Topic: 17th Amendment
41669 Winchester Road
Temecula, CA 92590
17th Amendment: State Representation in the Senate
To comprehend the 17th Amendment, we need to go back in history to understand how our political system was originally established. The Founding Fathers included a number of checks and balances during the creation of the federal government in the hopes of providing enough safeguards to protect the people from an ever expansive, tyrannical, consolidated central government. The separation of powers between the three branches of government, and between the federal government and the States, were an integral part of these protections against tyranny. However, not all of the checks and balances put in place were obvious, nor are all of the checks and balances taught to us during our school years.
The dynamics of the federal government were set up to prevent any part of government from having access to too much power. Too much power in any one part of the system could be dangerous, and this includes too much power in the hands of the people.
The general population, just like the government, cannot be fully trusted with absolute power. To prevent the danger of too much power residing in any part of government, power needed to be divided as much as possible so as to keep it under control. Too much power in the hands of anybody has the potential of being a dangerous proposition, including in the hands of the voting public.
The United States is not a democracy. All of the voting power was not given directly to the people. The voting power was divided to ensure the Republic was protected from the mob-rule mentality of democracy.
The vote of the people, or the people's full and unquestioned voice in government, was, and still is, manifested in the U.S. House of Representatives. Then, as now, the representatives were voted into office directly by the people. Each Representative represents a district. The members of the United States Senate were not voted in directly by the people during the time period immediately following the ratification of the United States Constitution. U.S. Senators were voted in by an indirect vote of the people.
The Senators were appointed by their State legislatures. The State legislators are voted into office by the people of the State. Therefore, during the early years of this nation, the Senators attained office by an indirect vote of the people through their State legislatures.
The people are represented indirectly by the States in the U.S. Senate, and by the States appointing the Senators, the method of appointment allowed State's interests to be represented in the U.S. Congress.
Since they were appointed by the State legislatures, the Senators looked at the political atmosphere in a different manner than the members of the House of Representatives. Members of the House of Representatives are directly voted into office by the people, so their concerns are more in line with the immediate concerns of the people, no matter how whimsical those concerns may be.
The Senate functioned in a very different manner because when the Senators were appointed they were expected to abide by the wishes of the State legislatures. The Senators were expected to be representative of what was best for their States; State's Rights, State Sovereignty, protecting the States not only from a foreign enemy, but from a domestic enemy, should the federal government become the potential tyranny that the Founding Fathers, and especially the Anti-federalists, feared a central government could become.
The federal government exists because the States allow it to. The powers derived by the federal government were granted to it by the States, so in a way the States birthed the federal government, making the States the parents of the government in Washington, D.C. The federal government is not supposed to be able to do much of anything without the permission of the several States. The Senate was the representation of the States so that the States could ensure the federal government remained within its authorities.
The States having representation in the federal government through the U.S. Senate was also another way that checks and balances were applied to the system. The House of Representatives represented the people, and the Senate represented the States. Through this arrangement, it gave the people the ability to check the States, and the States the ability to check the people, and together they checked the Executive. The dynamics of our government through this arrangement were a built in check and balance.
The States could not get too far without the people approving of a senatorial proposal. The people could not get much done without The States agreeing with a proposal that originated in the House of Representatives. The executive branch could get little done without both the people and the States approving of it. However, if the President did not like what the people and the States were trying to accomplish, he could veto the bill. If the people and the States felt the legislation was important enough, they could override that veto with two-thirds of a vote in both Houses.
Looking at it in another way, a bill would be approved by both the people and the States before it went to the President to become law. This gave the Executive and both parts of the legislative branch the opportunity to approve or disapprove potential laws.
In 1913, the Seventeenth Amendment changed the originally intended dynamics of the American form of government. The amendment removed the States' representation from U.S. Government proceedings. The Seventeenth Amendment changed the appointment of the Senators from that of the State legislatures to that of the direct vote of the people. As a result, the protection of State Sovereignty was removed, and in its place was inserted ideology, and the willingness of Senators to buy the votes of individual voters through gifts from the treasury in a manner that was already emerging from the House of Representatives.
Vacancies in the Senate
The Seventeenth Amendment also provides for appointments should a seat in the U.S. Senate be left vacant for any reason. The governors of the States, should the legislatures allow such, may make temporary appointments until a special election takes place. The State legislatures may change these rules as they deem necessary, such as requiring an immediate special election instead of allowing the governor to temporarily appoint a replacement. This leaves most of the power regarding filling vacancies in the hands of the State legislatures.
