TeaBaggers Take Aim at the 17th Amendment

     The Seventeenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution 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 electors in each State shall have the qualifications requisite for electors of the most numerous branch of the State legislatures.

When vacancies happen in the representation of any State in the Senate, the executive authority of such State shall issue writs of election to fill such vacancies: Provided, That the legislature of any State may empower the executive thereof to make temporary appointments until the people fill the vacancies by election as the legislature may direct.

This amendment shall not be so construed as to affect the election or term of any Senator chosen before it becomes valid as part of the Constitution.”

     The Seventeenth Amendment, which was ratified in 1913, provided for the direct election of U.S. senators by citizens. Until 1913 state legislatures had elected U.S. senators. Ratification of the amendment followed decades of insistence that the power to elect senators should be placed in the hands of ordinary voters. This successful struggle marked a major victory for progressivism—the early twentieth-century political movement dedicated to pushing government at all levels toward reform. In addition to serving the longer-range goals of the reformers, the campaign on behalf of the amendment sought to end delays and what was widely perceived as corruption in the election of senators by state legislatures.

     From 1787 until 1913, the U.S. Constitution specified that state legislatures would elect U.S. senators. Article 1, Section 3, 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.”

     In giving the elective power to the states, the framers of the Constitution hoped to protect state independence. The framers were suspicious of majority rule and sought to restrain what they regarded as the potentially destructive forces of democracy. Thus, while providing for direct election to the House of Representatives, they countered this expression of the people’s will by allowing legislatures to select members of the Senate. At the Constitutional Convention, the proposal for state election of senators aroused no controversy. Only one proposal for senatorial election by popular vote was offered, and it was soundly defeated. The states were receptive and did not protest when the Constitution was sent to them for ratification. Nor, over the next decades, did the system incur more than occasional criticism.

     By the late nineteenth century, however, political opinion was changing in favor of a more fully participatory democracy. Starting in the 1880s, the concentration of elective power in the hands of state legislatures provoked criticism. The critics complained that the legislatures were dominated by party bosses who prevented citizen participation and thwarted popular political action. The critics also pointed to practical and ethical problems: lengthy deadlocks, which sometimes resulted when legislatures could not agree upon a candidate, and alleged Bribery. Progressivism, the reform movement that sought to address social inequities by broadening government power, helped to bring about this change in outlook. Under the pressure of the Progressive movement and the popular belief that citizens were capable of choosing their own senators, the states began to bend. By the turn of the century, several states were holding popular elections that served as advisories to the legislatures in selecting senators.

     Over the next decade, increasing calls for change reached Congress, where the resistance to change was considerable. Federal lawmakers argued that direct election would strip states of their independence and sovereignty. The pressure continued to increase, however, until by 1910, thirty-one state legislatures had requested that Congress hold a constitutional convention to propose an amendment. The next year Congress buckled and passed the amendment; within two years, the amendment had been ratified by a majority of the states. It read, in relevant part:

“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.”

     Only ten states opposed ratification.

     Ratification of the Seventeenth Amendment introduced significant changes to Congress. When states elected senators, they exercised the power of instruction—they could direct their senators to vote a certain way on important matters. The Seventeenth Amendment formally ended this power, for now senators were beholden to the voters. Historians and legal scholars continue to debate the other effects of the amendment. Some view it as a grave surrender of state sovereignty; others see it as a benign or even positive outgrowth of popular will. Direct election has seemingly contributed to the decline in the power of party bosses, but its impact upon the actual practice of Senate business has been negligible.

_______________________________________________________

AMENDMENT XVII

Passed by Congress May 13, 1912. Ratified April 8, 1913.

Note: Article I, section 3, of the Constitution was modified by the 17th amendment.

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 electors in each State shall have the qualifications requisite for electors of the most numerous branch of the State legislatures.

When vacancies happen in the representation of any State in the Senate, the executive authority of such State shall issue writs of election to fill such vacancies: Provided, That the legislature of any State may empower the executive thereof to make temporary appointments until the people fill the vacancies by election as the legislature may direct.

This amendment shall not be so construed as to affect the election or term of any Senator chosen before it becomes valid as part of the Constitution.

_________________________________________________________

     Now, what possible reason would the Tea Party have to want to repeal the 17th Amendment? Simple.

     Does the word “gerrymander” mean anything to you? Over the period of the Bush administration, (W) Republican states have been busy trying to ensure that they maintain their house majorities by changing the boundaries of congressional districts in every state possible. But while this works for the House side, it is not possible to do this on the Senate side.

     Don’t get me wrong…I know that Democrat legislatures have also practiced gerrymandering. But no democratic body in the US has ever used it as a weapon as it is being used today by Republicans.

     When the 17th amendment was passed in 1913, there was no fear of the direct election of Senators by the public. In fact, the “party bosses” of the day had become so powerful that the Senate was little more than a country club for the rich and powerful business interests of the day. (Sound familiar?) The 17th amendment marked the demise and eventual dismemberment of those power-based interests. For the first time, “advice and consent” had meaning, and the public good was brought to the forefront.

     Over the years, there have been individuals and groups who have complained that the 17th amendment was an infringement on “states rights” (heard that before?). And now comes the Tea Party. Those constitution-loving scamps just cannot figure a way to “gerrymander” the Senate districts as they have successfully done with the House districts.

     Oh, and by the way, all those “red state” legislatures have been able to gerrymander democratic districts almost out of existence…Texas is a perfect example of this political genocide…just in case you wondered.

     So, in order to rig the game completely, repealing the 17th amendment has become paramount. Putting the election of Senators back into the hands of these gerrymandered state legislatures will complete their national plan and thereby rig the game in their favor, ad infinitem.

     Please do not dismiss my words as the contrivances of a disillusioned Democrat. Just read the newspaper. Just listen to any Teabagger who argues for “states rights”, and remember what has been said here. They will not stop with the 17th amendment…they are also after the 1st, the 10th, the 16th and the 21st amendments. And to what end do they wish to do this?

     The goal of the Tea Party is to destroy the fabric of the US government, to belittle it to the point that it becomes irrelevant and immaterial to our daily lives. I agree that many times the feds are not the best source for efficiency-information-truth-concern- as these idiots will surely tell you, and with a big grin on their faces. But the federal goverment is NOT the ENEMY…and if it becomes so, we will all perish by our own hands…because we allowed these situations to become true.

     The federal government is a reflection of we the people. Before you allow it to become even more dismembered, take a long look in the mirror. Is this REALLY what you believe is best for the nation?

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