The Seventeenth Amendment

In 1913, the 17th Amendment was ratified. For the first time in American history, voters would be able to directly elect their United States Senators. The decision seems like a no-brainer. Shouldn’t the people be allowed to elect their own Senators?

The debate surrounding the 17th Amendment is eerily similar to those surrounding today’s efforts to eliminate the Electoral College. The 17th Amendment had many unfortunate and unintended consequences. Why would the Electoral College be any different?

Originally, the Constitution provided that state legislatures should select U.S. Senators. Imagine that you do not get to vote for your Senator. Instead, you know that you will elect your state legislators, then THEY will choose someone to represent your state in the United States Senate. Early Americans lived this way, and they began to want something more democratic.

“The thing we do want,” Senator Albert J. Beveridge said at the time, “the thing upon which the people are determined, the thing which they ought to have . . . is a right of the people to elect their Senators themselves.” Any other position, Beveridge concluded, stems from a “profound distrust of the people” and should not be tolerated in a democracy.

Unfortunately, his statement reflected a deep misunderstanding of our founding principles. The Founders were never trying to create a *pure* democracy. Instead, they created a republic, complete with separation of powers, checks and balances, and other safeguards for liberty. The senatorial election process was one of these safeguards.

The Senate was created to serve a different function than the House of Representatives. The House is a purely democratic body with “one person, one vote” representation. The Senate was intended to be a more republican, deliberative body with “one state, one vote” representation. The House gives the people a voice. The Senate was supposed to give the states a voice.

Nevertheless, the 17th Amendment was passed, and it had a lot of support. Only 191 legislators *nationwide* opposed ratification—152 of those votes came from Vermont and Connecticut! Most state legislatures unanimously supported the change. Besides the concern about being “more democratic,” people were upset about legislative stalemates in the selection process for Senators. Some people were also concerned that their state legislators were open to bribery.

But if your state legislator is open to bribery in one area, why wouldn’t he be in other areas? And why would you keep electing him?

Ratification of the 17th Amendment has had many unforeseen consequences.

The original constitutional provision made Senators accountable to state legislatures. Thus, the states themselves, as sovereign entities, had a voice in the federal legislative process. They could defend themselves from encroachments upon their power or from mandates put upon them by a federal government quick to make promises but slow to fund them. But the 17th Amendment, as Senator Zell Miller noted in 2004, “was the death of the careful balance between State and Federal Government. . . . Today State governments have to stand in line because they are just another one of the many special interests that try to get Senators to listen to them, and they are at an extreme disadvantage because they have no PAC.”

Since 1913, the federal government has massively grown in size, cost and power. But what would it look like today if the 17th Amendment had never been ratified?

 

Meme-of-the-Day

 

Judgment

15 COMMENTS

  1. The 17th IS a no-brainer.
    I wish that instead brains had been used.
    Senators are not elected by their constituents, but placed by national, out of state interest money.
    They certainly no longer represent their states.
    Then again, AOC doesn’t represent her district either.
    Neither does Debbie Dingle her district.
    The problem is the monied interests.

  2. Murphy said “If it works DON’T FIX IT!”. Yet man cannot help himself – everywhere there is some element that always has to screw with things. God gave us 10 “basic laws”, yet a portion of society continuously works to undermine and/or shade them to allow their bad behavior, somehow believing (assuming they believe to begin with) God won’t notice.

    For the past 150 years The Founders’ brilliance has been rarely seen in our elected officials, who (as Ed said) are motivated by money interests. These types will always strive to undermine what The Founders set in place to meet their desired end result, justifying their bad behavior as “for the good of the people and fairness”. Grifter’s and poser’s can’t help themselves, it’s in their DNA. That diner scene in Ford vs. Ferrari encapsulates this so well:

    “Do you think Ford is going to let you build the car you want the way you want it? All the middle managers will want their picture taken with the great Carroll Shelby, and then they’re going to go back to their lovely offices, and they’re going to work out new ways to screw you. Why? Because they can’t help it. Because they just want to please their boss who wants to please his boss who wants to please his boss. And they hate themselves for it. But deep down, who they hate even more are guys like you, because you’re not like them, because you don’t think like them, because you’re DIFFERENT.”

    We are the different ones, and they hate us. Okay by me.

    According to The Hologram in Chief, Amendments are no longer set in stone. Okay..then repealing the 17th Amendment might have a chance under the new rules. It’s time.

    • Since Chairman Xo says no amendment is set in stone, maybe we don’t need to repeal the 17th amendment. Maybe we need to convince our state legislatures to pass a law saying it’s their job to choose the senators and not the voters’ job.

      I don’t think you change the big picture of big money politics, but you get it all spent in your state legislature rather than statewide on voters.

      Hard to figure how that would play out.

      • Maybe they’d serve the interests of the states? Maybe?

        Likely they’d be just as corrupt, and nothing would be any different.

      • Good thought — use their open rules playbook against them. Since they are ignoring the rule of law and The Constitution we should be afforded the same “consideration” to achieve what is right and good at a State level. Win, win.

  3. There is an practical illustration we can refer to , for getting rid of the electoral college.

    USSC decisions “Baker vs Carr, “Reynolds vs Sims”. This series of cases resulted in state senators being elected by population base, instead of geographical base. Ostensibly, this was done for “fairness”, so each person could feel they had an equal say.
    The result was the concentration of power in the cities, and now Denver, rules CO, Seattle rules WA, etc, across the country. Chief Justice Earl Warren called these the most important cases of his career, and “coincidentally” they handed the left many states, as many have noted, city dwellers tend to lean toward dependency.
    Getting rid of the electoral college would have the same effect nationally, and a few states, ruled by a few big cities, would effectively hold the entire country as a fiefdom.

    BTW, the people running this country today are idiots compared to the Founders. In every respect.
    Education, intellect, morality, integrity, somehow all the scum floated to the top.

    • Sadly the general public is too ignorant and lazy to understand the basics, having been indoctrinated over the years starting with the “question authority” crowd, who’s offspring are now in charge and purposely making a mess of things.

      This time in history does have one upside, it has made clear the good from the evil-doers…a chasm that is widening at ever-higher RPM’s, albeit some people think this is a good thing, and they believe we – and God – won’t notice, or worse, have no say in the matter. The gauntlet has been thrown and at some point we will respond accordingly.

  4. The biggest threat to our freedom now, as in the past, is “democracy”. As a Constitutional Republic, the Founders protected the minorities against the tyranny of the majority. Yes, I’ve heard the argument the minorities they were protecting were themselves. So what? In our world today, democracy is controlled by the monied interests, and their willing lackays.

  5. I found this article today, ironically on a .gov website. I found it interesting reading because it used actual science and came to the (politically) incorrect conclusion. I’m surprised they let it pass.
    Along that line, I put in eight hours at the range Sunday and didn’t see a single anti-breathing device. Progress.

  6. The 17th was a bad plan, although I didn’t grasp that when I was 10. The States were meant to have power for a reason.

    The Electoral College was of vital importance back when we were a Republic. Now, when there is likely to never be a legitimate national election again, it’s sort of moot.

    -Kle.

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