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Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Senate election in Massachusetts cries out for 17th Amendment repeal

I don't live in Massachusetts so yesterday's special election that saw Scott Brown win the seat vacated by the death of Ted Kennedy didn't hold any interest for me. But I'd be deaf and blind not to know about the ridiculous amount of passion that's built up over this election in the past few weeks and months.

Some are saying that Brown won because "the independents are angry". Which in my mind begs the question: was Ted Kennedy only winning those unconscionably numerous terms of office because he benefited from straight-ticket voting: something that, to the best of my knowledge, wasn't an option in yesterday's election? Seems to me that's an insult to ol' Teddy's memory: as if openly admitting that he couldn't win election on his own merit but rather had to ride the coattails of the Democrat Party.

I've never been in favor of allowing straight-ticket voting anyway. If you're going to the polls to cast a ballot, you should be compelled to think long and hard about who exactly you're voting for. Voting is a right, but it's one bought with too much precious blood to be an overly convenient one.

Anyhoo, the real reason why I'm not really feelin' anything one way or the other about this election is because in the saner world of another time, this election wouldn't have happened and Ted Kennedy likely would never have gotten close to a Senate seat anyway. Because before the Seventeenth Amendment was passed, senators were elected by the state legislatures! The Founders meant for the House to represent the people and for the Senate to represent the states. It's the way it was until 1912 when the Seventeenth was ratified and senators were elected by popular vote.

Sure, there were problems with the previous method of electing senators. But you tell me: could it possibly have been any worse than the dirty, corrupt slugfest that modern Senate campaigns have become?

Consider this also: would something like "health care reform" stand even a remote chance of becoming an inssue in a Senate made up of members who were sent their by their respective states, rather than be installed (for lack of a better word) by political parties?

The Seventeenth Amendment has proven to be a failure more spectacular than Prohibition. It should be repealed and the election of senators returned to the individual state legislatures.

I wish Scott Brown all the best as he begins serving the people of Massachusetts in the United States Senate. But the fact of the matter remains: those of his caliber deserve a more dignified way of coming to the Senate.

And we the people deserve that as well.


Lee Shelton said...

The original idea was to give state governments representation at the federal level. That's gone. I agree: Repeal the 17th Amendment!

Take a look at the amendments and other laws that were passed in the 1910s. That decade was pretty much the nail in the coffin for the republic.

Brian Fesperman said...

I say we also get rid of the electoral college... It was created to compensate for the fact that not everyone could travel the great distances by foot or wagon to vote. These days, there's no excuse for not getting to the Polls.
And besides, we now have the technology, Florida excluded, to quickly process a straight popular vote...

Matt in Canada said...

Here in Canada, the Prime Minister appoints people to the Senate...They only problem is the Senate is always out for lunch

Anonymous said...

I agree that 17 should be repealed. Foreign countries have more influence in Congress than the States do (States have 0 representation in congress - which is what senators were supposed to be).

The people elected the House to represent them while the senators represented the states. Seems like they would be the same but people may want things like medicare, public option, etc while the states would be asking how it gets paid for. With people electing house and senate then things get done for people without any regard for what burden it puts on the actual state.

However, I also disagree with Brian. The electoral college was created mainly to prevent some populist person from coming to power by appealing to the voters with false promises (how did Obama get in again...) Anyway, if you remove the electoral college then you effectively remove smaller states like NH, Iowa, the Dakotas, from even being considered during election. Without the electoral college then the presidential election would simply become who could win the big cities.

Take the map of counties/districts won in 2008. Obama won 53% of the total vote yet McCain won almost 90% of the land mass. Without electoral college the people in cities could even more dictate what people outside the cities would have to do.