Too Much Democracy II

Cris, commenting on this morning’s post, provides a link to the full text of Zell Miller’s Senate floor speech calling for a repeal of the 17th Amendment.

I still don’t buy the argument but the speech is worth reading, and not only for the entertainment value of lines such as this:

The U.S. Senate has become just one big, bad, ongoing joke, held hostage by special interests and so impotent an eighteen wheeler truck loaded with Viagra would do no good.

I don’t disagree that many of the problems he cites exist or that they’re a shame. I just don’t think repealing the 17th Amendment would solve them, even if it were within the realm of possibility. There’s little reason to think an appointed Senate would act much different. It’s not as if state legislatures are the repositories of our best statesmen. For that matter, the same problems that Miller cites in the Senate exist in the House, most Members of whom are, for all practical purposes, appointed by their state legislatures since they’re drawn into “safe” seats that virtually ensure the victory of the incumbent or a like-minded individual.

FILED UNDER: Democracy, US Politics,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. James, you miss the whole point of what the effect of the 17th Amendment has had on the original idea of state’s rights. All power is now “inside the beltway” instead of in state legislatures.

  2. James Joyner says:


    I don’t actually think that’s true. State legislatures are still enormously powerful. Even though federalism ain’t what it used to be, most issues are still state and local. Education, most criminal and civil law, and the way people live their day-to-day lives are still controlled almost entirely at the local level. Plus, state legislatures draw up congressional districts.

    Right now, Senators are elected by and accountable to the people of their states. Under the old system, they were indirectly elected by the state legislatures. I’m not sure why cronies of the legislature would have more loyalty to the state than those elected by the people of the state.