Repeal 17th Amendment   Leave a comment

The Founding Fathers knew that in order to ratify a Constitution and preserve the struggling fledgling that was the confederation of the United States of America, it was essential that both the people and the states have representation in the new federal government.

To assure both democracy and federation, they split the legislative branch. The people would be represented by the directly-elected members of the House of Representatives. The separate states would each be represented by two officials appointed by the state legislatures. Therefore, the House would represent the people and the Senate would represent the states. Without a federalist system of divided, enumerated, and checked powers between the federal and state governments, no union would be possible – the states, wary of potentially losing their sovereignty to an all-powerful national government, would back out of the Constitution, and the world’s most free and prosperous nation would never have become a reality.

According to the Founders’ vision the U.S. senators served at the pleasure of the state legislatures. Because they did not have to stand for popular election at the end of each six-year term, senators could focus on the business of the Senate as it related to the state legislatures, while their lower house counterparts could channel the will of the people. Legislatures would “instruct” senators in what federal legislation they thought would be best for the state and when a senator “went rogue” (like Mark Begich did over the Affordable Care Act), the legislature could recall the offending senator and replace him with someone who understood his job.

In the early 20th century, the progressives argued that the federalist arrangement in place fostered corruption and excessive special interests in the Senate, and was undemocratic to boot. That claim is questionable, although it is true that many state legislatures had difficulty actually appointing senators. There were other remedies that would have preserved republican-federalist ideals, but the progressives used the new media to whip up public concerns about the “lack of democracy” and the “rampant corruption” of the state legislatures. The original intent of the Constitution was that we should be a constitutional republic with some democratic features, but under the cover of “democracy”, the federal Congress quickly passed the 17th Amendment, and sent it to the states for ratification, establishing direct election of U.S. senators. States no longer had any representation in Washington, and the amendment paved the way for even more corruption and special interest influence.

Today, we have a Senate that regularly passes legislation contrary to the interests of the states, because senators have no reason to consider their state’s interest when they pass legislation. This is why the House wasn’t allowed an official vote on the Affordable Care Act. The people didn’t want it and it could never pass there, but senators are beholding to the special corporate interests that got them elected, so they will vote according to the whims of their handlers. How would that vote have fallen out if the senators had been answerable to their state legislatures?

Perhaps most residents in your state opposed nationalized healthcare coverage, but both of your senators voted in favor. Why not? They can’t be recalled at moment’s notice by the state legislative branch, like they could 100 years ago. All they have to do is get enough votes from their citizens – or perhaps enough voter fraud – and they are safe for six years. Missouri may not want Obamacare and Wyoming may not want tough new gun control laws, but thanks to the 17th Amendment, it doesn’t matter what those states or the people who live in them want. Their senators will decide for those states what is actually good for them and pass it on a national level as if Alaska has something in common with New Jersey.

What if the 17th Amendment was repealed?

I don’t know about  your state, but here in Alaska about 60% of voters don’t belong to either of the major political parties. Our state legislature is majority Republican, but many of its members are conservative/libertarian in philosophy. So why is a liberal Democrat representing us in Washington? Because of corruption. Ted Stevens’ corruption and Mark Begich’s corruption and corporate corruption aimed at both of those men. Mark “won” his senatorial seat in 2008 by less than 2% of the vote against a man who had been (wrongfully) convicted of a federal felony two weeks before. That makes thinking people wonder what’s up. Why is Lisa Murkowski still our senator? Because of the nepotism that put her in office in the first place (daddy Frank was the governor and he appointed her) and the corruption that has kept her in office. She resoundingly lost the 2010 Republican primary, came back as a write-in candidate, got the support of the Democrats and was reelected even though nobody I’ve ever talked to (except her dad) thinks she’s a good representative for the people of Alaska.

Does your state have similar stories?

Corruption must be checked and the Senate should do the bidding of the state they represent- not special interests in London or Hong Kong. A constitutional republic operates under the rule of laws, not a rule of men, as does a democracy. The Founding Fathers – who had a far greater sensitivity to tyranny than today’s politician – dedicated one half of the legislative branch to the states for good reason.

By repealing the 17th Amendment, we would restore the federalist system that kept Americans free and prosperous.

I’m not guaranteeing that its repeal would restore liberty and prosperity, but it might be a step in the right direction.

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