Skip to comments.How would Senate look if we repealed 17th Amendment today?
Posted on 02/08/2013 3:21:06 PM PST by FatMax
The Founding Fathers knew that in order to ratify a Constitution and preserve the fledgling United States, it was essential that the states have representation in the new Federal government. The legislative branch would be split; the people represented by the directly elected members of the House of Representatives, and each state represented by two officials appointed by the state legislatures. In the new system, 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 government, would back out, and the world's most free and prosperous nation would never have become a reality.
According to the Founders' vision, so long as the U.S. senator served the state's interest, the senator would remain in power. This way, the upper house could focus on their business, not encumbered by the elections of their lower house counterparts.
But in the early 20th Century, Progressives argued that the federalist arrangement in place fostered corruption and excessive special interests in the Senate. Ignoring the original intent of the Constitution and under the cover of "democracy" (we are in fact a constitutional republic, not a democracy), the federal government quickly ratified the 17th Amendment, establishing the 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, thanks to the moral hazard introduced by the 17th Amendment. Perhaps most residents in your state opposes national healthcare, 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, the state's hands are tied.
What if the 17th Amendment was repealed?
Currently, there are 52 Democrats, 46 Republicans, and two Independents, both of whom caucus with the Democrats. But in state legislative branches there are 51% Republicans and only 46% Democrats - nearly an exact opposite of the party makeup of the U.S. Senate. And that doesn't include the non-partisan unicameral Nebraska state legislature; it isn't a stretch to suggest that a state that virtually always sends Republicans to Washington would somehow depart from the trend.
Below is a map displaying the party makeup of the 50 states and how they are represented in the U.S. Senate. The varying shades of red and blue signify the % of majority control, either Republican (red), or Democrat (blue). Click here or on the image to see the full-size version.
Now, another map - this time red represents a Republican delegation, blue Democrat (or Democrat/Independent as both Independent senators caucus with the Democrats), and purple for a split D/R delegation. Click here or on the image to see the full-size version.
It is likely in a state like Hawaii - with over 90% Democrat majority control of the state houses - would have two Democrat U.S. senators. But few states have such a strong majority control. If the 17th Amendment were to be magically repealed today, returning selection to the states, it is highly probable that states would appoint senators according to party makeup of the state legislatures. A state with more Democrats would be more likely to appoint more Democrats and vise-versa. A state that was more balanced would be forced to compromise and would be more likely to have a split delegation. It is unlikely that South Dakota, a state whose voters elected nearly 80% Republicans, would only appoint one Republican senator. And it is also unlikely that a state like Michigan, where nearly two out of every three state legislators are Republican, would somehow appoint both senators from the minority party.
My theory is that if the 17th Amendment were repealed, states with 67% majority control of the state legislature or more would likely appoint two senators from the majority party, and states with less than 67% majority control would have insufficient leverage and be forced to moderate, nominating one member from each party. Non-partisan Nebraska, with all Republican officials, will stay Republican in this experiment, and both Independent senators are not a factor since they already caucus with the Democrats anyways.
Below is my proposed results, considering the makeup of the U.S. Senate and all 50 state legislatures in January 2013. Click here or on the image to see the full-size version.
According to the hypothesis, Republicans would gain an astonishing 12 seats from Democrats, a strong majority at 58 versus the Democrats' 40. There are many factors that are not accounted for in this study, such as voter fraud, the varying platform and history of each politician, media coverage, etc. But regardless of the varying and impossible-to-predict factors in a system with millions of voters, the overall premise remains: that the stronger majority control a state legislature has, the more likely it is that the state will appoint a member of the majority party. Even if only half of the seats predicted actually change hands, the Republicans would still gain control of the Senate - 52 seats to the Democrats' 46.
Corruption must be checked and the Senate should do the bidding of the state - not the special interests. But a constitutional republic is a rule of laws, not a rule of men, as is a democracy. The Founding Fathers - who had a far greater intelligence 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.
