HR 273: Repeal of the 17th Amendment (How Senators Are Elected)

February 15, 2013 13:38 pm

by Bridget Cantrell · 139 comments

Wow – where to start on this one.  There’s this: State Rep. Buzz Brockway wants to choose your U.S. Senator.  It’s no secret there is no love lost between Bryan Long and Buzz.

Repealing the 17th Amendment via HR 273 needs to be talked about though – especially since the upcoming U.S. Senate race is such a hot topic.  I can only assume Buzz will post his take on why he’s supporting this, but I do not want the current White Male legislature picking my next Senator.

I would appreciate a guest post from any of the sponsors explaining why they think Georgia should be the first state calling for a repeal of the 17th Amendment.  Until then – sorry guys….it looks like shenanigans.

17th

 

dsean February 15, 2013 at 1:42 pm

Zell Miller used to push this as well. The idea is that if the Senators are accountable to the state legislatures, then federal expansion will be much more difficult because the Senators would not want to co-opt and/or preempt state authority. This would especially be true in the case of unfunded federal mandates. FWIW, I think it’s a good idea that has no shot whatsoever.

seenbetrdayz February 16, 2013 at 11:01 am

That pretty well sums it up.

BryanLong February 15, 2013 at 1:45 pm

On Twitter today, Rep. Buzz Brockway said it’s simply about original intent. He has not responded to questions from the Twitterverse about whether his version of original intent extends to slavery, voting rights for women or unlimited terms for Presidents.

Bridget Cantrell February 15, 2013 at 1:52 pm

Bryan,

I default to Buzz being a good guy and having three daughters. I want to hear his side of the story, but his integrity stands until proven otherwise.

jamesdillard February 15, 2013 at 2:52 pm

Also an assistant editor of the site, so presumable he will have the opportunity to clarify his intent should he choose to do so

greencracker February 15, 2013 at 2:59 pm

Isn’t there some rule about Buzz, like, he doesn’t have to answer to PP readers or something, being as most of us are not his constituents? Or, we’re supposed to be civil in our discourse with him or something?

Chuck Shiflett February 15, 2013 at 1:51 pm

The 17th amenedment officially became US law in 1913… all part of the progressive movement of that era with hopes it would make it easier to expand the role of the federal government and further reign in the states. Guess what? It worked! Repeal of the 17th is one of several major steps that need to be taken in order to correct the path we are on.

James February 15, 2013 at 5:31 pm

Yes, because nothing good happened from 1913 on.

Vicki February 16, 2013 at 6:23 pm

Glad you agree.

James February 17, 2013 at 11:20 am

Vicki: Judging by the volume of posts, you don’t get out much on Saturday nights.

Joshua Morris February 18, 2013 at 10:38 am

James, you are quite correct with regard to American fiscal policy.

jamesdillard February 15, 2013 at 1:52 pm

It could also be viewed as a tactic to protect Republicans from demographic changes that make it increasingly likely that Georgia’s Senate seats go Democrat. Presumably most of the growth in those demographics will take place in relatively few districts; appointment would allow Republicans to continue to hold seats they would lose in popular elections.

Doesn’t matter though. 17th amendment isn’t going anywhere.

Lea Thrace February 15, 2013 at 1:53 pm

Bingo! That is precisely the intent that I take away from this.

Dave Bearse February 15, 2013 at 6:24 pm

It doesn’t matter where the demographic growth takes place when the effectiveness of gerrymandering and packing are increasing with the data and data management of computerization.

Georgia is nearly 45% Democratic, yet each House at the Dome is less than onethird Democratic. That’s one-quarter under-reprasentation. The ability to effect imbalance of that magntide will sustain firm GOP control even in the face of a majority Democratic state until there’s a Dem Governor in a redistricting year.

Supporters will frame it a states right issue. We know that code.

Mike Hassinger February 15, 2013 at 7:24 pm

“Georgia is nearly 45% Democratic, yet each House at the Dome is less than onethird Democratic. That’s one-quarter under-reprasentation. The ability to effect imbalance of that magntide will sustain firm GOP control even in the face of a majority Democratic state until there’s a Dem Governor in a redistricting year.”

Welcome to our world from 1871-2002.
Sincerely,
Republicans in Georgia

Dave Bearse February 15, 2013 at 8:47 pm

Abuses without a doubt. The 2000 redistricting was one of many things contributing to complete flip of the state in 2002. Is that type of imbalance representative or your or GOP principles, or not?

Vicki February 16, 2013 at 6:25 pm

LOL, welcome to politics. Been here long?

toosmarttovoteGOP February 19, 2013 at 5:09 am

“Win if you can, lose if you must, but always cheat.”
with apologies to Gorilla Monsoon.

Andre February 15, 2013 at 1:54 pm

The Founding Fathers never wanted members of the United States Senate to be directly elected.

They wanted U.S. Senators to, as dsean correctly noted, be accountable to the states. Each state is represented in the United States Senate, while the people are represented in the United States House of Representatives.

And FYI, Georgia never ratified the 17th Amendment; not even in the 130 years of uninterrupted, undisputed Democrat control of this state.

Toxic Avenger February 15, 2013 at 5:17 pm

The Founding Fathers also counted black people as 3/5 of a person, so let’s default to their intent on things.

Andre February 15, 2013 at 6:33 pm

The Founding Fathers also put in protections for all forms of speech, including anonymous speech, so I’m more than willing to default to their intent on things, because on the whole, they did more good than bad.

Mike Hassinger February 15, 2013 at 8:08 pm

TA, as I’m sure Andre will tell you, 3/5 was a compromise between those who wanted slaves counted as population for purposes of representation and those who did not want slaves counted for purposes of representation. The “3/5 of a person” argument is claptrap -the Constitution made no such ontological statements about black people.

Vicki February 16, 2013 at 6:28 pm

Actually, it was a compromise between those who wanted slaves counted as population for purposes of representation, and those who wanted slaves counted as population for purposes of taxation (prior to the direct income tax, another wonderful 1913 amendment). You can guess which “those” was which.

debbie0040 February 15, 2013 at 2:00 pm

Original intent of the 17th amendment.

http://www.restorefederalism.org/

Mike Hassinger February 15, 2013 at 2:07 pm

Can I get a list of which Amendments the lefties object to, and which ones they hold as inviolable? So far, the 2nd Amendment is optional and could be repealed or ignored, as could the 5th when Obama is ordering extrajudicial killings via drone strikes. But the 17th was written in stone by the goddess Gaia herself. We repealed the 18th without too much trouble -how about the 16th?

