The Mi4CS US Senate debate on the 14th was a good presentation of Michigan's US Senate candidates on a variety of issues. Though not all the candidates were able to make it, the representation was sufficient to see some contrast in how we might find a better conservative candidate to face off in the US Senate race for Michigan in 2012.
Several questions were asked, but one that stood out as an interesting contrast point, was the question on the 17th amendment. Most readers understand the 17th amendment was the point which state's rights were severely hobbled. I have supported the repeal of the 17th amendment since learning the reasons for which the founders had purposefully avoided it. Of course I was never exposed to such radical ideas in public school, so it was full blown adulthood, and fighting off the years of indoctrination which provided a sense of truth how this country was meant to be.
"Do you believe the Framers were in error in providing for the election of Senators by the State Legislatures and if so do you believe the 17th Amendment, (ratified during the Wilson administration), is the proper solution. Would you introduce/support a repeal of the 17th Amendment?"
The 5 participating candidates had an interesting array of answers. While I would vote for ANY of these distinguished gentlemen over the meat puppet Debbie Stabenow, I was not enthusiastic about a couple of views. I WAS intrigued by the thought process which went into each however. Well done.
The five below the fold ~
In no particular order. (some text reformatting done for readability)
The briefest answer was from Randy Hekman, who was to the point and pithy.
"The year 1913 was not a good year for the United States. In it was passed not only the 17th Amendment, but also the 16th allowing for income taxes and also the start of the Federal Reserve System. I think US Senators should be appointed by their state legislators. That keeps them connected as they should be to the best interests of their states and preserves the concept of federalism. I would support such a repeal."
Chuck Marino, aware of the reasons for selection of Senators by the states as the founders intended, is not likely to support the repeal of the 17th amendment. Likening the selection process to the manner in which the 'establishment' cronyism works, he seeks altruistic participation in its stead.
"The original system of having state legislatures elect U.S. senators began to break down with the growth of political parties in the mid-19th century. Disagreements between and within parties produced deadlocks that delayed state legislative business and left states without their full Senate representation, often for lengthy periods. This amendment provides for senators to be elected the way members of the House are--by direct election of the people.
Both sides of this issue have some positive and negative effects. It's like college football the bowl system as opposed to a playoff system, both have redeeming qualities. The reason for the 17th amendment not working during the times they were under two different protocols was due to man's lack of selflessness and not being able or willing to put country first and understanding by our leaders they are servants of the people have a government that is by the people. Since the latter or the present system is in place I would continue to support it Maybe those people with virtue and altruistic character might have an opportunity to represent us.
The original Senate configuration which the legislation would elect I am sure our framers thought that they could represent the people best through the state legislators whereby the state needed to pull equal access from the federal government. There were issues within the state that they (the state) needed expertise at the federal government to argue their state issues.
Debbie Stabenow and Carl Levin are both senators from Michigan, during their time in office Michigan has been a donor state regarding money sent to Washington and what is given back the state of Michigan, even during Michigan's rough economic years 2006-2009 which found Michigan in a depression and last place to all the other states. Under this system there are two problems that come to the forefront; the first being the position is filled through cronyism. Secondly, the process like in the years it was instituted, it would be difficult to get a confirmation due to by-partisanship.
We have groups and party affiliates that before the primary season start meeting and selecting a candidate thus circumventing the process.
We have cronyism, instead of selecting the person with the qualifications to fix the problem we coronate the person based on favors we owe them. We create an unleveled playing field by limiting speaking opportunities, by giving unions rights that groups of similar makeup do not have, we let some candidates speak at some churches while other churches are threatened with loss of 501C.
We insert ourselves into the process causing the process not to net the desired results needed to send qualified people to Washington that can truly produce legislation based in the Constitution and free market principles."
Gary Glenn, for all his experience politically, exposes the weakness in plans for the constitutional return to state selected Senators. As involved as he has been, he still required the proverbial 'epiphany' to understand the genius of our founding fathers.
