Skip to comments.A Senate of the States - The 17th Amendment
Posted on 12/21/2017 12:54:36 AM PST by Jacquerie
In continuance of the Senate of the States series, the next three squibs leave the Federal Convention and visit the decades leading to the destructive 17th Amendment (17A).
The 17A triggered a cascade of stunning downwind consequences, perhaps only second in effect to the immediate post-Civil War amendments. As opposed to the 13th 15th Amendments which reset society, the 17A reset our republican governing form. Overnight, the 17A transformed the Framers exquisite compound democratic/federal structure into a democratic form deadly to republics.1
Why the 17th Amendment? What enormous forces convinced the people, states, and congress to trade a proven, stable governing form for an unstable and dangerous system?
Perhaps from the moment New Hampshire, the ninth state, ratified the Constitution in June 1788, the freedom-enhancing lessons of indirect elections began to wane in our national psyche. Tocqueville wrote, Men living in democratic ages do not readily comprehend the utility of forms . . . (in fact,) they feel an instinctive contempt for them. In 1838, Abraham Lincoln lamented diminishing appreciation of the principles and protections afforded in the Constitution.2
After the first congressional resolution (1826) to democratize senatorial elections, 187 similar resolutions followed over the next eighty-six years. Federalism, the concept of two governments sharing responsibility over the same geographic area, and made real by a senate appointed by state legislatures, was not only not an issue, proponents of direct elections studiously avoided it.3 Once the late 19th and early 20th century progressives took up the cause, the public soon embraced the notion that the solution to the ills of democracy was ever-more democracy.4
What were these perceived ills? In the decades following the Civil War, the people gradually associated indirect election of senators with an outmoded, plutocratic Constitution . . .
(Excerpt) Read more at articlevblog.com ...
An excellent treatise on the 17A with a history timeline and the political characters involved. Best observation was the interconnection of populism and progressivism in the early 20th Century to speed the 17A into the Constitution.
Article V Ping!
The long lineage of efforts to democratize the senate surprised me.
Ping list ping.
We got both the 16th (federal income tax) and the 17th from the most dangerous president of the 20th century - Wilson, yet another “Progressive”.
Thanks for the ping.
The original construction of the US Senate was a foundation of republican government. What was the recourse in the event of its corruption?
The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.
The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.
Both of these amendments could have been invoked to RECALL a corrupt sitting US Senator via a vote of the state legislature or a popular recall vote. But recalls were hampered and opposed by the direct wording in the US Constitution that US Senators were elected for six years and no means of removal was provided (as in the case of Senator Frank Church who was recalled but had a federal judge set aside his recall ruling that recalls of US Senators were unconstitutional).
A popular vote of a US Senator? Why? Why then need a Senate? Is a popular elected US Senator some sort of ‘Uber Representative’ of the People? Is the Senate some sort of elevated People’s House standing next to the House of Representatives?
The Founders knew that a pure democracy was a recipe for doom. They had the knowledge and teachings of the downfalls of the Greco-Roman civilizations. But they also knew from the Constitutional Convention that there were voices calling for a popular vote of the US Senate. Those voices were understandably ignored as the near-unanimous consensus was to form a republic, not a democracy.
The members of the Constitutional Convention voted on two indirect constructs to form a republic: a Senate appointed by states and the Electoral College. The 17th Amendment abolished the first construct and the second is at risk by a consortium of organized urban interests. An amendment to overturn the Electoral college would be the downfall of the America Republic, the ensuing democracy would with certainty lead to mob-ruled governance, a totalitarian state. New York, Chicago, Los Angeles would be the electors of the US President.
Back to the 17th, the question is why even have a US Senate, to begin with? What purpose does it serve under the 17th Amendment? It is no longer bound to represent the interests of state governments, what good does it therefore add? Its small numbers (100) merely make it an easier target for takeover by controlling interests.
To control the US Government requires only control of 51 and of those 51, most can be controlled through monetary means by controlling only a handful who are set up as gatekeepers of campaign funds. The 17th Amendment accomplished nothing as to stopping schemes from buying a controlling interest in the US Senate. The only effective means of stopping corruption in the US Senate is through a combination of terms limits and recall.