Daddy Got A Gun February 15, 2013 at 2:24 pm

With the Bloomberg’s Stop and Frisk, 4th Amendment doesn’t matter much anymore to Libs. The 3rd probably is unwelcome in Obama-World after Kelo. If you are a Christian, you can forget about the 1st amendment protection. With speed the Fulton County and Atlanta court systems operate at, the 6th amendment is in the trashcan with the 2nd and 1st.

greencracker February 15, 2013 at 3:02 pm

Call me a lefty if you will, but I’m not trying to quarter any troops. #WeHaveBarracksNow

Mike Hassinger February 15, 2013 at 3:41 pm

I too, draw the line at the 3rd Amendment.

Dave Bearse February 15, 2013 at 7:24 pm

Uhhhhh… No “we” didn’t repeal the 18th amendment. Georgia has yet to take action on the 21st amendment that repealed prohibtion.

Since Buzz thought it relevant that Georgia never ratified the 17th Amendment, how about taking care of old business first and ratifying the 21st?

A repeal of the 17th is predicated on “government” making better selections than the people do for themselves. Senate representation selected in the same transparent manner as the GDOT Board…in a secret vote. You’re kidding, right?

A GOP principle is people making their own choices instead of government choosing for them, except when they shouldn’t.

Mike Hassinger February 15, 2013 at 7:37 pm

Yes “we” did, unless you consider “us” as not being a part of America. Georgia, along with several other states, took no action on the 21st (and implemented a whole bunch of local controls, some of which are still in effect today, to restrict and control it.) But 36 states ratified it through convention, and the “transportation or importation” of intoxicating liquors was permitted. We’ve abided by the will of the properly required number of states because we are one of the United States.

A Democrat principle is spinning the truth until deciding on a version that suits their agenda.

Dave Bearse February 15, 2013 at 8:48 pm

Glad you think of yourself as an American first and a Georgian second. That’s not always the case with the deep red states rights crowd.

Vicki February 16, 2013 at 6:31 pm

So, if Georgia will ratify the 21st Amendment, Dave Bearse will support repealing the 17th Amendment. Cool.

GAgadfly February 15, 2013 at 2:59 pm

Just as its progressive designers intended, the 17th Amendment has done more to skew the balance of power in our federal system than any other action in our nation’s history, and its repeal would be a huge step in getting things on the right track. The structure of our federal system was designed as it was for a reason, and the division and balance of power between and among the federal branches, the states, and the people will never be appropriate until 17 is repealed.

The 17th Amendment rendered meaningless the need for a bicameral legislature, as well as the idea of proportional representation. The primary reason for a Senate, in which Rhode Island has the same say as California, etc. is that the Senators represented the sovereign entities that were parties to the Constitution and to our federal system, i.e. the states. Senators represented the state governments, not the people of each respective state, and as others have said above, were designed to be a check on the both the growth of the federal government, as well as popular but ultimately unconstitutional whims of the public. The people have their representatives in the House. The states need their representation restored. As it stands now, the Senate is duplicative, disproportional, and entirely worthless in terms of the purpose it was created to serve.

Cheers to everyone who sponsored HR 273.

georgiaconservative33 February 15, 2013 at 3:07 pm

So, should the County Commission (or other form of local government) select the State Senators as well?

GAgadfly February 15, 2013 at 3:24 pm

Sure, why not? Cause, you know, a bunch of counties got together long ago and created the state of Georgia, right?

georgiaconservative33 February 15, 2013 at 3:53 pm

Only 12 states came together to form the Constitution and it was ratified by 13. So, the other 37 should have no say? 35 of those new 37 states had their say in 1913 and it passed.

2013 is not 1787. If you want the state legislators to pick the US Senators, then the County government should have the same ability in Georgia.

GAgadfly February 15, 2013 at 4:15 pm

First, are you saying that just because something was decided one way in the past, we can’t argue that it was a mistake, and work to fix it? You know, like Prohibition, for example.

Second, your analogy is just historically and legally bad. If you want to argue that counties should have formal representation in Georgia, and that the State Senate is your vehicle to do that, that’s fine. But that argument has absolutely no relevance or equivalence to a discussion of the U.S. Senate. Counties are inferior legal creations of the state, and have no independent existence, or power, other than that granted by actions of the state. County is to Georgia as Georgia is to Federal Government= very poor analogy

georgiaconservative33 February 16, 2013 at 11:42 am

My point is that the majority of the states changed the Constitution with the 17th Amendment. They decided it was best. Just because the original 12/13 States thought it was the best then, obviously proved that it was no longer the best way to do things in the early 20th century.

I fully realize the analogy is not perfect. It was the only one close enough to carry on a conversation with, though, to make the point that it is not necessary for the General Assembly to pick the U.S. Senators. Do you really think that the U.S. Senators do not represent the State of Georgia? Do you really think that they ignore Nathan Deal and the General Assembly leadership?

Vicki February 16, 2013 at 6:38 pm

They sure as hell do ignore them. And “representing the State of Georgia” is supposed to mean representing the interests of our directly-elected representatives, not of high-dollar special-interest lobbyists. One of the reasons Zell Miller supported repealing the 17th is because the U.S. Senate, as he put it, is CONTROLLED by lobbyists now.

peachstealth February 15, 2013 at 9:32 pm

Bad analogy!
The states formed the Union, not the other way round . It’s called the United States of America for a reason.
Georgia divided itself into counties. It’s the State of Georgia, not the United Counties of Georgia.
The purpose of the Senate was supposed to be to represent the interest of state government in the Congress. All states are treated as equals and have 2 Senators, no matter how large or small they my be.
The purpose of the House was to represent the interest of the people. Each district is supposed to have the same population and equal representation no matter how rich or poor it, and its people, may be.

georgiaconservative33 February 16, 2013 at 11:44 am

As I stated before, I fully realized that the analogy was not perfect. The U.S. Senate’s job is not to protect the State government. It is to protect the people, which is why the 17th Amendment was added. The people realized that their interests were not being protected and voted to change the Constitution. I don’t want the General Assembly to pick my U.S. Senators. I want to vote on them. There is too much cronyism in Atlanta and D.C. as it is.