Director, The Victory Institute
“...How would Senate look if we repealed 17th Amendment today?...”
I’m all ears.
I think this is a great idea!
I think it will have to be an insurgency campaign. Several “Tea Party” senate candidates support the repeal. Zell Miller, a former Marine and perhaps the last conservative Democrat, supported it. We citizens must drive this forward.
Repeal the 17th AND ratify ARTICLE THE FIRST! Instant return to common sense and a powerful America at home and abroad.
What are you wanting to ratify?
Repeal of the 17th would only serve to empower the already corrupted establishment types and bosses in the state legislatures. You’d have an utterly unaccountable body made up of the same ultra-Marxist Democrat moonbats from 1-party states and go along to get along big gubmint RINOs looking for pork. No Ted Cruz or Rand Paul types need apply.
Sure. Let’s not do it because it’s the right thing to do. Let’s do it because we think it will help Republicrats.
The author doesn’t even have it right. Even with popular election, the Senate still gives some equality to the States with equal representation.
What’s missing is a balance to populism. The hyperbolic House was supposed to be balanced by a chamber less likely to be a knee-jerk reaction to contemporary fads and idiocy - like a House of Lords. Instead, we have crazy Diane Feinstein and all the rest. Just what you’d expect in the House, only worse. Representing millions of people each, in some cases, they are responsible to no-one, except those who fund their election campaigns.
It’s always far easier for stupid people to break what it took real genius to create.
The 17th Amendment is certainly wrong, but for reasons beyond the understanding of the author.
I could accept a compromise on the 17th. Give every district 1 vote for senator. Basically model it after the electoral college the same way I would like to see my state vote for president.
Who is more corrupt, the state legislatures, who can only spend their own state’s money, many of which have balanced budget amendments, and cannot print money; or the current system that has failed to do their constitutional duty regarding a budget, is bankrupting the entire nation, stripping U.S. sovereignty, and can spend trillions of dollars?
Corruption is everywhere in politics - the job attracts highly corruptible people. But the best government is local, and the founders built a federalist system for a reason. If you have a corrupt state, you can always move to another state, and the state with the better system will prosper while the state making poor choices will suffer from the loss of taxpayers. But when the corruption is at the federal level, you can’t move to another United States.
The states created the federal government - not the other way around. Are you suggesting states should no longer have ANY voice in Washington?
You’re apparently unable to understand the point. The more control the majority party has, the more likely it is for that state to appoint members from the majority party. Republicans pick up more seats because they have more control in the state legislatures.
It was solely due to the difficulty of 18th Century travel that Congressional, popular terms settled on two years rather than one. There was no way those evil dead white slave owners would have condoned six year elected terms for members of a small, exclusive enclave.
The first State constitutions leaned heavily on the “democratic” side, most with strong legislatures derived entirely from the people, and purposely weak governors. These popular State governments were unstable and abusive of property rights.
Our Framers knew the source of the troubles, the people, and corrected the problem at the national level with a Senate NOT derived from the people. That lesson was forgotten or ignored with the 17th Amendment.
Our “Senators,” of six year terms present a great threat to our liberties, one that our Framers understood. They are just as subject to the whims of the popular mob, and react in the same fashion as Congressmen.
We'll never know of course, but IMO the great social justice reform nonsense of the last seventy years would not have occurred absent the 17th.
AMEN to repealing the 17th. Throw in the 16th for good measure (and sometimes I wonder about the 19th as well/jk,sort of)
Why is CA purple on the bottom map? They have a 2/3 Rat majority in their legislature.
As one whom has studied the membership of that body, I’m here to tell you that these grand notions of what repeal of the 17th would bring don’t mesh with the reality. There’s a reason why that amendment was passed, and it wasn’t some grand leftist conspiracy. Senators were becoming more and more corrupt, representing their own personal interests that had next to nothing with jealousy protecting states’ rights. The Senators were either puppets or puppetmasters of individual legislatures. They had become so far removed from the people that it was what prompted a nationwide reform movement that would force some level of accountability.
