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Should we repeal the 17th amendment ?
ifihadahif Posted: Wed May 12 08:52:08 2004 Post | Quote in Reply  
  The problem with the 17th
Bruce Bartlett


May 12, 2004


There is only one time when a U.S. senator is really free to speak the truth. That is when he has announced his retirement. Since he no longer has to worry about raising money, pandering to voters or risking retaliation from his colleagues, he can say what he really thinks about issues no other member of the Senate will talk about. For this reason, it is worth listening to Sen. Zell Miller, Democrat of Georgia, who recently spoke a truth that no senator except one who is retiring would dare say.

On April 28, Miller, the last genuinely conservative Democrat we likely will ever see in the Senate, laid the blame for what ails that august body at the door of the 17th amendment to the Constitution. This is the provision that provides for popular election of senators.

Few people today know that the Founding Fathers never intended for senators to be popularly elected. The Constitution originally provided that senators would be chosen by state legislatures. The purpose was to provide the states -- as states -- an institutional role in the federal government. In effect, senators were to function as ambassadors from the states, which were expected to retain a large degree of sovereignty even after ratification of the Constitution, thereby ensuring that their rights would be protected in a federal system.

The role of senators as representatives of the states was assured by a procedure, now forgotten, whereby states would "instruct" their senators how to vote on particular issues. Such instructions were not conveyed to members of the House of Representatives because they have always been popularly elected and are not expected to speak for their states, but only for their constituents.

When senators represented states as states, rather than just being super House members as they are now, they zealously protected states' rights. This term became discredited during the civil rights struggle of the 1960s as a code word for racism -- allowing Southern states to resist national pressure to integrate. But clearly this is an aberration. States obviously have interests that may conflict with federal priorities on a wide variety of issues that defy easy ideological classification. Many states, for example, would probably enact more liberal laws relating to the environment, health and business regulation if allowed by Washington.

Two factors led to enactment of the 17th amendment. First was the problem that many state legislatures deadlocked on their selections for the Senate. The upper house and the lower house could not agree on a choice, or it was prohibitively difficult for one candidate to get an absolute majority in each house (as opposed to a plurality), which was required by federal law. Some states went without representation in the Senate for years as a consequence.

The second problem involved a perception that election of senators by state legislatures made them more susceptible to corruption by special interests. The Hearst newspapers were a major force arguing this point in the early 1900s.

The pressure of public opinion eventually forced the Senate to approve a constitutional amendment changing the election of senators to our current system of popular vote. The fact that many states, such as Oregon, had already adopted a system whereby legislatures were required to choose senators selected by a popular vote was ignored.

The 17th amendment was ratified in 1913. It is no coincidence that the sharp rise in the size and power of the federal government starts in this year (the 16th amendment, establishing a federal income tax, ratified the same year, was also important).

As George Mason University law professor Todd Zywicki notes, prior to the 17th amendment, senators resisted delegating power to Washington in order to keep it at the state and local level. "As a result, the long term size of the federal government remained fairly stable during the pre-Seventeenth Amendment era," he wrote.

Zywicki also finds little evidence of corruption in the Senate that can be traced to the pre-1913 electoral system. By contrast, there is much evidence that the post-1913 system has been deeply corruptive. As Miller put it, "Direct elections of senators ... allowed Washington's special interests to call the shots, whether it is filling judicial vacancies, passing laws or issuing regulations."

Miller also lays much of the blame for the current impasse in confirming federal judges at the door of the 17th amendment. Consequently, on April 28 he introduced S.J.Res. 35 in order to repeal that provision of the Constitution.

Over the years, a number of legal scholars have called for repeal of the 17th amendment. An excellent summary of their arguments appears in Ralph Rossum's recent book, "Federalism, the Supreme Court and the Seventeenth Amendment." They should at least get a hearing before Zell Miller departs the Senate end the end of this year.





 
addi Posted: Wed May 12 10:21:48 2004 Post | Quote in Reply  
  we need to repeal Zell Miller

The dufus was voted in as a democrat and consistantly sides with republicans on major votes.
I have zero respect for the man, just like if i was a republican, voted a republican senator into office, and he/she consistantly sided with the democrats.
vote your mind, yes, and not just down party lines, but Miller has shown over and over to be nothing but a republican yes man in a democrats clothes. He's a hypocrite and isn't representing the democrats of this state that put him into office.

repeal the 17th?
Need to read and think more about this one to speak half way intelligently.
I will say i am suspicious of any legislation taking away direct voting power from the people.
I am also suspicious of any legislation giving direct voting power to people that don't know their head from their ass.

