Tam on the Porch wrote a neat little piece on the 17th Amendment. Intrigued I was, so I emailed it to my political correspondent and asked him to read it. Upon his reading it he asked my take. I replied –
Being the poor Constitution student that I am, I thought that senators were always publicly elected. Now that I know the contrary, I think it was a bad move by the government and the people for ratifying the amendment.
I had often wondered why we had two sets of elected officials at the Federal level. Now I know that, originally, we didn’t. I like the idea of having the State government choose or appoint senators. That way the State is represented at the Federal level and the senator looks out for the need of the State, keeping special interest at bay.
With the public election of US senators we now see the problem. For example, Hillary Clinton is not in the Senate to represent the State of New York, she is there for her own personal gain and political advancement. In fact, none of the the current presidential candidates are in the Senate as a watch dog against an oppressive Federal government, they ARE the oppressive Federal Government. They are there solely for their own political advancement. I would venture a guess that some 90% of US senators do not watch out for the needs/wants of their States and for the relationship between the State and the Fed. But seem to purely seek their own political advancement. (Some minor repetition)
This is how our nation has become an Oligarchic Plutocracy, rather than a Democratic Republic! We sabotaged what the founding fathers wanted done and now look at the mess. I guess you could say this is why I support a term limit for senators. Two terms gives them twelve years in office. Let them be publicly elected, but put a limit on their greed and power mongering.
To which he replied –
For the most part I couldn’t agree more. The direct election of both the House and the Senate has without question lead to heightened levels of political dysfunction. However, I can and at times do see the need for public participation, even at the Senatorial level. I agree with you in that today elections aren’t defined by those elected to office nor their responsibilities to the state responsible for their direct election. But rather elections and those participating within them, have come to symbolize the “moods” or “trends” of a popular culture that most often times fails to properly understand its sovereign power, constitutional right, and enabling presence.
You are also right to assume that the vast majority of those seeking ascension to the office of US Senator have very little to do with country, and a whole hell of a lot to do with personal ambition. This point as you accurately point out is being constantly demonstrated by those whose role of state elected spokesman is often times overlooked, if not all together bypassed, for “positions” which serve to further appease their unquenchable thirst for all things personal or powerful! Hence, your well stated point of America’s once honored “democracy” being more closely aligned with the defining characteristics and/or attributes of an Oligarchical Plutocracy!
But perhaps most of all, the most troubling aspect with respect to the 17th Amendment isn’t its compromising role of state sponsored representation, or its level of political institutionalized selfishness. But rather its dependence on, and mastership of, a largely uninformed, undereducated, predominately under-appreciative electorate, whose democratic voice, had a direct effect upon the 17th Amendment’s full fledged inclusion into the very fabric of American Constitutionalism. It has often times been stated that if you don’t like your political system, look no further than the society in whose dependence it thrives upon.
Upon leaving the Constitutional Convention, founding father Benjamin Franklin was stopped by a young lady whose curiosity sparked the following question, “Well, what have we got – a Republic or a Monarchy? In which Franklin responded, “A Republic, if you can keep it”.
Yes America’s 17th Amendment has provoked levels of degradation, the likes of which would have been deemed inexcusable in 1787. But at the same time, these and other abominations to this countries imperfect governmental history have come about not by acts of single-minded Senators, but rather the people of whom the separation of powers was intended to defend. If We The People continue to stand by passively, I fear not only will the telling words of Ben Franklin and others come to fruition, but so to will the continuation of aspirational Senators, each seeking further levels of individual power, wealth, and prestige. Which if left alone, will all but ensure the gradual demise and decomposition of a document most of us don’t know we’re entirely dependant upon.
Just some food for thought. Thanks for the starter fluid, Tam.