A good number of legislatures today are as grossly incompetent and corrupt as can be, and are the last people who need to be deciding upon Senators. A good number of states would also cease to be able to elect a remotely reasonable GOP Senator because of an unchanged one party hegemony (which include: CA, CT, DE, HI, IL, MD, MA, MN, NJ, NM, NY, OR, RI, VT, WA, WV). With no worries of having to appeal to anyone beyond the ultraleft, the bulk of these states would send the most radical of members that would adhere to the blasphemous and vile social agenda and the orgiastic spending spree.
The Republican members would be chock full of mushy RINOs, big government types (such as Lt Gov. Dewhurst in TX, who bribed and bullied the state legislature to get him the Senate seat over Ted Cruz — which thankfully the PEOPLE stopped). If states like Texas would send RINOs, how do you expect it would be any better elsewhere ?
The only way you would remotely come close to the Founders vision would be to roll back the standards and requirements for voting that were in effect before the middle of the 19th century. Meaning a massive disenfranchisement of the parasitic low and no information voters that have helped to push our country to the brink of destruction. Unless you’re willing to do that, repeal of the 17th is merely an exercise in removing what few Conservatives exist in that body at present.
According to the theory, 67% and above would be sufficient for the entire delegation to be from the majority party. California has 66.3%. While California would likely be represented by one senator from each party, it wouldn’t be a stretch to say that the Democrat would be liberal and the Republican would be a moderate.
But it’s an educated guess, not precise political analysis. Even if the Republicans were only able to swing half of the states where they have reasonably sufficient support (according to the state legislatures) and we err on the side of the Democrats - which wouldn’t be too much of a stretch considering the inability of Republican leadership to stand on principles or oppose Democrat policies - the Republicans still gain control of the Senate.
You and I have corresponded on this topic before.
You once sent me a link to an article that explained it all.
It was an article called:
“Ulysses at the Mast-Democracy Federalism and the Sirens Song”.
I don’t know if it is still available out there on the interwebs somewhere.
In a nutshell, there were a handful of reasons posited for the reform such as:
-acute corruption in the appointment of US senators.
-chronic vacant seats in the US senate.
The 17th was supposed to remedy those perceived problems.
Ultimately the idea went through just simply because “the people” wanted to “feel” like they had more of a choice in senatorial elections.
This is not unlike the push today to have the president chosen by popular vote.
All simply another move on the chessboard by the progressives towards their idea of pure utopian democracy.
I heartily disagree.
The point is to make Senators beholden to the state legislatures that elected them. They would then serve to turn down legislation that takes power from the states and gives it to Washington.
It doesn't solve everything. Just puts another block in the way of the Feds' power-grab.
It would be easier to pass welfare reform than to take one french fry to the Senators who believe they are entitled.
So some Senators as puppet masters lorded over State Legislatures? Fascinating.
They had become so far removed from the people . . .
Correct. They were designed to be removed from the people. It served our republic well.
that it was what prompted a nationwide reform movement that would force some level of accountability.
Accountability? To whom? The people? That is for the House. Democratic tyranny, which describes our consolidated government quite well, is still tyranny.
State appointed Rinos or even rat Senators would think twice about screwing state budgets with Utopian social justice dreams such as Medicaid and Obamacare. When my dirtbag Senator Bill Nelson (rat-fl) voted for Obamacare, he knew he had two years for people to forget and he could deflect any criticism with his demagogic lectures on evil pubbies that would take away their freebies.
The history of our republic reflects the wisdom of state appointed senators and the idiocy of popularly elected senators.
If we're going to get a corrupt Senate either way, I'd far prefer a corrupt Senate on the side of the states than a corrupt Senate on the side of the Feds.
Here is a link to the pdf file.
Ulysses at the Mast:
Democracy, Federalism, and the Sirens’ Song of the Seventeenth Amendment
Thanks for the reminder. I had forgotten entirely Ulysses at the Mast: Democracy Federalism and the Sirens Song.
