One of the less known and more controversial moments in the history of the Constitution of the United States was the 17th amendment ratification. It birthed what some claimed was a more fair and accountable political system, and what others called Unconstitutional and tyrannical.
The original words of the the Constitution that are affected by the Seventeenth Amendment are in Article 1 Section 3, and read:
“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”
The Seventeenth Amendment ratification eliminated the Constitutional mandate for Senators to the Congress to be chosen by the State Legislatures, who are elected by vote by the people within the respective districts. In other words, Senators to the Congress are no longer chosen by State Legislatures and instead by popular vote of citizens directly.
The problem with popular vote of course is that the process by which popular vote occurs creates little motivation to research those who are receiving the votes. The direct election of Senators, a powerful political seat in the United States, is carried out in only one step., whereas if State Legislatures chose Senators, the case would be different. State Legislatures selecting Senators requires more effort, and thus, more research and due-diligence.
By first delegating the power of Congressional Senator election to a State Senator, an urgency in State Legislature elections is created. This drives more Voters to research and participate in State Elections, especially the office of a State Senator. Once State Senators are elected, the election of Congressional Senators then must go through another check and balance with those elected by the people of the respective State. Once the Congressional Senators are chosen, they then give the respective State they are from a true seat at the table of legislation.
State Legislatures selecting Senators owned a purpose, which was to make sure there was a seat at the table for the States in the creation of legislation. As Judge Napolitano, author of the recent “It’s Dangerous to Be Right When the Government is Wrong” tells Reason HERE, speaking on the selection of Senators:
“There would be the nation as a nation, there would be the people, and there would be the states. The nation as a nation is the president, the people is the House of Representatives, and the states is the Senate, because states sent senators”
Judge Napolitano makes an important and intelligent point, if the States were to select Senators, wouldn’t that create a voice for the individual States? Wasn’t the entire point of the Senate an equalizer between States so that smaller states contained the same legislative power as a large state in at-least one house?
It’s interesting to ponder what would be different if the Seventeenth Amendment ratification of 1913 did not occur. Of course, it was the states themselves who with a 3/4 majority, ratified the amendment. But I wonder what the intentions of those officials in power was at that time, and if they truly held the intention to ensure freedom of their fellow citizens . I also wonder whether those who did have good intentions would ratify again and whether they knew what they were truly getting into.
Would issues like the Oklahoma ban of emergency gun confiscation and Right To Work economic booms be more popular in discussion? Would Senators elected by Legislatures act more like Constitutional Senator Rand Paul, attempting to stop government drones spying and policing Americans, or like Senator Harry Reid, legislating for lobbyists?
I see and have seen the poor decisions made by popular vote without research, and have to admit, the Seventeenth Amendment seems to deliver more authority to Central Government. Without this State Check and Balance originally within the Constitution, the choice of philosophy behind government, to grow or to grow more efficient, is given to the Executive Branch, which always wishes to grow, the House, members elected by popular vote and direct election, and the Senate, members elected by popular vote and direct election.
If two of the three legislative arms are chosen by popular vote and by the same group of voters, where is the resistance or balance? If the same members of society directly choose the Senate and the House, why would the results differ in philosophy or intention? But if the Legislature chooses the Senate, the Senate calls upon the more active members of differing political philosophies to participate. By asking for more effort, only those who have discovered their interest in one side or one opinion and researched it are encouraged to act.
This lack of State voice at the table of legislation is likely behind the increase in use of Nullification by the States, such as the recent Alabama nullification of Agenda 21. I see more States utilizing this Constitutional authority to nullify Unconstitutional law that infringes upon the Natural Rights highlighted within the Constitution in the future, and possibly a new discussion on the seventeenth amendment and State power.
Let me know what you think about Judge Napolitano’s opinion on the 17th amendment ratification and whether the amendment should be re-visited in the comments.