David C February 16, 2013 at 5:41 pm

Exactly: The idea that this is some panacea for States Rights is is silly. You know why there’s a 17th Amendment? Because Standard Oil and other interests could corrupt the US Senate by corrupting state legislatures. Even if you picture Georgia as the perfect state for ethics (and as someone pointed out, we want the people that thought Don Balfour and Glenn Richardson were upstanding fellows picking our Senators?) others are not. I’m glad New Jersey’s Senatorial choice stays with its voters rather than residing with the various party bosses that dominate its legislature. That voters can sometimes make a choice between which individual is most qualified and best suited for the job, not party slates determined by whoever greased the most wheels in the state house.

Three Jack February 15, 2013 at 3:28 pm

Here is a link to Senator Zell Miller’s (D-GA) floor speech from April, 2004 calling for repeal of the 17th amendment — http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-news/1134065/posts

“The U.S. Senate has become just one big, bad, ongoing joke, held hostage by special interests and so impotent an eighteen wheeler truck loaded with Viagra would do no good. Gotta love Zell, unfortunately the same holds true almost 10 years after his speech.

Allowing for direct election of senators has over time completely destroyed the ability of that body to accomplish anything of significance. Hell, they can’t even perform the most basic function of passing a budget for the past 3 years. Why not look at what has happened since the 17th amendment was ratified then act on the findings…it can’t be much worse than what we have now with leaders like Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell.

Dave Bearse February 15, 2013 at 7:28 pm

The author of a “A National Party No More” ought to really know what he’s talking about!

Vicki February 16, 2013 at 6:50 pm

He does. It’s not a national party. It’s a factional party, concentrated in large urban areas.

sunkawakan February 15, 2013 at 3:32 pm

Wow, just wow. It’s been part of our Constitution for nearly 100 years. The rhetoric with this (and other) resolutions is such that one might get the impression that certain activists and legislators actually are promoting the overthrow of the government, rather than promoting reasoned 21st-century revisions. Good thing SCOTUS gutted the Smith Act in US v. Yates, huh?

And why is it that many of those that purport to have a deep understanding of the founders’ intent behind any Constitutional issue have little or no legal scholarship? Or is this deep knowledge they have acquired the result of some intense metaphysical experience?

Buzz Brockway February 15, 2013 at 3:48 pm

Fundraising over at Better Georgia worldwide headquarters must be off this month and I’m happy to serve as poster boy for this month’s “run wild with crazy accusations in the hopes of expanding our email list and getting Kevin Bacon’s attention again” rant.

Long’s silly post will help us get the message out that:

1) the Federal government is out of control,
2) State’s need a stronger voice in DC,
3) the original intent of the Framer’s was that the House of Representatives would represent the will of the people while the Senate would represent the several States,
4) If Senator’s were there to represent the interests of the States things like the financial impact of Obamacare on the States would have been a big part of the debate on the issue and perhaps would have prevented the measure from passing,
5) far from being a “tin foil hat” proposal, talking about the U.S. Senate as representatives of the States is something worthy of serious debate, not gotcha questions sent out via Twitter. As pointed out above the Democratic Party of Georgia, which ran this State for so long, never bothered to ratify the 17th and icons of that Party such as Zell Miller are partial to the ideas expressed in HR273.
6) This was introduced as a resolution in the State House, not as a call for an Article V convention, though last year I did sign on to a call for an Article V convention for the purposes of a Federal Balanced Budget amendment. We hope this begins the process of discussing this very important issue.

Oh and to address Bridget’s concern about a bunch of white males picking another white male as Senator you might be surprised who me and my colleagues might select.

sunkawakan February 15, 2013 at 4:29 pm

@Buzz, will you support HB 352?

d_will February 15, 2013 at 4:49 pm

“Oh and to address Bridget’s concern about a bunch of white males picking another white male as Senator you might be surprised who me and my colleagues might select.”

Maybe we won’t be surprised. Either way, isn’t the point of democracy that people get to make those choices themselves rather than have their lawmakers forced upon them by “surprise”? (And if it isn’t, you’re probably a smart enough politician to know that’s how the overwhelming majority of people will look at something like this anyway.)

Learn to pick your battles Buzz. I hate being in alignment with Bryan Long on something, but you don’t do your party any favors when you start making people choose between your fringe brand of crazy and the people on the other side who are pointing out “hey, those people are crazy!” Bobby Jindal knows what he’s talking about when he says that nutjobs are hurting the GOP’s own cause.

Vicki February 16, 2013 at 7:00 pm

Two things, d_will – this is NOT a democracy, as our Constitution makes clear; and the people DO make their choices – for the State legislature, which can then select Senators to support the best interests of our State, as they were supposed to do all along.

BryanLong February 15, 2013 at 5:02 pm

Yes, Rep. Brockway. When I saw that you want to pick the U.S. Senators for every Georgia voter my eyes immediately lit up with dollar signs.

The truth is that your bill would ask Congress to take a choice away from Georgia voters.

This is a debate worth having in public. I’m glad you are willing to discuss the bill you sponsored.

Three Jack February 15, 2013 at 5:09 pm

Bryan,

Georgia is one of 8 states that have yet to ratify the 17th Amendment so why not explore the possibility of pushing for repeal. It will not ‘take choice away from Georgia voters’ as you suggest. In fact, it should have the effect of forcing GA voters to be more involved in selecting their local representatives.

Andre February 15, 2013 at 6:39 pm

“This is a debate worth having in public.”

I agree, so what part of the state legislatures choosing the United States Senators would not be held in public?

All meetings of the Georgia General Assembly are open to the public. Constituents of state legislators would be able to weigh in on which U.S. Senate candidate they want their elected official to support. All votes would be public.

Where’s the secrecy? There is none. But hey, Bryan, since you’re so gungho about giving the American people more choices at the ballot box, then would you be willing to support a constitutional amendment providing for the direct election of members of the cabinet?

David C February 16, 2013 at 5:27 pm

Truly, Andre has heard of the famed ‘smoke-filled room?’ Just because the actual process of electing someone has to take place in public, doesn’t mean the arrangement that comes up with the candidate does.