And how many high-minded states are there enlightened enough to be entrusted to do what's right, and elect those high-minded people accordingly ? You would be lucky to end up with a single member of the Senate that would be unapologetically trumpeting Conservative, pro-Constitutional values. This is just one more office that you'd be entrusting to goverment workers. I don't want them electing my Senator. I do not trust my state legislators, period.
Sure there was corruption, but look into the scale of corruption pre- and post-1913. Congress has spent so much money in the past few years that we are over $100 trillion in debt, considering unfunded liabilities. 100 years ago, the national debt was $2.9 billion. Adjusted for inflation, that’s only $65 billion in today’s dollars.
You portray the state legislators as incompetent, but I say that the U.S. would be far better off picking 535 names at random from the phone book to run Congress - much less legislators that govern states that (compared to the federal government and excluding California and Illinois) are in relatively good shape.
And the campaign in favor of direct election of senators was a conspiracy - a democratic conspiracy. We aren’t a democracy, but a constitutional republic. There are democratic elements to our society, but pure democracy strips the rights of the individual just as easily as a tyrant - it’s just a matter of procedure.
Granted, by its passage, the 17th Amendment became as legitimate as the rest of the Constitution. There is nothing wrong with having a logical debate on whether the 17th Amendment is the best path forward for society.
Based on history and human nature, the amendment paved the way for corruption and special interest influence on a scale that was impossible to reach under the original system.
But when you strip the state’s ability to instantly recall U.S. senators that are not legislating in the state’s interests, you undermine the federalist system of shared powers between the state and federal government, and essentially create a new - and more corruptible - government.
And it’s “As one WHO has...” not “As one WHOM has...” If you’re going to insult the author, at least use proper grammar.
My point exactly. We need more checks in government, not less. Empowering the states is a good thing - that's why the Founders designed it that way. People are no more or less corrupt today than they were 5,000 years ago. Let's have a national debate on the subject and chose the best path forward.
Exactly. And it was becoming so brazen by the turn of the 20th century that it spurred on the movement for popular elections. It was the right thing to do.
"Correct. They were designed to be removed from the people. It served our republic well."
Until such time as they became self-serving, of which became an epidemic by the middle part of the 19th century.
"Accountability? To whom? The people? That is for the House. Democratic tyranny, which describes our consolidated government quite well, is still tyranny."
If you consider the current method tyranny, I consider your notion to be the same. You're not returning to the Founding Fathers, you're simply eliminating accountability and entrusting it to government workers. These are the last people that deserve to have their powers enhanced. They should be scared of us, but I am scared of them.
"State appointed Rinos or even rat Senators would think twice about screwing state budgets with Utopian social justice dreams such as Medicaid and Obamacare."
That you sincerely believe that is what makes your notion so misguided. It's not going to happen.
"The history of our republic reflects the wisdom of state appointed senators and the idiocy of popularly elected senators."
The history of our republic reflects that legislatively-elected Senators failed to live up to the Founders' notions, instead leading to bossism and corruption, and it was why the 17th was precipitated.
Fortunately, I don’t. If you find Texas being represented by Senators Karl Rove and David Dewhurst to be what you desire, that begins to give you an idea of what would come from our most Conservative states with a 17th repeal.
The state government is anything BUT local. It would take me hours to drive to the state capitol. Many state governments are larger and more powerful than the governments of various nations. If you want to enpower local government, repealing the 17th certainly wouldn't help because the state government is controlled by the big cities. My village and township government (the ACTUAL "locally elected" politicians) get virtually no representation in the federal, state, or even the county government.
No thanks. Enjoy your world, hopefully alone.
And how, by moving the Senate even further to the left (which is what the 17th would do), would that remedy this horrendous situation ?
"You portray the state legislators as incompetent, but I say that the U.S. would be far better off picking 535 names at random from the phone book to run Congress - much less legislators that govern states that (compared to the federal government and excluding California and Illinois) are in relatively good shape."
