I believe the ratification of the Seventeenth Amendment was a huge mistake perpetrated on the United States by the Progressive movement. This amendment was ratified on April 8, 1913, approximately 100 years ago in the beginning of the Progressive transformation of the United States.
The Founders spent several months writing the Constitution; they organized a system of many checks and balances. They wanted the people, states, and federal government to check and balance each other. One of those checks and balances was the process of electing delegates to the U.S. Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives. They planned for the Senate to represent the states, and the House to represent the people. This is the reason why the following was written in the Constitution: “The Senate of the United States shall be composed of two Senators from each State, chosen by the Legislature thereof, for six Years; and each Senator shall have one Vote” (Article I, Section 3).
The Seventeenth Amendment changed this Section of the Constitution to read: “The Senate of the United States shall be composed of two Senators from each State, elected by the people thereof, for six years; and each Senator shall have one vote….” This amendment destroyed part of the federalist structure erected by our Founders to protect the sovereignty of the States.
Did you notice the difference? Article I, Section 3 gave power and authority to the Legislature of each State to elect representatives for their state in the federal government; the Seventeenth Amendment took this power and authority from the state and gave it to the people. In other words, this amendment turned the election of Senators into a popularity contest. In comparison, the Founders planned for the people to elect delegates to the U.S. House of Representatives. The Senate was to represent the states, and the House was to represent the people. By ratifying this amendment, the sovereignty of our states was lessened.
The supporters of this amendment said that the election of Senators by the people would be more democratic than if they were elected by the state legislature; they also said that the amendment would cause less corruption and less influence by special influences. They were certainly wrong! This amendment caused even more corruption as well as “fundamentally transforming our federal government.”
Chris Carter wrote an interesting article entitled “Georgia state house seeks to repeal the Seventeenth Amendment.” I found his article to be very informative and a good history lesson. To begin his explanation of why the Seventeenth Amendment should be repealed, the author wrote: “As the Founding Fathers drafted the Constitution, they understood that free and independent states, fresh from a long and costly war with England, would not approve of a charter that required them to totally surrender their sovereignty to a new federal government. To balance the legitimate concerns of the states with the need to preserve the union and form a national government for mutual protection and prosperity, the Founders chose a federalist system of divided powers between the states and the proposed federal government.
“They also passed a Bill of Rights, ensuring that any power not specifically granted to the federal government rested with the states or the people themselves. The Founders clearly wanted a limited federal government which was balanced by the state governments.”
The Founders sought to organize a government that could not be destroyed by man, and they wrote many checks and balances into the Constitution. They planned for their new country – the United States of America – to have a government that was ruled by law and not the rule of man. They organized a constitutional republic instead of a democracy because they understood the weaknesses of a democracy. They understood that people could be convinced to vote for a tyrant who could destroy the freedoms of both individual and state. I believe that their worst fears were evident in the re-election of Barack Obama!
Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor explained, “The Constitution does not protect the sovereignty of the States for the benefit of the States or state governments as abstract political entities. To the contrary, the Constitution divides authority between federal and state governments for the protection of individuals. State sovereignty is not just an end to itself.”
The Constitution – as it was written – provided a system where power and authority of people, states, and federal government were checked and balanced under a Constitution that was the Supreme Law of the land, a Constitution that protected all of them.
Former Senator Zell Miller (D-Georgia) understood how the process was supposed to work and saw the dangers caused by the Seventeenth Amendment: “Direct elections of Senators allowed Washington’s special interests to call the shots, whether it is filling judicial vacancies, passing laws, or issuing regulations.”
Chris Carter further explained, “Government has always attracted corruption, but political behavior can be managed by effective political structure. Whether it’s 1789 or 1913, a government with few checks on its power is far more corruptible than one that is constrained, and that is the effect that direct elections of senators had on our government.
“The Founders never intended to provide the federal government with this much power; if they had, there would have been no need for enumerated powers – or a Constitution – in the first place. Instead, they anticipated that public officials wouldn’t preserve federalism for federalism’s sake; they would instead act in their own self-interest. State sovereignty persisted not out of virtue, but because public officials would only retain their position if they served their states.”
I believe that the Seventeenth Amendment was just one of the steps used by Progressives to destroy our Constitutional government. I believe that there is more corruption in our Senate today than there would have been without this amendment. I believe we must repeal the Seventeenth Amendment in order to return sovereignty to the states and to save our Constitution.