Massachusetts, during the reign of Democrat governors, used the rule that if there was a vacancy in the U.S. Senate, the governor could appoint the new Senator to complete that term of office. When Mitt Romney, who was a Republican, was governor, the Democrat dominated legislature feared a Republican appointment should one of the Massachusetts Senators die, so they changed the rule to require an immediate special election, fully confident the people would put another Democrat into office should one of the seats be vacated. The Massachusetts legislature even overrode a veto by Governor Mitt Romney to accomplish their rule change.
Romney did not run for reelection in 2006, and his gubernatorial term in Massachusetts ended January 4, 2007.
The new governor of Massachusetts in 2007 was Deval Patrick, a Democrat. When Senator Edward "Ted" Kennedy passed away August 25, 2009, since the State of Massachusetts had a Democrat governor, the Democrat-led legislature hurriedly changed the rule to enable the governor to appoint the new Senator as had been allowed before Mitt Romney was governor, just in case the people could not be trusted.
The appointed Democrat Party senator held the seat until a special election in January of 2010 that pitted Republican Scott Brown against Democrat Martha Coakley. To the surprise of the entire nation, Scott Brown won the election, sending tremors through the political establishment, which included the Democrats losing a filibuster-proof majority in the U.S. Senate. Brown was defeated in 2012 by Democrat Elizabeth Warren, returning the Senate Seat back to the Democrats when she took office on January 3, 2013.
More like a Democracy
In the end, the real damage caused by the ratification of the 17th Amendment was that State representation in the Congress was removed. Senators, after the ratification of the 17th Amendment, would be voted into office by the vote of the people, making the U.S. Senate more like the House of Representatives, eliminating a very important check and balance, and making the United States more like a democracy and less like the Republic the Founders originally intended.
The people, fooled by a relenting rallying cry of "The will of the people," and a common belief that the leaders of the States could not be trusted, demanded that the federal government be changed into something more like a democracy. As the progressives desired, and planned, the American form of government moved closer to a democracy with the 17th Amendment.
Karl Marx once stated that "Democracy is the road to socialism."
Progressivism was on the rise in the United States during those early years of the 20th Century, and the statists knew that one of their main obstacles to consolidating government power into the grasp of the central authority in Washington was the independent and sovereign voice of the States. The 17th Amendment was one of the vehicles the statists used to begin the process of silencing the States, with the ultimate goal of making them irrelevant in regards to the running of the federal government.
The statists did not reveal their true intentions. If they had proclaimed that they desired the ratification of the 17th Amendment so that they could proceed in their quest to change the United States into a socialist system, the people would have rejected it. Instead, they used a populist argument. "It is for the will of the people. You deserve a Senate voted into office by the democratic will of the people. If you directly vote for the Senators, they will be more apt to act in line with the will of the people. After all, the States are corrupt, and they can't be trusted. You, the voting public, in the interest of democracy, deserve to be able to directly vote for the Senators yourselves."
As a result, the whole American political system has been turned on its head. The entire dynamic of our government system as it was originally intended to function has changed.
The damage to the American form of government reached deeper into the dynamics of our Constitutional Republic than immediately meets the eye.
The Founding Fathers made the House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate different from each other for a reason.
If a President of the United States signs a treaty, before that treaty goes into force, it must be ratified by the U.S. Senate, which back then was the voice of the States. It was the Framer's way of making sure the States could act as a protective mechanism against a President who might make treaties that were dangerous to State Sovereignty. However, now the Senate no longer represents the States, so that important safeguard is no longer in place. Senators more apt to defend an ideology, rather than the best interest of their State, are in office now. The ratification of treaties has totally changed in a way that could place State Sovereignty in jeopardy. The States no longer have a voice in that part of the governing process anymore, and as a result it has become easier for the federal government to enter into treaties that compromise State interests, or local issues over which the federal government would normally not have any authority.
Another point to examine in regards to the Senate ratification of treaties, is since the people, through their States, are the final arbiters of the Constitution, the Founders felt no worry about unconstitutional treaties being ratified. After all, the final arbiters of the Constitution, the States, were the ones in charge of the ratification of all treaties. Now, since ideology now takes precedence over States' Rights in the Senate, we are faced by a number of draconian treaties . . . and there is nothing the States can do about it.
The appointment of judges, such as Supreme Court Justices, has also been altered by the passage of the 17th Amendment. Imagine how different the hearings regarding the appointment of Supreme Court Justices would be if the Senators were appointed by the State legislatures?
Do you think it would be as easy for an activist judge to be appointed?
Do you think the nominees would be asked questions geared towards the Constitution, and protecting State Sovereignty?
The people were told that the States could no longer be trusted in their appointment of the Senators, and the States got lazy and didn't wish to participate in that manner anymore. As a result, the 17th Amendment was ratified, and look at the mess it has caused.