ARAR February 15, 2013 at 8:27 pm

same thingt could be accomplished if the GOP would change its rules and hold a convention to select its nominee for US Senate.

Vicki February 16, 2013 at 7:01 pm

And the Democrats.

I think that’s a fine idea.

Nonchalant February 15, 2013 at 4:19 pm

I’m not going to say much, and I do ask my previous request be honored. However, in regards to Ms. Cantrell’s “but I do not want the current White Male legislature picking my next Senator”***, I first thought it was a statement of such unwarranted toxicity that it would be best if Ms. Cantrell never played a role in public discourse again. I have since changed my views, and adhere now to the idea that “diversity” naturally brings success in an organization:

http://www.dekalb.k12.ga.us/board-of-education

***For the record, the General Assembly as a whole is not all “white”. If Ms. Cantrell is trying to say select demographics no longer have the right to associate together if it results in a majority, I’d be fascinated to hear her reasoning, and I would expect equal enforcement across all demographics.

Or we can just take each person as they come.

The LaFayette Underground February 15, 2013 at 4:41 pm

For what it’s worth, the same body that placed Don Balfour in its most powerful position for years, and recently replaced him with Jeff MAGLEV Mullis, shouldn’t have the authority to order lunch – much less choose the state’s US Senators.

— LU

Bridget Cantrell February 15, 2013 at 4:44 pm

Boom.

Mike Hassinger February 15, 2013 at 4:47 pm

You DO realize that there are two parts to the legislature, don’t you?

tdk790 February 15, 2013 at 5:23 pm

Are Don Balfour and Glenn Richardson really that distinguishable? Or Jeff Mullis and David Ralston?

Mike Hassinger February 15, 2013 at 7:39 pm

Yes, they are. Unless you’re an idiot.

tdk790 February 17, 2013 at 4:26 pm

Now I just feel bad for you.

ARAR February 17, 2013 at 11:37 am

but remember, they were elected…

The Last Democrat in Georgia February 15, 2013 at 8:36 pm

The LaFayette Underground, February 15, 2013 at 4:41 pm-

Excellent point.

Dave Bearse February 15, 2013 at 9:10 pm

Hang in there.

The Last Democrat in Georgia February 15, 2013 at 9:13 pm

Thanks.

xdog February 15, 2013 at 4:45 pm

Your gop is ready when the 19th century returns.

sunkawakan February 15, 2013 at 5:06 pm

Not the 19th, the 18 century.

James February 15, 2013 at 5:29 pm

How to write a losing bill. Step one: reference the Federalist Papers.

Bull Moose February 15, 2013 at 5:42 pm

This is a debate worth commenting on…

Let’s all just be clear, there is no way that the citizens of the United States are going to give up their right to elect members of the US Senate. I don’t want them to and I think it’s rather asinine that members of the Georgia General Assembly are wasting valuable time and tax money sponsoring such legislation.

If, given all the issues that our state is facing right now, these Representatives have nothing better to do with their time than to propose pointless legislation that will never become reality, than perhaps the voters of their respective districts should think long and hard about reelecting these guys to office.

Instead of addressing serious issues such as our state’s crumbling infrastructure, our underfunded education system, and creating a world class state that attracts more jobs and industry, we have jokers who want to suppress the right of the citizens to vote for their US Senators.

The last thing that I would want is a bunch of gerrymandered part-time special interest beholden legislators trumping the will of the people and selecting our United States Senators.

James February 15, 2013 at 5:47 pm

Nail on head. Best comment of the bunch. I’d be interested in hearing Buzz’s take on why he spent time on this bill rather than state-focused legislation.

Buzz Brockway February 15, 2013 at 6:14 pm

Wow.

You guys realize there are 180 members of the House and 56 members of the Senate and that each of us are capable of walking and chewing gum at the same time?

Part of the problem in our political system today is so many have such a low tolerance for discussing ideas. We want to talk about Federalism and the balance of power between the States and the Federal Government and you folks want to throw us out of office.

xdog February 15, 2013 at 6:26 pm

So talk. You have a forum here for you. Tell us why your resolution isn’t anti-democratic, with a small ‘d’? Tell us why 37 states were wrong to ratify the 17th in the first year, why Maryland was wrong to ratify last year. Tell us you don’t have better uses for your legislative time.

sunkawakan February 15, 2013 at 6:27 pm

And Buzz, do tell us your position on HB 352.

Mike Hassinger February 15, 2013 at 7:42 pm

I wish to take on a small issue with Rep. Brockway. “Each” legislator is not capable of walking and chewing gum at the same time. Some? Yes. All? No.
I have a list.

seenbetrdayz February 16, 2013 at 11:17 am

The thing is, it *IS* anti-democratic.

That’s the point.

If you want democracy, move to Greece. Just watch out for the angry mobs with molotovs and pitchforks who are pissed off about the consequences of voting themselves money until the government ran out.

Vicki February 16, 2013 at 7:06 pm

Thank God SOMEbody recognizes this. Our Constitution didn’t give us a democracy; it gave us a republic. As Franklin said, “If you can keep it” — which the 17th Amendment helped us down the road to NOT keeping. Time to start restoring it.

Napoleon February 17, 2013 at 3:59 pm

Often quoted, but always bears repeating…democracy is two wolves and a sheep voting on what’s for dinner.

If you want Democracy in action, look at California, where the majority voted to take property away from the minority in the form of voting higher taxes on the “rich.”

d_will February 15, 2013 at 7:23 pm

No, you want to talk about Federalism and the balance of power between the States and the Federal Government and the people (regardless of ideology) just want you to do something jobs. Less talking about theoreticals that will never happen, more doing things that will actually help people. This bill is a waste of everyone’s time. It’s not what any of you guys were elected to do.

DP714 February 15, 2013 at 7:47 pm

The election of Senators by the state legislatures was meant to keep the power of The People from being usurped by a powerful centralized government. Wouldn’t you say you have more effect on the votes of your state representative and state senator, than on your Senators in D.C? The Federal government’s policies tend to transfer “the authority” on local matters away from the locals (including state legislators) and into the hands of unelected Washington bureaucrats. Obviously it isn’t perfect, but I believe it’s substantially better than our current “direct democratic” method of selecting senators. I think this way, attracts more big government special interest groups because it allows for out-of-state campaign contributions, which tend to play a huge role in who the voters will choose..