"I had never even been conscious of the 17th Amendment until hearing during the summer of 2010 that Tea Party activists in Idaho were urging its repeal, and my first instinctive reaction was that the last thing we should do is take the power to elect U.S. senators away from the people and give it to ego-driven, self-interested, power-seeking politicians in state legislatures instead. Good friends and supporters of my campaign know that was my initial position, because I voiced it and argued with them, and I'm blessed that they maintained their support for me anyway.
But after re-reading the Federalist Papers and commentaries on that work over several months, it finally became clear to me that the brilliance of the Founders' checks and balances system -- that I've clearly recognized all my life in their design of the three branches of the federal government -- was the same principle and objective they sought to achieve in intentionally empowering ego-driven, self-interested, power-seeking state legislators to appoint members of the U.S. Senate.
The genius of the Constitution is that the Founders did not attempt to create a Utopian governing document that suppressed or overcame the negative traits of human nature, but that they counted on those negative traits and set one group of politicians against another as the most effective safeguard against either group growing so powerful as to threaten the liberties of the People of the United States.
As a matter of simple rhetoric, the way the issue was framed, I had been unpersuaded by the argument that the Founders intended senators to "represent their states." Huh? Wouldn't any senator (and the overwhelming majority of the rest of us) quickly insist that senators under the current system of popular election do represent their states?
I didn't understand the issue clearly until I came across a passage that, by adding a single word to the explanation, turned on the light of my understanding. The original purpose of U.S. senators was not to represent the interests of their states generically, but the interests of their state governments and, by definition, the politicians who comprised those state governments.
So, just as the Founders relied on politicians in the U.S. Senate to protect the people from another group of politicians in the executive branch, and vice versa, the Founders similarly counted on politicians in now 50 state capitals -- all intent on maintaining their own power -- to be the surest safeguard, check, and balance against the power and growth of a dictatorial, over-bearing federal government.
If state legislatures retained the power to appoint U.S. senators, and the corresponding power to "fire" them at regular intervals, would any senator willingly concede to attempts by the federal government to trample on or ignore the rights of the state governments?
Can there be any debate that in the last near-century since state legislators were stripped of that power in 1913, the federal government has grown into the very dictatorial, oppressive power that the Founders rightfully feared? No. States file lawsuits against federal excesses which, often as not, are rejected by federal judges. Politicians talk about the 10th Amendment and states' rights, but the 10th Amendment is for all practical purposes ignored as little more than an item of political rhetoric during election years.
I've come to the conclusion that repeal of the 17th Amendment is the key to restoring the federal government's respect for the 10th Amendment and the Constitutional rights of state governments, that once again appointing U.S. senators who fear offending the appointing body in their state capitals is the only means by which to reasonably and credibly expect to put the federal government back into the chains with which the authors of the Constitution intended to bind it.
Though I have no delusions about the ease of the process or the challenges in effectively communicating to the public why politicians in Lansing should select U.S. senators rather than the voters themselves, I will as a U.S. senator support repeal of the 17th Amendment as the only likely way to protect our liberties from the ever-expanding Leviathan of the federal government."
Scotty Boman's answer points out some side effects, and he offers potential repeal language he would support.
"This is not a hot button issue for me, but I have an opinion that will likely be unique (compared to other conservatives, libertarians and Constitutionalists), so I feel compelled to explain my reasoning in some depth.
It (selection of Senators by State legislatures) was a pretty good idea at the time. Delegates to the Congress of the Confederation had already been selected in this manner, so it was prudent to have a house of the Congress that was selected in this familiar tested fashion. The word "Gerrymander" did exist until 1812. I do think the framers made an understandable error in not seeing how the same selection process could be abused in the 21st century.
The original intent was that citizen electors choose their representatives, and not the other way around. Currently both houses of the state legislature are composed of Gerrymandered districts. By Gerrymander I mean that the boundaries of the districts are set by establishment politicians and parties (guided by special interests) to secure the victory of their people in elections. As a result, the will of the state legislature can contrast sharply with the will of the citizens of that state. In Michigan this can be documented by a look at ballot initiatives that have been passed by a majority of citizens of the state. While I sharply disagree with some of them, over-all there is a greater tendency for liberty found in the initiatives than in the state legislature: Eminent domain reform, medical marijuana initiative, and MCRI, Hadley amendment. None of these lend support to Federal expansion, but rather stand in opposition to some federal policies. Even an initiative I opposed, defining marriage, served as a position taken by residents of the state in contrast to some federal policies. None of these initiatives would have been introduced had the state legislature properly represented their constituents.
