respective states, whether or not that happens to coincide with the interests of the people of that state. It’s a recipe for corruption.

  37. KansasMom says:

    @WR: My senators are already pretty damn conservative all on their own but my governor is pretty much a theocrat and a Kochwhore to boot. The last thing this state needs is for this man to take another single thing from the citizens of this state. At least I can work for a more moderate conservative in the primaries to balance the governor’s influence out a little.

  38. @Ron:

    Knowing that his re-appointment is up to the governor

    Well, if we were to repeal the 17th Amendment, the appointment process would go back to the state legislatures, not the governors.

    Regardless, the notion that states have interests apart from the people who live in those states is a problematic proposition.

  39. StoneHeads says:

    @Phos:
    Good point. Thanks for the fix!

  40. StoneHeads says:

    @Tano:

    Errr…Ronald Reagan is consistently ranked as one of the very best Presidents we have ever had. Even the academic Left has had to admit it. Jimmy Carter was a horrendous executive and is generally regarded (again even by the academic Left) as pretty much a failure in every possible way. If your Bush reference is to George W. Bush (as opposed to George H.W. Bush), I think it’s a little early to judge him, but I would opine that he probably falls somewhere in between Reagan and Carter. Definitely not on Reagan’s level, but nowhere near as bad as Carter.

    The moral of the story is that not all executives have the chops to be President of the United Sates, but as a group, former governors have a better record than former Senators. That might be due to the larger sample size, but executive experience does help when one is aiming to gain arguably the most difficult executive job in the entire world.

  41. StoneHeads says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    Actually, the Founders thought they did. The idea was that the states as organizations do have interests and if the Senators are appointed by the legislatures, the Senators are more accountable to the State organizations as opposed to the people. Originally, the House was for the people’s direct representation and the Senators were to be elected by the state legislatures..

    That being said, I do agree that in the current climate, and especially with the current political class we are stuck with, repealing the 17th Amendment may or may not be a good idea. However, let me note that here political ideas are concerned, the Founders did get most of the basics right, and the early 20th century Progressives who foisted the 17th Amendment (not to mention the 16th Amendment that created the income tax) on us have pretty much been proven to have gotten them wrong. So if it is a choice between the theories of the Founders and the theories of the Wilsonian progressives, I’d side with the Founders every time.

  42. @StoneHeads:

    “The federal and State governments are in fact but different agents and trustees of the people, constituted with different powers, and designed for different purposes.”–James Madison, Federalist 46

    Note the focus on “the people” and the fact thatbthe states and the central govnemrnment derive their power, authority, and reason for existence from the people. Just because the states have different functions does not mean that they have interests different from said people.

    See also: Madison and States v. the Central Government

  43. Tano says:

    Ronald Reagan is consistently ranked as one of the very best Presidents we have ever had.

    Only by conservatives. I think him one of the worst.

    Jimmy Carter was a horrendous executive and is generally regarded (again even by the academic Left) as pretty much a failure in every possible way.

    Only by morons. I included him in the list of ex-governors who were not Presidents to be proud of because I recognize that he was a failure as a political leader. But to claim he was a failure in every possible way is mindless. He played a major role in the most important diplomatic achievement in the Middle East, winning a lasting peace for Israel with its most dangerous enemy. And he set in place the process which cured the economic woes of the seventies and yielded a generation of healthy growth – i.e. hiring Paul Volcker for Fed chairman with the mandate to defeat inflation, even if it cost him his reelection.

    The moral of the story is that not all executives have the chops to be President of the United Sates, but as a group, former governors have a better record than former Senators.

    Whether this is true or not makes no difference, because we do not elect statistically average Senators or governors. We elect specific individuals – and there is no reason to believe that they will conform to any tendency amongst the category of people who have held similar jobs to them.

  44. rrr says:

    “The Republican philosophy is simple: Only people like me should get to vote, and they should only get to vote for the people I pre-approve. Apparently when the Tea Party says they want to “take our country back,” the people they want to take it back from are all those who don’t look and think exactly like them.”
    @WR:

    Yes, that’s exactly it. The Republicans will not be happy until there is no possibility of anyone even breathing anything contrary to what God dictates via Rick Perry. It’s either that, or you, WR, and your ilk are more foolishly myopic than I thought another human being is capable of being.

    Oh, BTW, “we all know Doug is a Democrat, but . . . ” Yea, it’s only the conservatives that are involved in group think, right WR? Is it actually possible for you to even note the irony? Thought not.

  45. @Steven L. Taylor:

    I think it’s not so much as the states having separate interests than the people so much as state politicians having different interests from federal politicians. If there is a proposal that is popular but expensive, it is too easy for the federal government to pass a requirement but push all the costs of implementing it onto the states. This lets federal politicians to take credit for the popular parts, but leave all the unpopular tax increases and spending cuts to the state politicians. Letting the state politicians have some sort of check on congress prevents that.