Dave Bearse February 15, 2013 at 9:22 pm

“Wouldn’t you say you have more effect on the votes of your state representative and state senator, than on your Senators in D.C?”

Much more influence on only 2 of 236 that do the choosing, along with the Senate choice being but one consideration among a hundred others in choosing those 2, won’t make Senators any more accountable to or influenced by us as individuals than is the case now. Senators will however, be much more accountable and influenced by the state government machine.

Romegaguy February 15, 2013 at 9:16 pm

I’m willing to debate whether each of the 236 members of the GA General Assembly are capable of walking and chewing gum at the same time

Mike Hassinger February 15, 2013 at 7:50 pm

@ Bull Moose: “…wasting valuable time and tax money…”
You are aware that we only pay them $17,342 per year, right?

Dave Bearse February 15, 2013 at 9:05 pm

Now that was rich.

Romegaguy February 15, 2013 at 9:17 pm

$17,342 is kinda high for what some of them contribute to the betterment of our state

Joshua Morris February 18, 2013 at 10:52 am

Why don’t you run and see if you can do better for that amount of money, then?

sunkawakan February 15, 2013 at 5:59 pm

Repeal of the 17th would be tantamount to, in this day and age, instituting the House of Lords. I suppose each state would get one Lord Temporal and one Lord Spiritual?

DP714 February 15, 2013 at 6:58 pm

From what I remember, the very concept of state legislatures electing the Senators was meant to help protect state sovereignty and serve a check against the centralization of power. State reps won’t send anyone to Washington who they think will allow the federal government to expand its size and scope, because it would be at their expense. This is a part of what was meant by a Republican form of government, as opposed to a direct democracy. It would help keep government power as local as possible, and allow the citizen to have the most say in it.

Another plus, it would help make popular the concept of state nullification of federal laws! This pretty much applies to any political matter. The “One size fits all” way of handling politics is what will lead us into ruin. Letting the states experiment amongst themselves would result in the most productive solutions being adopted by all, and the burdens of unproductive ones not being as widespread. Anyways, apologies for the long post and if I went off topic. I’m new here (lurked around for a while) but I just had to post since I’ve always been a sucker for the Federalist/Anti-Federalist debates of our history.

Mike Hassinger February 15, 2013 at 7:47 pm

Don’t apologize, you’re fine. We only smack our commenters around sometimes. When they deserve it.
Carry on.

David C February 16, 2013 at 5:23 pm

Just FYI, Calhoun-Style Nullification was dead as a doornail over 50 years before the 17th Amendment. Something about a certain War establishing the supremacy of Federal Law over ‘states rights’ concerns.

Vicki February 16, 2013 at 7:15 pm

Yeah, ’cause we all know that war should be what settles political issues.

As Prof. Woods has said, the Civil War was not fought over nullification, and at the time of the war it was the northern states that had much more recently been engaged in nullification (nullification was used against slavery, as when northern states did everything in their power to obstruct the enforcement of the fugitive-slave laws, with the Supreme Court of Wisconsin going so far as to declare the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 unconstitutional and void). The legitimacy of nullification involves a philosophical argument, and philosophical arguments are not – at least to reasonable people – decided one way or the other by violence. No one would say, when confronted with the plight of the Plains Indians, “Didn’t the U.S. Army settle that?” If the arguments for nullification make sense, and they do, that is what matters. Reality is what it is. The compact theory, from which nullification is derived, does describe U.S. history. There is no way to evade that brute fact.

Will Durant February 15, 2013 at 7:00 pm

Make yourselves useful and take on Section 1 of the 14th amendment. We no longer have a frontier to populate and modern modes of transportation have rendered the automatic citizenship for being born here obsolete. If we are to get a handle on illegal immigration it has to start with birthright citizenship only being granted to children of parents that are already citizens. This in turn makes it easier to grant more work visas for documented immigrants who can meet agribusiness and other labor demands while paying taxes much like it is done in Europe. It should be easy to cross the border with proper documentation. It should be potentially fatal to cross without documentation.

John Konop February 15, 2013 at 7:25 pm

I get the point Buzz is making, and I would agree if we had not Jerry-manded the system. That concept has created real issues…..

Mike Hassinger February 15, 2013 at 7:40 pm

Konop, you know I love you. But it’s “gerrymandered.”

John Konop February 15, 2013 at 7:41 pm

My bad…… You are right…….

John Konop February 15, 2013 at 7:42 pm

I shop be careful at happy hour on my I pad…….

Mike Hassinger February 15, 2013 at 7:47 pm

Haha. As should we all!

The Last Democrat in Georgia February 15, 2013 at 8:54 pm

Mr. Konop, take it from me, don’t learn it the hard way. Alcohol and blogging (and firearms and heavy machinery) definitely do NOT mix.

Vicki February 16, 2013 at 7:20 pm

Konop has always had the write two bare arms.

Mike Dudgeon February 15, 2013 at 8:39 pm

I am a co-signer with my good friend Buzz. I am realistic about the chances this has, but I am convinced that the popular election of Senators was the ratchet that cranked up the Federal Government to a giant size. Most people don’t realize that now 1/2 the money in the state budget comes from DC; in some ways states have become giant departments of the Federal Government. All the big benefit programs like Medicaid, welfare, and now Obamacare are left to the states to somehow make them work. A Senate that represented the states would be so much more reluctant to go along with these giant expansions. How about our federal gas tax that takes money from us and then we have to beg Congress to get our fair share back for roads? No way that gets through Senators that represent states. Even silly stuff like the 55 MPH nationwide speed limit from the 70s would have had a much harder time going through an appointed Senate.

Here is another bonus – Senators would not need to constantly fundraise millions of dollars, thus lobbyists would have much less hold over them. Lastly, if the Senate is supposed to be elected by the people, it is a gross voting rights violation. Wyoming’s voters have 65x more say than California in electing Senators based on population.

This idea is not crazy, unless you think the Founding Fathers were crazy. Also, this resolution has been introduced in others states (Montana and a few others). Is it a longshot – absolutely. But as Buzz says, it is a conversation worth having.

