Subtitle: Progressives Blow Up the Framers’ Constitution.
Despite the lessons of history, Progressives promote ever more democracy, which, unless tempered and limited, is like turning one’s household over to the majority rule of teenagers. Is this household arrangement fair? Sure. It is also idiocy which no parent would consider. A senate of the states and not the parchment barriers of the Constitution stood athwart democratic rule by social justice emotions little different from those of the typical teenager.
What was the 17th Amendment (17A) supposed to do?
The post-17A senate was to respond to the people’s needs and free the senate from corruption and wealthy interests. Progressives built their movement on the promise of cleaner government less subject to corporate influence and bribery, and a more responsive and efficient senate that dealt effectively with the issues of greatest concern to the people.1
Did the 17A do what it was supposed to do?
Direct election did not diminish the role of money.
However, it incentivized senators to represent their new constituents and cooperate with initiatives from the House of Representatives.2 Once senators represented the people, a body already represented in the house, there was greater congruence between voters and their representatives in congress, with corresponding less opportunity for input from the states. For congressmen the 17A diminished opposition to their constituencies, increased their power, and made their votes more important to progressive special interests.3
What hath the 17A wrought?
No one today can formulate counterfactual certainties regarding the health of free government these past 104 years, had the nation not lost its head in Progressive vapors, had the politically erotic scent of democracy repulsed, rather than enticed. But, that doesn’t mean we cannot speculate.
The 17th Amendment:
• Encouraged explosive growth of a once-federal, now national, government.
• Is a direct assault on republicanism. The Constitution acts on the people and the states; to deny a component member of the greater republic a seat at the legislative table is tyranny. Only the occasional scotus decision stands between the states and their complete subservience to a national government.
• Rendered senators three-term congressmen in a smaller club, a more detached version of the house. The short-term memory of their constituents works in favor of multiple terms. Whatever the level of discourse at which state legislators and senators had previously conducted their mutual business, the 17A promoted future discourse at a more general level. The 17A guaranteed the ascendancy of a different kind of senator: one whose primary skills are dealing with the masses through public appearances, mailings, shallow social media, and sound bites.4
• Emasculated a once-proud senate. Rather than defend and execute its Constitutional duties the modern senate is an institution without a purpose beyond reelection of its members. Recall the Iran/Obama “deal.” The senate shamefully abrogated its duty to consent to treaties when globalist President Obama obligated the nation to subsidize the nuclear ambitions of an islamic terror-state.
• Brought instability to the law. As opposed to reps’ two-year terms, which were designed to reflect popular sentiment, six-year senatorial terms of state-appointed senators lent stability to the law. The Framers left voter qualifications to the states with the understanding of a senate strong enough to resist the popular sentiments of an ever-expanding franchise.
• Along with the 16th Amendment, the Progressive Era Amendments made the New Deal possible. The 17A led to progressive income taxation, the embodiment of the Framers’ fear of government-enforced societal “leveling.”
• Led to a politicized scotus, which at times attempts to serve the 10th Amendment political duties of the states. At other times it imposes elite social justice diktats like abortion and homosexual marriage on a defenseless society.
Led to the appointment of Social Justice Warriors to the federal bench. Absent the 17A, would lawyers with a paper trail of hostility to enumerated powers and the 9th & 10th Amendments even bother to stand for nomination?
Dis-incentivized the senate to police itself for the states’ account. The task fell instead to scotus, which soon found the 10th Amendment tautologous, and left most questions of state-federal relations to a political process that no longer represented the states’ political interests.5
Led to scotus’ dominance of post-civil war amendments that granted congress enormous power over the states. A senate of the states made these powers safe in the hands of congress. Post-17A, the scotus interjected itself as the arbiter of due process and equal protection rights. Thanks to the 17A, and subsequent scotus abuse of the 14th Amendment, taxpayers must educate illegal aliens in public schools and illegal alien mothers may grant American citizenship to their children.
• Aided the explosion of the democratic element, i.e. voting by women, abolition of poll taxes, lowering the voting age to eighteen, extension of voting from a single day to weeks, same day registration, motor voter, voting rights for ex-convicts, and provisional ballots, . . . all of which serve to extend the franchise to an ever-expanding portion of the public. But, to what end? Has the expansion of the democratic element strengthened free government? The pull of democracy continues; witness the National Popular Vote Movement to elect presidents.
• Enhanced the influence of big-city political machines in congress. Pre-17A, the typical state legislature was mal-apportioned in favor of rural districts. Post-17A, organized urban constituencies gradually came to dominate state senatorial elections. Thanks to Progressive decisions from the early 1960s scotus, “one man, one vote” entered the national lexicon and forced revision of state constitutions nationwide. These opinions diminished the stabilizing influence of rural voters in state senates, and are largely responsible for the pending bankruptcy of several state employee pension plans.6
• Led to today’s oligarchy of Uniparty elites backed up by an unelected Deep State. On July 2nd 1787, Gouverneur Morris argued the necessity of a legislative house for the wealthy. The proper security is to form the wealthy and the less-well-off into separate institutions, such that the two forces will check each other. Unless the wealthy are corralled in a house of their own, they will infest and soon dominate the popular branch. Morris: “Let the rich mix with the poor in a commercial country, and together they will establish an oligarchy.”7
• Encouraged multiple terms in office. State legislatures abandoned senatorial elections to party machines. Party bosses, not legislative compromise, selected senatorial candidates. Pre-17A, the ambitions of state legislators helped curb multiple terms in the senate. Legislators had more natural ambition to the office and thus more incentive to watch and replace senators.8 The 17A worked against rotation or tenure limits because the elective body (the people) had less ambition to the office it controlled.
In the pre-modern Congress, senators regularly came and went. There were few senior members as the typically unstable state party situation often made senatorial reelection difficult.9
1819 – 1821: 1%
1915- 1917: 5%
Sending “better” men and women to a popularly derived senate cannot possibly correct its inherent deficiencies. The Framers got it right. If we are to arrest and reverse our occasionally slow, yet often rapid slide into despotism, we must restore the Framers’ keystone to free government. All good things are possible with, and impossible without, repeal of the 17th Amendment.
We are the many; our oppressors are the few. Government is the playground of politicians, but the Constitution is ours. Be proactive. Restore the American Tradition. Join Convention of States.
1. Stewart, W. J. (2015). Electing the Senate – Indirect Democracy Before the Seventeenth Amendment. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press., 200, 213.
2. Ibid., 20.
3. Bybee, J. S. (1997). Ulysses at the Mast: Democracy, Federalism, and the Sirens’ Song of the Seventeenth Amendment. Scholarly Commons @ UNLV Law., 554.
4. Ibid., 541.
5. Ibid., 560.
6. If Your State is a Mess.
7. A Senate of the States: July 2nd 1787. Not your neighbors: The Net Worth of Congress.
8. Bybee., 559.
9. Average Senatorial Tenure.
10. Congressional Research Service., 8.