Damned if ya do, and damned if ya don't!



 
FN Posted: Wed May 12 10:42:00 2004 Post | Quote in Reply  
  addison said:
>I am also suspicious of any legislation giving direct voting power to people that don't know their head from their ass.


But you don't have any problems with those same people being elected? ;o)


 
ifihadahif Posted: Wed May 12 12:38:24 2004 Post | Quote in Reply  
  addison said:
>we need to repeal Zell Miller
>
>The dufus was voted in as a democrat and consistantly sides with republicans on major votes.
>I have zero respect for the man, just like if i was a republican, voted a republican senator into office, and he/she consistantly sided with the democrats.
>vote your mind, yes, and not just down party lines, but Miller has shown over and over to be nothing but a republican yes man in a democrats clothes. He's a hypocrite and isn't representing the democrats of this state that put him into office.
>
>repeal the 17th?
>Need to read and think more about this one to speak half way intelligently.
>I will say i am suspicious of any legislation taking away direct voting power from the people.
>I am also suspicious of any legislation giving direct voting power to people that don't know their head from their ass.
>
>Damned if ya do, and damned if ya don't!
>
Well, the article was about the 17th amendment, not Zel Miller.
And there is a difference in a southern democrat (now extinct) and a republican, but that's not the point of this thread.
I didn't know that senators used to be appointed instead of elected, and I'll bet it's news to most everyone here.
Although I was aware that it was not the founding fathers' intentions that the seat of power be in DC, that each state would be pretty much autonomous,
tied together by a much weaker federal govt.
Sounds like a good idea to me on the surface, but very much open to debate.
>


 
FN Posted: Wed May 12 12:52:45 2004 Post | Quote in Reply  
  Can somebody give me a little more information about the different american political parties, I know about democrats and republicans, what are the others?


Also, when you have lets say 5 parties which each get around 20% of the votes, does that mean they get an equal number of votes when voting laws and such?


 
Leonidas Posted: Wed May 12 13:10:58 2004 Post | Quote in Reply  
  There are no other parties to speak of. Though other parties can and do exist they are extremely small. The entire system is bipartisan. Also, where you refer to the precentages, I believe you're refering to proportional representation which the americans do not have. The US has a first past the post system. Each district votes for a representative, each representative gets one vote in the house. In an extreme case, a party could lose each seat 49% to 51%, thereby earning 49% of the popular vote but 0% of the seats. Presidential elections are a little different, relying on an electoral college system. Each state gets a varying amount of votes in the college based on their populations. Whoever wins that state gets all of the votes from that state. It can be confusing as hell.


 
FN Posted: Wed May 12 13:42:51 2004 Post | Quote in Reply  
  Wtf and it's called a democracy? 8o|


 
Zacq Posted: Wed May 12 14:24:16 2004 Post | Quote in Reply  
  Leonidas said:
>Presidential elections are a little different, relying on an electoral college system. Each state gets a varying amount of votes in the college based on their populations. Whoever wins that state gets all of the votes from that state. It can be confusing as hell.

Yea, this is how George Bush got elected president with fewer votes than Al Gore. The electoral system was made so the government would have a little control over the people's choice of president, but now it's essentially meaningless.


By the way, people in larger states don't have more voting power. Someone from California who votes affects more representatives, but with more people in their state, the chance of their vote mattering is less.

As for the seventeeth amendment, I really don't know.


 
ifihadahif Posted: Wed May 12 14:29:32 2004 Post | Quote in Reply  
  Zacq said:
>
>Yea, this is how George Bush got elected president with fewer votes than Al Gore. The electoral system was made so the government would have a little control over the people's choice of president, but now it's essentially meaningless.
>
How exactly does the govt have control over the people's choice for prez ?
If there were any truth to that statement wouldn't the incumbent's party have the advantage ? And would't the inventor of the internet be prez now instead of dubya ?


 
Zacq Posted: Wed May 12 14:50:04 2004 Post | Quote in Reply  
  ifihadahif said:
>How exactly does the govt have control over the people's choice for prez ?

