Part 3 of 3
Now sitting on the train next to some guy who simply asked me about the senate races, I asked rhetorically where did I leave off and then answered without hesitation; William Jennings Bryan. He was the Progressive Era, slick talking, three-time presidential loser who really pressed for the direct election of senators. Ignoring the principled intent of the Founders, Bryan resorted to scare tactics using images of smoked filled back rooms where votes were bought. Such fears are typical of citizens distrustful of government and since the implementation of the 17th Amendment this fear has not left our political society at all. So the idea of taking the vote away from a corruptible body (state legislatures) and placing it in a more responsible body (the people, who elected Stuart Smalley) so that the people and their government will enjoy a more harmonious relationship has proven false. Who do you trust more anyway, William Jennings Bryan or James Madison? I’ll take Madison any day.
“Alright man. But I don’t see the harm” he said.
The harm is you get candidates like Stuart Smalley. The people would not be disenfranchised; they could still show up with above thirty percent in turnout numbers for all the other exciting elected offices, such as Soil and Water Conservation Board. I then asked, what is the benefit? The people are not getting a larger say in the process because of population imbalances and the ability of a well funded and well organized minority to exploit those imbalances, which was mentioned in greater detail in part two. So where is the benefit?
I can’t find it. More elections are not the answer to how to achieve better government; better elections are the proper solution. A better election occurs when the candidates are truly qualified and voters are thoroughly informed. This does not happen in modern day state-wide elections. Voters choose to remain ignorant and are content with their choice. Efforts to obtain a minimal level of information on more than one candidate are often viewed by voters as burdensome. And thanks to the mind-numbing simplification of politics which has resulted from a two-party system, some voters know they only need a sample ballot on Election Day and they’ll be fine. Let’s take an election or two away from the overburden minds of careless voters. If we do so then not only are we cutting out an election, but we are also cutting out signs, mailings, robo-calls, mass emails, and everything else associated with a get-out-the-vote campaign. An election held in state legislatures would require a totally different style of campaign, or better yet, the way the Founders envisioned; no campaign at all as the best and brightest would be asked to serve. But today, campaign politics is a business, and it’s just bad business not to treat it as such.
So with all that being said I told him, “I truly wonder what is more likely; for a senator to stand up on the floor of the US Senate and ask for all of his colleagues to join him in repealing the 17th Amendment and therefore taking away their power and restoring the choice of their election to the state legislatures, or the magic beans I planted in my garden growing like the salesman told me they would.”