Tuesday, November 13, 2012

A Letter

            I have for the past year or so been raising the issue of the 17th Amendment. To present the issue in a manner that allows proper understanding of the Amendment and the consequences, I must ask your forbearance and allow a longer letter.  


            Article I, Section 3 of the Constitution reads:

"The Senate of the United States shall be composed of two Senators from each state, chosen by the Legislature thereof for six years; and each Senator shall have one vote."

            Amendment XVII in part reads:

"The Senate of the United States shall be composed of two Senators from each State, elected by the people thereof, for six years; and each Senator shall have one vote."


The Founders regarded the election of Senators by the states' legislatures to be a check against an expanding federal government.  The Senate then provided formal bicameralism, with the members of The Senate and the House given two completely distinct constituencies; this was intended to defeat the problem of the federal government succumbing to "special interests".

As should be unfortunately expected in all human endeavors, State legislatures in several States "gamed" the system and used political party allegiance to structure legislative districts to favor Republicans over Democrats. In 1916, three years after the ratification of the 17th Amendment, the Supreme Court applied the "one person, one vote" provision inferred in the 14th Amendment to the election of State legislatures to stop this abuse.

The turn of the twentieth century was the age of the Modern Progressive Movement which was seeking to expand the role of the Federal Government. The Southern Democratic Party which had constituted the Confederacy and advocacy for State's Rights had been defeated by the Republican Federal government at Appomattox. The Northern Democratic Party and substantial elements of the Southern Democratic Party moved away from State's Rights and moved to compete for power in the central government. The last vestiges of the Old Sothern "State's Rights" Democratic Party died with the Dixiecrats in 1948. From then on, the concept of the sovereign states being a counter-balance to the central government was extinguished.


The consequences today

While the change to direct election of Senators by the citizens of the several states would seem a good thing, it also allows the national political parties to directly fund and influence the party's candidate. The interests of the citizens of the several states then became secondary to the "special interests" and money of the respective national political parties.

This change in governance can be seen by the creation of Senate Majority and Minority Leaders in 1917. The Senate now responded to the political allegiances of the respective political party and not to the citizens of the several states. We now address the balance of power between Republicans and Democrats in the Senate as we do in the House. The interests of the states are not relevant.

The Federal Government was designed to have three separate but equal branches and each able to check the other. A Congress was to debate the will of the people. An Executive Branch was to execute that will, and a Judiciary was to resolve the Constitutionality of legislation. Within the Congress, the House was the advocate for the central government and the Senate the advocate for the Sovereign States.

With the ratification of the 17th Amendment, we allowed the conditions we have today. With the President, as leader of the Democratic Party, and the Senate controlled by the Democratic Party, the intended equal stature between the three branches of government has been breached and half of the Congress and the Executive Branch act as one. This relationship creates another serious problem with regard to selection of new members of the Supreme Court, appointment of Cabinet level officials and Ambassadors and ratification of Treaties. The President, as he essentially controls the actions of the Senate, therefore does not nominate Justices and the like but appoints them.

The ratification of the 17th Amendment ended the nation, Of the people, By the people and For the people. We now have in the name of the President what the Founders feared, a King.


Bob Dewey



No comments:

Post a Comment