The Last Democrat in Georgia February 15, 2013 at 9:05 pm

Good points, Representative Dudgeon.

xdog February 15, 2013 at 9:26 pm

OK Rep Dudgeon, I’ll ask you the same questions I asked Buzz. I’d appreciate if you’d be more precise in your answers than ‘it was good enough for the FFs’. If you would, please give special attention to the abuses by Senatorial candidates and legislatures that brought on demand for the amendment originally. Thanks.

“Tell us why your resolution isn’t anti-democratic, with a small ‘d’? Tell us why 37 states were wrong to ratify the 17th in the first year, why Maryland was wrong to ratify last year. Tell us you don’t have better uses for your legislative time.”

Mike Dudgeon February 15, 2013 at 9:33 pm

1) We have abuses and bad senators today with popularly elected, lobbyist influence, etc. With so much more awareness (blogs , video, etc) of what goes on in the state house that chance is less I think than 100 years ago of blatant corruption.
2) I guess technically it is anti-democratic with a small d, but we are a republic.
3) 37 states were wrong for the prohibition amendment. Not every amendment is perfect or permanent. We now realize we have created a monster federal government and we can change.
4) I spent perhaps one hour of my legislative time on that. I spend 60+ every week on tons of other things, mostly around bettering education and bringing high tech jobs to Georgia.

xdog February 16, 2013 at 7:34 am

Thank you for the courtesy of your response, Rep Dudgeon.

mpierce February 16, 2013 at 10:04 am

It’s certainly anti-Democratic, but I don’t think it’s anti-democratic. Repealing the 17th would transfer power back from a central democratic government to state democratic governments where people will have MORE control over how that power implemented.

If we eliminated the Supreme Court and Congress and directly elected the President, we would have more Democracy, but would we have more democracy? I would say that would actually put us much closer to dictatorship.

John Konop February 16, 2013 at 10:23 am

If you combine gerrymandered districts and taking away the vote from the people of the state I am not sure what you said adds up. Also the most dysfunctional goverment body is the house.

I get the concept, but we have some moving parts that are diferent ie gerrymandered districts that have created the issues in the house. The concept of house members making decisions in a gerrymandered district on the Senators will only further create dysfunctional goverment. Fix the gerrymandered districts and this idea would make sense.

mpierce February 16, 2013 at 11:23 am

If you combine gerrymandered districts and taking away the vote from the people of the state I am not sure what you said adds up.

It’s much easier to move amongst states than change citizenship. Regardless of gerrymandering, I have more choices and a greater ability to affect change with power at the state level than at the federal level.

Also the most dysfunctional goverment body is the house.

The Senate’s last budget was when?

xdog February 16, 2013 at 11:52 am

By your argument, it would be more ‘democratic’ still if the legislature had a selection committee that named senators instead of voting as a whole. Sorry, but finer filters don’t equal more democracy, or more accountability either.

Please look at the original abuses that generated the push for the 17th.

mpierce February 16, 2013 at 12:34 pm

Incorrect. A selection committee is not a government unto itself with separate powers.

xdog February 16, 2013 at 12:54 pm

You’re making this too hard. What’s this government unto itself business have to do with anything?

I can vote directly for US Senator, or I can vote for a state rep who will vote for US Senator, or I can vote for a state rep who will select a committee who will vote for US Senator.

The first situation is most democratic and the last is least, by any definition I’ve ever seen.

mpierce February 16, 2013 at 1:33 pm

You can look at Obamacare or NCLB or any numerous mandates pushed down on the states to see the practical difference. Or look to Justice confirmations in the Senate.

Senators elected through the legislator would need to address state government interests when decisions are made.

xdog February 16, 2013 at 4:24 pm

Your original comment I questioned was “It’s certainly anti-Democratic, but I don’t think it’s anti-democratic.” Nothing you’ve said since addresses how having fewer people vote does not imply less democracy.

Vicki February 16, 2013 at 7:29 pm

Seriously. The whole POINT of the Constitution was to AVOID democracy. We are a REPUBLIC.

mountainpass February 15, 2013 at 9:23 pm

I appreciate the effort. Good luck!

Napoleon February 16, 2013 at 1:25 am

Be careful what you wish for. How many on here have ever thought about the Lincoln-Douglas debates in what they really were? Obviously, they weren’t running for the Senate. What they were doing was trying to get enough legislators elected for their party to put them in the Senate.

seenbetrdayz February 16, 2013 at 11:11 am

I’d suppose the biggest issue with this is the nomination of Supreme Court justices. Before the 17th passed, state legislatures had a link to the nomination process. They chose the senators who would be confirming SCOTUS picks, and so the idea would be to find justices who would provide a balance in their rulings between the feds and the states.

Passage of the 17th was a breakdown of the republican system towards a direct-democracy, supported by people who live under the illusion that a diverse nation of hundreds of millions of people can ever be happily governed at the highest level of government by a simple majority vote.

Vicki February 16, 2013 at 7:30 pm

One of the best points I’ve seen made on this issue.

Napoleon February 17, 2013 at 4:12 pm

Don’t forget the Senate’s responsibility for approving treaties. Senators elected be the legislature would have a greater focus on how an international treaty will affect individual states as much as the nation as a whole.

Spacey G February 17, 2013 at 7:54 am

Let’s remember the people picked Buzz. That fact alone should support an entirely different system of government. Least it ever happen again.

Harry February 17, 2013 at 8:31 am

You’ve broken PP Commandment 11.
BB is a straight shooter.
You may not agree with his policies, but you’re not eligible to vote for him either.
100 years ago you couldn’t vote for anyone.

Harry February 17, 2013 at 8:31 am

You’ve broken PP Commandment 11.
BB is a straight shooter.
You may not agree with his policies, but you’re not eligible to vote for him either.
100 years ago you couldn’t vote for anyone.

Harry February 17, 2013 at 8:32 am

kewl

Napoleon February 17, 2013 at 4:14 pm

Only in GA Harry. Wyoming gave women the vote in 1876. However, in Georgia, non-U.S. citizens were allowed to vote.

James February 17, 2013 at 11:27 am

I, for one, would like to see Buzz and Mike Dudgeon sponsor a bill proclaiming that the U.S. should deem unicorns cooler than dragons. While such a bill would obviously be a complete waste of time and have zero chance of getting any traction–just like their efforts to repeal the 17th Amendment–it would be funny and would entertain our children. And it would not engender the sort of dour “I know what the founding fathers envisioned and let me regurgitate things I read on my bookmarked conservative blogs” sophistry we’ve seen in this post.