Currently Congressional district boundaries have become a political football in Federal courts. These cases have cited the voting rights act, and districting plans favorable to Republicans have been targeted with allegations of racial Gerrymandering. If state legislative districts were still a part of the Senatorial selection process, they would be further subject to federal manipulation and oversight.
The 17th Amendment was not originally intended to remedy these problems, but an unintended consequence of its ratification is that the Office of United States Senator is immune to the Gerrymandering of districts, unlike other legislative offices.
The repeal of an Amendment requires the introduction of a new amendment. My support or opposition would depend on the wording of that amendment. An amendment that simply reverted to the previous process would have unintended adverse consequence in the current context; without an anti-gerrymander amendment or clause reverting to Article I. Section 3, would shift power from the people of this state to establishment players in the major parties who answer to moneyed interests outside the state. Also, State legislative district boundaries would become more subject to litigation in Federal courts.
An anti-gerrymander amendment would be one that simply gives an upper limit to the ratio of perimeter to area of a legislative district. While this would not block all manipulation, it would prevent district from having the spikes and such that current ones have. But if the real intent is to empower the states, why revert back to a federally mandated selection process at all? Since the repeal of an amendment takes the form of a new amendment, why not do it right:
"The Senate of the United States shall be composed of two Senators from each State, selected in a manner specified by the laws thereof, for six years; and each Senator shall have one vote. When vacancies happen in the representation of any State in the Senate, the State shall fill such vacancies: Provided, The state may make temporary appointments until it fills the vacancies as its laws so direct.
States may recall Senators in a manner specified by the laws of the state that selected them.
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."
I would support the above wording as a repeal of the 17th Amendment. [A note on Constitutional amendments in general: Given that amending the Constitution is far more difficult then replacing politicians through election, I am cynical of the general notion that we should fix the system with Constitutional amendments. If voters had a zero tolerance approach to politicians who neglect the current Constitution, most of the problems we seek to remedy, this way, would not arise.]" "
Clark Durant would not be a champion for the repeal of the 17th amendment. His reasons would likely be echoed by many who do not understand the reasons for the separation of the houses, and state's rights. He was correct in that the states had a voice in the federal government prior to 1913. It was the direct voice, or will of the people that the house was designed for. An argument he also makes about closed door selections is interesting given the manner in which the presumed front runner (who did NOT participate in this process) was forwarded by party elites.
The Framers did not "err" in constituting the Senate as originally provided in the original Constitution. Having Senators elected by the State Legislatures allowed the sentiments of a State as a State to be represented more directly in the federal government. The 17th Amendment was intended to provide greater direct citizen input in the election of their Senators.
Like several other portions of the Constitution (for example, the allowance of slavery, the 3/5 clause, and disenfranchisement of women), the Constitution was amended to spread greater rights to the people. Unforeseen by the Framers was the way in which political corruption and cronyism would eventually squash dissenting views - and without the 17th Amendment, I wouldn't be standing before you - the voters - to ask for your vote. Instead, a deal would be made behind closed doors and the establishment candidate would have a coronation.
However, a case can be made that the 17th Amendment has played a major role in the expansion of the federal government because the interests of the State Legislatures were eliminated with its passage. This is why it's even more important to rein in the federal government to its enumerated powers. Even if you oppose the 17th Amendment, it has been effect for nearly a century, and that the American people care about this issue or have an appetite to amend the Constitution to divest themselves of a direct vote is very doubtful.
I believe that my time, energy, and political capital would be best served working to rein in the federal government by restoring the limited constitutional function of the federal government, eliminate the deficit, and reduce the debt, tax, and regulatory burden on the people and our country. Reagan was a great President because he focused on a few things to get done well."
Review and digest. And thank these good men for letting us know where they are at on the issues.