A New Beginning:
“A Republic … if you can keep it.” Those words, attributed to Benjamin Franklin during the evening hours of September 17, 1787, spoke into being a rich history of our nation, its founding and the establishment of our Constitution as the rule of law. The Constitution was written, debated, edited and debated further until a consensus of the Constitutional Convention was reached. In his closing speech, Benjamin Franklin acknowledged, “I doubt too whether any other Convention we can obtain may be able to make a better Constitution.” This republic afforded the people of the various sovereign states representation on an equal basis based on the population, these are our representatives in Congress. The states were given an equal say in states matters in the Senate. Together the Representatives and Senators would comprise the legislative branch of our government that would direct the laws and policy of these United States.
Order Out of Chaos:
Much confusion abounded during the time of the convention, bickering among the participants was considerable. However, one item echoed throughout the process that today most folks would deride as folly. During the final debates, Mr. Elbridge Gerry expressed the concern that the Constitution as it was written would lead to a civil war because it didn’t adequately protect republicanism. It was argued that in his home state of Massachusetts, there were two political parties, one devoted to Democracy, “the worst thought of all political evils” and the extreme opposite. Without a guarantee that the Constitution would protect the nation against such extremes, he refused to sign and subsequently argued against ratification because of the lack of a bill of rights that limited the power of the government.
The republic that was formed allowed each state to have 2 senators that were selected by the various states to ensure the government would never impinge upon the sovereignty of the individual states. This bi-level system assured that the states acting in concert could not impose legislation on the country as a whole without the consent that comes from the people through their representatives. The representatives and senators thus each are required to produce legislation and have it approved through both houses assuring the needs of the people are met and the sovereignty of the states is ensured.
States’ Rights Dealt Death Blow:
The 17th Amendment, if doing nothing else, brought about the demise of states rights and effectively neutered the republic. When the Senate passed the amendment on June 12, 1911, they were voting for themselves the ability to be elected by popular vote and whether knowingly or not, they changed the face of the country. A senator elected by the people, will ultimately do the will of the people, or at very least the will of the people who ensure their continued re-election. This holds true for appointed senators as well. Those appointed senators would be loyal to the state legislature. The move from the states’ legislature selecting senators to the people removed the loyalty to the state and put it squarely in the lap of the people. The republic that Ben Franklin anced that historic day in 1787 had been lobotomized.
There are several arguments for the repeal of the 17th Amendment:
It removed states’ representation from the federal government and essentially abolished state sovereignty and the states no longer have a representative voice in the legislature.
It removed the balance from the legislative branch of government. A congress made up of elected officials from the enumerated people, plus two from each state essentially gives the people additional representation greater than the enumerated representation allowed by the constitution.
Power has become centralized in Washington. A senate without loyalty to the individual states takes away the rights of individual states to pass any meaningful legislation, and causes the legislative power to reside in the federal government.
It has increased partisanship in government. Political parties exist to give a stronger voice to like-minded individuals. Since individuals belong to political parties, their will is pressed in the senate as well as the house. The states on the other hand, do not belong to political parties and usually consist of a varied mix of several political views.
The Senate is now directly responsible to the people. This means that if they don’t do the will of the people, they can be replaced. While this sounds good, the senate was never designed to do the will of the people. It was designed to do the will of the states. This effectively removed whatever protections the 10th Amendment provided.
In the political climate today, the likelihood of a repeal of the 17th Amendment is remote. There have been attempts to do so in the past, but they failed due to obvious reasons. As recently as August 2009, there were bipartisan attempts to amend the 17th to prevent the appointment of senators by state governors.
Constitutionally we must live within the law, and when those laws seem unjust or no longer are appropriate, it is the duty of the people to change those laws. The expansion of the federal government has put us on the edge of a crevasse that will soon give way to a calamitous action. We must act with purpose to restore the proper balance to a union of nation/states. Each state being sovereign, each person being secure in their liberty and the strength of the nation improved through a cooperative federal government instead of the bastardized monstrosity we are currently relegated to deal with.