Unless you’re an expert on unicorns and/or dragons. In that case, feel free to post away.

Bob Loblaw February 17, 2013 at 8:11 pm

I would lead opposition in favor of the dragons. Unicorns are not even real, let alone cool.

gchidi February 17, 2013 at 12:32 pm

I am not inherently opposed to tinkering with the mechanisms of government. For one, I think we need a Constitutional amendment explicitly permitting the regulation of campaign finance and redefining the legal concept of corporate personhood. I would be open to an amendment establishing a federal standard for voting procedures and ballot security and election transparency.

Also, I like Buzz. His heart’s usually in the right place and he conducts himself as a statesman at a time when we’re surrounded by idiots. If he wants to raise this as a rhetorical point for a conversation about federalism, so be it.

All of that said … it’s a really bad idea, and especially in Georgia it’s a really, REALLY bad idea for one overwhelming reason. Corruption.

The 17th Amendment passed because the public was absolutely sickened by the corruption associated with the appointment of U.S. Senators. You may think campaign finance and money in politics is corrupting today, with millions of dollars being raised for political ads and consultants and get-out-the-vote organizations. Imagine what it was like a hundred years ago when all you had to do was bribe a few dozen state reps on the fence about your nomination. They’re cheaper to buy than the votes of the public. The Senate would routinely refuse to seat new senators who were considered corrupt, throwing others out for bribery. Meanwhile, some states would go without representation at all for years.

Occasionally a bidding war would break out. From a Chicago Tribune piece a few years ago: “In 1899, two rival mining company owners — W.G. Conrad and William Clark — paid more than $1 million in bribes in hopes of obtaining a Montana Senate seat, according to Wendy Schiller, a political science professor at Brown University. The contest lasted through 17 ballots before a winner could be decided, and the two candidates had to pay up before each day’s ballot to prevent their supporters from switching sides, she said. Clark eventually won, but the U.S. Senate refused to seat him and the spot was vacant for two years.”

Now picture what that would look like with the Georgia legislature, arguably the most corrupt in the country.

We can talk about the balance of power between states and the feds, but this is a bad, very bad, scary-bad idea.

I’m trying to avoid the obvious partisan analysis of this question, but I’ll raise it to acknowledge it. A disproportionately-large number of state legislatures are held by Republicans, relative to the presidential vote and the Senate representation.

Republicans control the state legislature in Florida, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, North Carolina, and Wisconsin — all states where Obama won or came very close. The only Romney state with a Democratic legislature was West Virginia.

Here’s a list of states with at least one Democratic senator and a Republican legislature (or one with split control) — Virginia (2 Ds), Montana (2 Ds), North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa (split legislature), Wisconsin, Missouri, Arkansas, Louisiana, Indiana, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, New Hampshire (split legislature), Alaska and North Carolina. Total of 15 Democrats that could be flipped and two that would be deadlocked out.

Here’s the similar list of states with at least one Republican senator and a Democratic legislature (or one with split control) — Nevada, Iowa (split legislature), Kentucky (2 Rs, split legislature), New Hampshire (split legislature). Total of exactly one Republican senator — Dean Heller — would be recalled home, with four others deadlocked out.

So … OF COURSE the Republican Party thinks this is a good idea. It shifts control of the U.S. Senate from a 55-45 split for Democrats to a 39-55 advantage for Republicans, with three states losing representation due to the inevitable partisan deadlocks.

Political theory is not something set in amber. I recognize that thefounders believed that the states needed representation as sovereign entities within the union … in 18th century America, when there was a real question about how viable the union might be as a state.

The country has changed its mind about what the relationship between states and the federal government should be — a consequence of the deadliest war in American history. We’re allowed to do that. We’ve done that 27 times since the Constitution was created.

The Constitution is the ultimate authority for questions of how we should govern ourselves, not the “will of the founders,” because the Constitution is the set of terms we’ve agreed to as a country. You’re welcome to try to change those terms. If folks think you can convince 38 legislatures and Congress that things should be your way, go for it.

I think they’ll lose.

What I find most remarkable about this argument is that we’re not talking about Republicans railing against some debatable re-interpretation of the Constitution in light of modern circumstances, but an objection to the actual Constitution itself.

The modern interpretation of the 2nd Amendment, for example, precludes the ownership of military-grade weapons by civilians. That’s a debatable interpretation of the Constitution. So is the use of the Commerce Clause as a predicate for some kinds of industrial regulation, or the General Welfare clause as the authority behind social programs. Reasonable people can disagree about how much reach might be given the federal government through these provisions.

But the 17th Amendment? That’s pretty straightforward, put into place for very sensible reasons. The question of balance between the power of states in the federal government against the need for honest governance was weighed … and states rights lost.

Are we to believe that our state legislators have become any more honest or more immune to the corrupting influences today than they were in turn-of-the-century America? These guys? It was bad then, and I think it’s probably as bad now. I’d like to see proof, if I’m in error.

But arguing for repeal on the basis of the “founders intent” — as though there was some kind of monolithic consensus among them — is to substitute their authority over our own. It is, in fact, to substitute their authority over the Constitution itself, which should give any honest conservative the willies.

xdog February 17, 2013 at 1:15 pm

Thanks for a solid post, although I’d argue there is plenty of competition in the ‘most corrupt legislature’ category.

seenbetrdayz February 17, 2013 at 4:21 pm

I think you’re missing the point on our system of government from the bottom-up, though.

You’re right if you mean to say that corruption can exist at any level of government. However, theoretically, local and state governments are easier for the people to influence than federal offices.

If I get 20 people to follow me to the county courthouse, I could pretty much get whatever I want.

If I get 20 people to follow me to my state rep’s office, I could probably get a chance to sit down and talk politics.

If I get 20 people to follow me to my U.S. Senator’s office, I would be lucky to get a chance to talk politics with the janitor who cleans his bathroom. A U.S. Senator is much too busy to deal with the likes of mere citizens.

seenbetrdayz February 17, 2013 at 4:31 pm

And I don’t think anyone is saying we should ignore the 17th or go against it, or anything like that.

However we have repealed amendments before.