I believe I said that it was the reason the electoral college was made, not why it's still in effect. The government doesn't work the same way anymore, so it no longer gives control. But it does still cause presidents to get elected without getting the most votes, which goes against the democratic principles of the country.


 
ifihadahif Posted: Wed May 12 15:01:52 2004 Post | Quote in Reply  
  Zacq said:
>
>I believe I said that it was the reason the electoral college was made, not why it's still in effect. The government doesn't work the same way anymore, so it no longer gives control. But it does still cause presidents to get elected without getting the most votes, which goes against the democratic principles of the country.
>
Where do you get this stuff ?
Exactly how many times has a president been elected with less than a majority of the popular vote ?
Did it ever occur to you that without the electoral college that our presidents would be elected pretty much by the population center of the Atlantic seaboard and primarily the northeast area of the lower 48 ?


 
Zacq Posted: Wed May 12 15:08:06 2004 Post | Quote in Reply  
  ifihadahif said:
>Zacq said:
>>
>>I believe I said that it was the reason the electoral college was made, not why it's still in effect. The government doesn't work the same way anymore, so it no longer gives control. But it does still cause presidents to get elected without getting the most votes, which goes against the democratic principles of the country.
>>
>Where do you get this stuff ?
>Exactly how many times has a president been elected with less than a majority of the popular vote ?
>Did it ever occur to you that without the electoral college that our presidents would be elected pretty much by the population center of the Atlantic seaboard and primarily the northeast area of the lower 48 ?

It has happened more than once - I'd look it up, except that for the president of the United States to be elected by anything other than the majority vote in a country in which the majority vote is the key principle, once is enough for something to be seriously wrong. And yea, certain population centers would be more concentrated on by candidates. But small states are virtually ignored anyway right now as well.


 
Malik Posted: Wed May 12 20:21:29 2004 Post | Quote in Reply  
  Hell-friggin-yes. Saying this without even reading the inital article or any of the comments. Hell-friggin-yes. The seventeenth amendment pretty much made the two house system of congress useless. Sure, it was separated, but the same kinds of people were in the same houses. The way it had been was where the states could have a say vs. the federal government. Because even if they are elected from a state, when they become a U.S. senator or rep, they work for the feds. Federalism is all but dead now anyways.

I don't know how we got on the subject of electoral college, but I'll bite that too.

But, the idea of our electoral college is like the world series. At the end of the series, you don't total up the amount of points each team had, and then that team is the winner. No, the team that wins the most games overall is the winner. On election day, fifty different games are being played at the same time.

Zacq, so baseball goes against the principals of sports (winning and all) because a team can get the most points but still lose the series?

And there have been times where the popular vote would be within 2% of each other, but one candidate would have a hundred more electoral votes.


 
Zacq Posted: Wed May 12 20:41:52 2004 Post | Quote in Reply  
  Malik said:
>Zacq, so baseball goes against the principals of sports (winning and all) because a team can get the most points but still lose the series?

As someone watching baseball right now, I am compelled to address this.

Our voting system is supposed to be about the principles of democracy and the majority getting their say. Baseball and other sports are based on winning. So in baseball, because the system is set up in a way that says the team who ends the most games as the winner wins, that is how one should play the game. But the presidential election was created so that our leader would be a representative of our majority.

The Yankees suck.


 
Asswipe Posted: Wed May 12 21:06:40 2004 Post | Quote in Reply  
  the whole idea of representing what the majority deems as right needs to go. the majority is a group of fucking dolts.

plato says the best ruler is a philosopher king, gimme one of them.


 
Zacq Posted: Wed May 12 21:28:51 2004 Post | Quote in Reply  
  Well I do agree with Asswipe.

The whole thing is ridiculous anyway. If only half of the eligible people vote, and the presidency was determined by only a few hundred people, and I personally know a few hundred people who aren't really informed enough to make an intelligent decision, it's clear that the results are meaningless. But between electoral college and no electoral college, it makes more sense to get rid of it.


 
Leonidas Posted: Thu May 13 02:04:36 2004 Post | Quote in Reply  
  The basic idea behind the electoral college is yet another check and balance which the Americans are so fond of. The thing that it attempts to prevent is stupidity. In the college system you essentially vote for someone who will go to the college and vote for the president. The people who go to the college typicall vote for who they were supposed to. But, if the idiot electorate made a "mistake" they could all change their votes to someone else, as was talked about over the Bush v Gore election, but it was never done. To clarify something earlier about which states have more power. In the house of reps, the big population states have more reps but the representatives look out for their districts not the state. In the senate all states are of course equal. Where the size of the state becomes important is for presidential elections, the larger states get more votes in the electoral college, and whoever wins the state gets all the votes from that state.


 



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