Here’s the amendment that should have been the 17th, but today can be the 28th:
AMENDMENT XXVIII (’Federal-State Rebalancing’)
To restore the foundational structure of State Legislatures to Congress, the following amendment is proposed:
Section 1. Senators in Congress shall be subject to recall by their respective state legislature or by voter referendum in their respective state.
Section 2. Term limits for Senators in Congress shall be set by a vote in their respective state legislatures but in no case shall be set less than twelve years nor more than eighteen years.
Section 3: The seventeenth article of amendment to the Constitution of the United States is hereby repealed.
Some have said that under such an amendment, Luthor Strange would have been appointed over Roy Moore, but such ignores the power of Recall. The power of Recall allows for judging the fruits, not the name. It matters not so much which name, Strange or Moore, is appointed. It matters what the ‘name’ does while in office under a specter of Recall.
In effect, the legislatures and the People need a means of FIRING their federally appointed officers, not just hiring them. The act of firing is based on a judgment of the ‘fruits’ of performance. Hiring can occur under a false representation, but firing is the remedy to a poor hiring choice, judged ‘poor’ by observing the fruits of performance.
The 17th Amendment allows a deceptive hiree to continue for six years and to act as a charlatan to fool the public by myriad means for another six years, and another, and another, for decades. And should one charlatan fail to be reelected, the nature of the office allows for moneyed interests to install another charlatan. Without Recall, state legislative involvement, and term limits, the 17th Amendment supports an efficient infrastructure for corruption.
He sure got that wrong! It's been my understanding that the states themselves ratified the 17th because state legislature members were tired of the scrutiny the election of Senators shined upon them. It's a simple truth that any committee of voted members will always strive to find ways of passing the buck.
You got the 16th amendment from that wonderful, pre-17th amendment "senate of the states". All those awesome state government appointed senators were quite happy to pass a national income tax.
>> Wilson, yet another Progressive. <<
Indeed. So much for the argument that "the Democrats were the conservative party back then" and the two parties later "switched sides" when the south started voted Republican.
Thank you for the ping!
Excellent points. The Constitution was amended several times to correct its shortcomings and errors. The 17th and 18th were errors, and the 18th was repealed. We MUST do the same with the 17th.
The Senate represents GEOGRAPHIC interests. The House represents POPULATION interests. That was ALWAYS the MAIN reason for creating a Senate, and both before and after the 17th amendment, the function of the Senate and the type of representation it employs hasn't changed. Politicians who represent an entire state have a vastly different constituency than those who represent a small gerrymandered region within the state, thus Senator Ted Cruz represents entirely different interests than Congresswoman Shelia Jackson-Lee, even though they both come from Texas. So does Senator Diane Feinstein and Congressman Tom McClintock, even though they are both from California.
An entire state cannot be gerrymandered, thus its constituency will not change, as opposed to a house district, which can be created or redrawn to represent whatever kind of constituency the state legislators wish it to represent.
If you can't understand this basic function of the United States Senate, you should consider retaking a basic high school level civics course.
Presidents have no role (aside from using their bully pulpit to advocate for one if they so choose) in the constitutional amendment process.
And the 16th amendment was passed by (A GOP) Congress (overwhelmingly) in 1909 and ratified before Wilson took office, with the full support of President Taft.
The 17th was also passed before he was President and ratification was completed a mere month into his first term.
Aside from supporting them and possibly advising the NJ legislature to ratify, he had no role in either.
.. and the 16th....
And the Civil War was actually all about “tariffs”, which were evil back when the cotton industry opposed them and are now wonderful since Southern textile manufacturers would benefit instead of suffer from them, and you’re a “free traitor” and a “gloBULList shill” if you say otherwise.
If the 17th was repealed the Republican would have a super majority right now. That would make a big difference. Anyone against repealing the 17th is just mis-informed.
Grade school. The Senate differed from the House in 3 ways, (the third being term length) and they carp about the least important of the 3. The people of the states are "the states" anyway and most of us don't want damn middleman making our choices for us. Not that it matters because repeal is not even within 10000 miles of the room the table is in, let alone on it.
Why fixate on silly fantasies? You can't go back in time to a time that never really existed, the Senate was a mess, WHICH IS WHY they made the change. There is no magic procedural fix that will improve our government, only the election of conservatives at the polls can do that.
The US Senate was NOT founded to represent geographic interests. Territories are NOT represented by a US Senator.
Now who needs a civics lesson?
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