I'd rather have 535 people chosen that run a business and meet a payroll. You could just as easily choose 535 people that are parasites. But this is a flight of fancy, in any event.
"And the campaign in favor of direct election of senators was a conspiracy - a democratic conspiracy. We arent a democracy, but a constitutional republic. There are democratic elements to our society, but pure democracy strips the rights of the individual just as easily as a tyrant - its just a matter of procedure."
I know what we are. And as I said above, unless you are prepared to begin to enact basic requirements on precisely which individuals should be allowed to cast votes (which I think is an excellent idea) to meet what was advocated by the Founders, you're not only not going to get a better Senate, you will make it worse.
"Based on history and human nature, the amendment paved the way for corruption and special interest influence on a scale that was impossible to reach under the original system."
It was already happening before the 17th.
"But when you strip the states ability to instantly recall U.S. senators that are not legislating in the states interests, you undermine the federalist system of shared powers between the state and federal government, and essentially create a new - and more corruptible - government."
The kind of recall you speak of, more of a gentleman's agreement as an elected official, stopped in the early 19th century. In rare few instances, once you got your 6-year term, you served it out, unless the Good Lord called you home.
How would it look? There would be a wholesale rejection of just about everything today’s libs believe in, and the democrat party would be much more conservative than it is now.
This is not the first time you couldn’t reply to my points on this subject. If you’re so adamant on repeal of the 17th, you need to be able to argue your cause. Throwing a fit, taking your ball and going home isn’t going to win your case.
Except that it wouldn’t.
Google “article the first,” also known as The Congressional Apportionment Amendment.
It is the very first amendment proposed to the constitution back in 1789 and is one of the last remaining original constitutional amendments proposed by our Founders that has not been ratified.
During FDR’s presidency, the number of Representatives was arbitrarily frozen at 435. Prior to then, every 10 years, after the Census, the number of Representatives increased according to the population numbers. The spirit of the congressional apportionment amendment was followed, but it was thrown aside in the name of politics.
If you read the amendment, it would require one representative for every 50,000 citizens. If you’re doing the math, that means over 6,000 representatives by the current population numbers. I’ve proposed that we create National Congressional Districts (I.e. Atlanta for the southeast, St. Louis for the Midwest, etc.) where the district representatives meet via networking software to do the business of the federal government.
It would mean TRUE representation where money can’t necessarily buy a seat and every citizen’s voice could be heard.
It’s written as the very first amendment to our constitution and was obviously important to our Founders. It would revolutionize our government and would absolutely be met with derision by our media. It missed ratification by one state at the time. Ironically, I believe that state was Connecticut.
Imagine what the pork-hungry, power-hungry legislators of the state assemblies would put in the Senate. Would the situation really be any less communistic?
The pdf link at post 24 is not for the feint of heart.
It is a 64 page scholarly document.
But if you truly have an interest in understanding the “why” behind the 17th amendment,
it is all spelled out there.
So false. You're comparing apples to oranges.
