The 17th Amendment was ratified in 1913 and stipulated that members of the United States Senate would no longer be appointed by the legislatures of the various states, but instead would be elected directly by the people.
Now you might be thinking to yourself, “that’s a good thing. We should elect our Senators. They should be beholden to the people. To have them appointed by the legislatures of the various states, would be, well, undemocratic.” Indeed it would be, and gloriously so.
Democracy has in recent times been deified by our leaders and the press. They peddle it abroad and when it doesn’t sell, they send in the army to impose it by force. It’s God’s work, they say. Yet they miss key points. It was not democracy, but the idea that each of us has a right to our life, liberty and justly acquired property that made this country great. Our so-called leaders forget, fail to mention, or purposefully omit that democracy is not liberty, that liberty is not democracy, and that it is liberty that is most important! Though touted as such, democracy should not be an end in and of itself. We must have a form of government that stands for more than two wolves and sheep deciding what to have for dinner.
Great, so now that’s out of the way. Let’s take a look at the structure of the United States government. I know this information can be found elsewhere, namely in the U.S. Constitution itself, but a refresher never hurts. The diagram below depicts what bodies of people are responsible for appointing the various governing bodies in the United States. As you can see the people are the foundation of the system.
Specific to this discussion, however the 17th Amendment replaced the blue arrow with the green arrow. Actually that is somewhat simplified. Prior to the ratification of the 17th Amendment each state legislature could decide by law how the Senators in their state were chosen. Some deffered to the people, while some continued to appoint Senators themselves. Of course the people of each state elected their state representatives.
My argument for repealing the 17th Amendment is not based in history, though there are several good historical, and in fact theoretical arguments for repealing it. For me it simply comes down to money.
Consider the number of people a Senator must reach in order to get elected. For the state of California or New York it is literally tens of millions. Even for a small state like New Mexico, which has a population of about 1.2 million, a Senate campaign is a daunting task. An expensive one too, no doubt.
We have all decried the influence of money on our system of government, that our representatives are bought by special interests. Repealing the 17th Amendment would change this drastically. A prospective Senator, instead of having to reach millions of individuals for their vote, would only have to reach the members of his own state legislature, which is in no case larger than 2000 individuals. This would nearly eliminate the need for any campaign contributions.
Repealing the 17th Amendment would not be a cure all for the system, however it would restore some much needed balance to the system. The various states, instead of having to pay lobbyists in Washington would have true representatives. It would mean that not every single Senator would necessarily be bought by bankers and defense contractors.
Another positive effect would be that the people would become more interested in state politics. And the people, by replacing their state legislators would still have a strong say about who was appointed to the U.S. Senate. In fact some states might opt to pass laws that continued the method of direct election, but most importantly every state would be able to decide for itself how to appoint U.S. Senators.
Of course the U.S. House of Representatives would still be subject to monied interests, but their constituencies are much smaller, only about 500,000 people. However because Senators would be beholden to different constituencies it would tend to check rather than reinforce the bias toward monied interests in House of Representatives. Finally, and it is just a hunch, a repeal of the 17th Amendment would noticeably weaken the national political parties. And this could only be a good thing.
Like I said above there are other arguments for repealing the 17th Amendment, but they are often historical or rather complex. I believe this is a pretty straight forward easy to understand, and forward looking argument. A reason that a repeal of the 17th Amendment would help us with our problems now. I would appreciate your comments.