Once upon a time, we passed an amendment saying alcohol was bad and no one could drink any more alcohol, and then a few years later we had to come back and repeal it because it turned out to be a really f*cked up idea. Nothing unconstitutional was done in the process. We changed it, and then we changed it back.

Now I will say that it’s much more difficult to change it back now that the cat’s out of the bag. Once you give people the right to vote for the Senators who give them free Obama phones and enslave doctors/healthcare workers, it’s pretty much impossible to go back to the way things were, barring a total collapse of the system — which doesn’t seem impossible given the way things are going.

gchidi February 18, 2013 at 1:48 am

You were doing well until the “Obama phones” crack.

As others have noted, the proposal to do away with the 17th Amendment is antidemocratic. You are making explicit what one might assume about the intent behind an antidemocratic move like this: you don’t like how a majority of your fellow citizens vote, so you would prefer they didn’t do so, thank you very much.

(And, yes, yes — we’re not a democracy, we’re a republic built on democratic principles. Still.)

The people who are voting for Democrats today have been willing to accept the consequences of losing at the ballot box for decades — the steady erosion of their real income relative to increasing productivity, with productivity gains captured entirely by the an increasingly-tiny elite who have been backing Republicans. People have accepted these politics out of faith that if they mustered a majority of voters, they could alter these conditions. That, and that wrecking the economy with civil discord would leave them worse off. Talking about people with “Obama phones” (a Reagan-era policy) is a con: Obama won with the support of what remains of middle-class voters who have had just a bit more to lose.

I’ve said this before, and I suspect I’ll say it again. Democracy is an agreement between armed camps to preserve their fighting strength for use against mutual enemies. Democracy isn’t inherently moral. It’s a tool for war, developed by the Greeks to kill Persians. It’s a pact to count spears carried in the hands of soldiers instead of those lodged in their breasts, and to divvy up the spoils of war fairly when done fighting the other guys. Democracy breaks down when one side believes it has more to gain fighting their own than they do fighting the enemy — when the expected cost of losing a ballot is greater than losing a war.

Folks talk about “going Galt” around here fairly regularly. Let’s be clear: the alternative to democracy is a pissed-off majority capable of inflicting far more damage to the typical upper-middle class Republican voter’s real assets and lifestyle than losing at the ballot box might. If that weren’t true, you really would have seen the Galt move en masse. (If you want to argue that its happening anyway, then you better be able to refute the growth in corporate profit numbers.) Republicans will lose less by losing at the ballot box than they will playing games like this, or like the delegate-staking ploy in Virginia, or the rest of it.

I say this because I’m still convinced that there’s at least one more near-term catastrophe lying undiscovered in the financial system, and society feels fairly fragile right now. If things break again, the only thing that will be standing between your livelihoods and the mob will be the public’s faith in democratic structures to help mediate the crisis. You would do well now to shore them up and not tear them down.

seenbetrdayz February 18, 2013 at 9:14 am

If things break again, the only thing that will be standing between your livelihoods and the mob will be the public’s faith in democratic structures to help mediate the crisis.

I really doubt it.

When things turn sour, one of the first things people lose faith in is the government. The mobs weren’t exactly throwing boquets of flowers at the police in Greece a few years ago, you know? Then, to make matters worse, when the cops fled from crowds they couldn’t control, they could no longer protect the store owners’ livelihoods.

In direct-democracies, things are fine so long as the government continues to promise people endless rainbows and happiness and Obama Reagan phones (. . . better? . . . really, it makes no difference). All of that is very effective at buying votes.

But when the government starts to run out of gravy, people quickly find out that simple majorities aren’t enough to keep the train moving.

gchidi February 18, 2013 at 2:25 am

Ah … but which citizens will get to have influence?

You’re arguing that a small group of voters can have more influence over federal legislation when they’re appointed from the legislature. I agree. But it won’t be any group of voters — only those in the right districts and under very specific circumstances. Everyone else in this system gets to sit and spin.

In a typical appointive situation, the legislators with the most power will be the ones willing to swing between one candidate’s faction or another, likely because they’re only holding on to their own districts weakly. Even assuming that the process is wholly without overt corruption — no one bribing these guys in between caucus meetings — you still have the senatorial equivalent of a presidential swing state problem, only its intra-state.

The entire senatorial election would come down to a handful of state senators and representatives — the Ohios and Virginias and Nevadas of one party’s legislative delegation. Everyone else gets to watch while the parochial issues in those relatively arbitrary districts become the most important things in the state. Haul a group of 20 voters into one of their offices, and those voters can have tremendous influence. Haul a group of 20 voters into the office of the guy next door, and they don’t count.

If the argument for appointing senators is to reinforce federalism and respect for states’ rights, I think this misses the mark. Rather than have senators who are representing their entire state, they’ll be representing a half-dozen districts within their state — Saxby Chambliss, R-Georgia (House Districts 12, 101, 105, 138, 145; Senate District 6).

John Konop February 18, 2013 at 5:29 am

You make some very interesting points…….

seenbetrdayz February 18, 2013 at 9:21 am

Just try this:

Call your courthouse and schedule an appointment to meet with your county commissioner and see how long it takes you to meet him/her in person.

Call to schedule an appointment to meet with your U.S. Senator and see how long it takes you to meet him/her in person.

Sometimes I wonder why we even have state/local governments if everyone is so keen on the idea of just ruling the whole country from D.C. But I really don’t know what it would look like watching a congressman from Oregon debating whether or not to put a stop sign at the end of my street. (then again, maybe we’re already at that point).

Napoleon February 17, 2013 at 4:04 pm

It’s interesting to note that Georgia has never ratified the 17th amendment and Maryland only ratified it last year.

akravitz February 18, 2013 at 11:05 am

Congressman Rob Woodall is also pushing this idea.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zXVWx2q4kc8

debbie0040 February 19, 2013 at 9:15 am

I personally support repeal of the 17th amendment. Elected officials closer to the people are more responsive. The original intent of the framers of the Constitution was that the House of Representatives was the “people’s house” and represented the people and looked out for the best interests of the people. The Senate represented the states and looked out for the best interests of the state and that is why state legislatures elected them.

debbie0040 February 19, 2013 at 9:17 am

Our founders did put an amendment process in place. If it is ok to amendment the Constitution, then it is ok to amend it to repeal an amendment

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