First off, the biggest problem with the current drive to elect the President by popular vote is the people pushing for it are trying to go AROUND the Constitution and create some Orwellian "popular vote compact" where the electoral college would still exist but they would ignore it and have their states cast their electoral votes for whoever won the "popular vote" nationally. That is blatantly unconstitutional, I'd have a lot more respect for them if they WOULD go the constitutional route and simply introduce an amendment to repeal the electoral college, but that's not what they're doing. If anything, their tactics are more along the lines of what you "states rights" people want, since they're actively encouraging STATE GOVENRMENTS and STATE LEGISLATURES to thumb their nose at the feds and allow 12 liberal states to do whatever they want even if the remaining 38 states are vehemently against it. The only difference between their tactics and yours is they are motivated to do so for a liberal cause. (namely ensuring Los Angeles, New York, and Chicago will get a "progressive" President from now on)
Secondly, the electoral college is not comparable to the method of electing Senators prior to the 17th. If they devised a similar system (e.g., state legislatures get to elect whoever they want as President with the people having no say in the process whatsoever), I'd oppose that too and call for the repeal of such a system. Rather, the electoral college allows the people to directly participate because in most states, the electoral votes are cast for whoever wins the statewide POPULAR VOTE. In that way, the electoral college differs little from those eeeeeeeeeevil post-17th amendment Senate elections. We the PEOPLE of the state DIRECTLY vote for who WE want as President, and the electors, 99% of the time, cast their votes accordingly. Who the state government officials -- state representatives, assemblymen, state senators, governors, etc. want to be President is irrelevant to the process, just like it is in a Senate race, and as it should be. 99% of the state government can endorse Carter for President, if the people want Reagan, the state government doesn't get their way (sorry, Massachusetts government)
Third, I hate the break the news to all you alarmists screaming about how terrible it is that the PEOPLE and not the politicians elect their officials, but we need MORE democracy in America, not less. Government exists to do what people cannot do for themselves, and I can pick my Senators and President perfectly well without my state government officials making that choice for me. This is Conservativism 101 -- the PEOPLE, not the state, should make most of the decisions over their lives. But if you guys want to scream about "STATES RIGHTS!!", I'll give you a perfectly good example. In my state, the people directly ELECT our judges via popular vote. Nationally, the people have no such power, the President appoints whoever he wants to serve for life, and the Senate rubber stamps that choice regardless of how the citizens of the United States feel about Ruth Bader Ginsburg and so on. From experience, I can tell the system we have in MY state of electing judges is infinitely superior to the one where politicians make that choice. We recently had a liberal activist state supreme court judge who had dismal approval ratings, and rather than face defeat, he retired and a good conservative Republican was elected in his place. Just like eeeeeeeeeevil 17th amendment, the federal government would be better served if we amended the U.S. Constitution and allowed THE PEOPLE to vote out bad federal judges. Yes, that eeeeeeeevil democracy in action is GOOD for our country. If you disagree and prefer politicians picking all your federal officials for you, try Cuba.
It’s an interesting notion, but I think it would be an unwieldy mess. Reapportionment would be a nightmare, and you’d have a huge number of rotten borough districts in urban areas and certain sections of the country. Imagine the city of Los Angeles alone with 76 Congressmembers, virtually all of whom would be either Maxine Waters or radical La Raza types.
Bingo. It would be even more leftist.
‘I think this is a great idea!’
With every passing day, the Founding Fathers look wiser and wiser.
76 out of over 6000 representatives is less than 2% of the total number of reps. Fact is that just one state needed to ratify it in 1790 but it was tabled. The spirit of that apportionment was held to until our government decided to freeze it at 435 by statute.
Forget the difficulties in implementation, this is a perfectly legal method to revolt against the Feds from the local level. Just need a high profile lawmaker to take up the banner.
It won't matter what party the appointees are... the fact that they are appointed by the state legislature and can be recalled by the state legislature means they will answer to the state legislature.
And all the self serving power grabbing trips in the US Senate will stop and the balance between the states and the federal government will be restored.
The body of “the people” elect their state representatives and their state senators and their governors.
Then the body of “the people” felt their state representatives, state senators, and governors were corrupted;
and that, therefore, the U.S. Senate appointment process was corrupted.
But yet, somehow, “the people” thought that their wisdom in direct selection of their own U. S. Senators would be better
than their wisdom in selecting their state representatives, state senators, and governors.
If “the people”’s state representatives and their state senators and their governors were corrupt, it is likely due to a corrupt people.
Having “the people” directly elect their own U.S. Senators solved absolutely nothing; but it created a much bigger problem.
With all due respect, that presumption doesn't necessarily respond to what I wrote.
Do you actually believe returning to election of Senators by the state legislatures would result in the election of even more statist Senators?
Equally corrupt Senators, perhaps. But surely not equally statist.