Repeal The 17th Amendment

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.”

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Check out part 1 and part 2 of Repeal The 17th Amendment.  

Repeal The 17th Amendment

Part 2 of 3

Responding to a very simple question of my opinion on the 2016 U.S Senate races, I continued my overindulgent answer by pointing out that the Senate was supposed to be for elder stewards who have proven their worth to the ones that choose to handle the minutia of budget construction, tax laws and other exciting parts of governing. This idea is eloquently expressed by John Jay in Federalist 64. State legislators are not full time, career politicians. Keep in mind that state legislators in Virginia earn a whooping 20 grand a year for their service. They are more like servants in government than career politicians at other levels and I believe that they are better suited to select someone to handle a job they understand. But under the popular vote system Al Franken can become a senator for his first job in government. Oh man, I can’t believe Stuart Smalley is a senator; that is just wrong. If the state legislature had the responsibility to send representatives to the upper chamber of Congress I doubt they would have asked Stuart Smalley, the Church Lady, Opera-man or any other Saturday Night Live character.

“Haha.” He laughed, a little.

Moreover, the popular vote at a statewide level allows for a well-organized and well funded minority to subvert the popular will of the state as a whole. Take Northern Virginia’s high concentration of residents as an example. Fairfax and Arlington counties, along with the City of Alexandria, have given Northern Virginia a look and political make-up that is greatly different from the rest of the commonwealth. Why should the over populated urban North tell the rural southern parts who is best to represent them? Bringing the votes down to a more proportional system levels the playing field thus giving the people a larger piece of the decision making process. Otherwise someone like the SEIU can sweep in with their paid door knockers in just Fairfax, Arlington, Alexandria and yet the result of the election is supposed to reflect the will of the entire state. C’mon. Democracy is better than that and statewide elections need the state legislature to serve as a safe guard.

“Well I was just talking about,” he tried to get in, but I kept talking about how flawed the entire effort to institute the 17th Amendment was in the first place. As I started to tell him about how the whole thing was the life work of William Jennings Bryan the train settled into the station. As the doors readied to open I began to wonder if this poor gentleman was thinking that the train’s arrival will save him from having to hear more of my exciting thoughts on restoring our Republic. Well, it wasn’t.

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Tune in tomorrow for part 3 of Repeal the 17th Amendment. Same Red NoVA channel, same Red NoVA time.

Repeal The 17th Amendment

Part 1 of a 3 part series

While waiting for a train the other day an older gentleman asked me, “What do you think of the U.S. Senate races in 2016?”

I told him that Article 1, Section 3 of the U.S. Constitution says, “The Senate of the United States shall be composed of two Senators from each State, chosen by the Legislature thereof.” The 17th Amendment changed this to the popular vote system we have today and that was a mistake that needs to be fixed. This is one of the most significant changes to the original document because it altered the balance of powers. The House is elected by the people, the Senate by the states, and the president by the Electoral College. This structure gave us a balance between the popular will of the people and the collective will of democratically elected representatives. Remember now, this is a republic, not a direct democracy. But the 17th Amendment changed the balance by tilting the scales in favor of the people, the people who vote in depressingly low numbers, the people who can’t name their state or local representatives, the people who hardly pay attention to politics but have no trouble at the ballot box thanks solely to the sample ballot they received on their way into the polls.

He said, “Huh?”

I continued by letting him know the Founders believed in a division of powers so that no one majority could dominate another. The people would still have their voice heard as to who should be their senator at the federal level because they get to choose their state senator and their state delegate or whatever. Those state representatives would then represent their constituents in their state’s own little electoral college for picking senators. The people would of course still retain the popular vote for the House, but power of voting will be more evenly dispersed throughout the republic with the states getting their fair share.

While advocates of the 17th Amendment believed the people would be brought closer to the process, the opposite as been seen. State-wide elections are tough with a lot of geography to cover. Those campaigns have created an impersonal relationship with their potential voters as a candidate shots around a busy state. State legislators, on the other hand, have a much closer relationship with their constituents (ever been to Albo-Palooza?). State Legislators have the opportunity to seek and receive feed back at a personal level and then answer to the responsibility of their choice as part of a voter’s consideration in the voting booth come re-election.

As I continued I could tell that this guy’s surprise was not turning into curiosity, which didn’t really matter because I was not going to stop talking about how the 17th Amendment needs to be repealed so that our Republic can be restored.

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Tune in tomorrow for part 2 of Repeal the 17th Amendment. Same Red NoVA channel, same Red NoVA time.