Let's return to the concept of "dividing power" for a moment. The Founding Fathers divided the voting power. By the States appointing the Senators, it divided the people's voting power.
During the early years of this nation the State legislatures also appointed the Electors for president.
The people only directly voted into office the Representatives of the U.S. House of Representatives.
This division of voting power was put into place because the Founding Fathers knew that should the people be fooled while they completely controlled the vote, a tyranny could ensure that it was voted into the three primary parts of government: the Executive, the House of Representatives, and the U.S. Senate. Once tyranny had control of those three parts of government, the judicial branch would be sure to follow, if not already in collusion with the other two branches.
The Founders knew that should the uninformed electorate vote in a tyranny, while caught up in some kind of cult of personality, it would spell the beginning of the end of the United States as we know it.
The Founding Fathers knew that democracy of that kind would destroy the system, so they divided the power of the vote. The voting power was divided so as to protect us from the excesses of democracy.
Looking back on 2006, 2008, and 2012 we see an example of exactly what the Founding Fathers warned us about. A single ideology, one that is hostile towards the U.S. Constitution, and hostile to the American System, fooled the people, and took control of some of the most vital parts of government. The destructive reasoning by the statists of the Progressive Era for the passage of the 17th Amendment was fulfilled.
The 17th Amendment, combined with the creation of the Federal Reserve, and the implementation of an income tax, was all a part of a scheme to change the American System into a model of socialism through the guise of democracy.
We are not a democracy, and we were never meant to be a democracy. The 17th Amendment moved us in that direction. The Founding Fathers continuously spoke out against the dangers of democracy. They knew that democracies lead to mob-rule. As much as the government couldn't be trusted with too much power, neither could the voting public.
The Constitution is filled with checks and balances. Yet, the people of that time period were fooled so easily by the statists. James Madison five times in his Federalist Papers writings wrote, "We are a Republic, by which I mean. . ." and then he would explain what a republic is. He felt the need to do so because those who opposed the Constitution because they believed the political system should be one of nationalism argued that democracy and republicanism were the same.
Thomas Jefferson said, "Democracy will cease to exist when you take away from those that are willing to work and give to those who would not."
John Adams said, "While it lasts, Democracy becomes more bloody than either an aristocracy or a monarchy. Democracy never lasts long; it soon wastes, exhausts, and murders itself. There is never a democracy that did not commit suicide."
Thomas Jefferson said, "A democracy is nothing more than mob-rule, where 51% of the people may take away the rights of the other 49%."
James Bovard said, "Democracy is two wolves and a sheep voting on what to have for dinner."
A friend of mine, the late Tim "Loki" Kerlin, added that a republic is "two wolves, and a well-armed sheep contesting the vote."
Benjamin Franklin, after asked what the Founders created in the Constitutional Convention, replied, "A republic, if you can keep it."
With freedom comes responsibility. It is up to us to repeal the 17th Amendment.
Activist Judge - A public officer charged with applying the law in order to administer justice, but also interprets the law, and modifies the law according to his opinion; a judge who legislates from the bench.
Checks and Balances - An internal system in government where each part of government can counter the actions or decisions of the other parts. This arrangement ensures transparency, and prevents domination of the government by any part.
Collusion - Conspire together.
Constitutional Republic - Government that adheres to the rule or authority of the principles of a constitution. A representative government that operates under the rule of law.
Democracy - A form of government in which all citizens have an equal say in the decisions that affect their lives. Such a system includes equal participation in the proposal, development and passage of legislation into law.
Direct Vote - Citizens vote themselves; popular vote.
Ideology - A set of political or economic ideas that forms the basis of economic or political theory and policy.
Indirect Vote - Representatives of Electors vote instead of the citizens. The indirect vote may be based on criteria that includes the will, or portions of the will, of the citizens; before the 17th Amendment, United States Senators were chosen by an indirect vote of the people, in which State representatives who attained their office by a direct vote of the people appointed U.S. Senators to represent their State in Congress; the President is elected by an indirect vote of the people through electors who traditionally follow the popular vote of their State, but have the choice to change that vote if believed to be necessary, and a President may be elected based on an Electoral majority that does not reflect the national popular vote.
Mob-Rule - A government ruled by a mob or a mass of people; the intimidation of legitimate authorities; the tyranny of the majority; pure democracy without due process.
Nationalism - Political ideology which involves a strong identification of a group of individuals with a political entity defined in national terms. There are various strands of nationalism. The ideology may dictate that citizenship in a state should be limited to one ethnic, cultural or identity group. Nationalism may also include the belief that the state is of primary importance, which becomes the unhealthy love of one's government, accompanied by the aggressive desire to build that governmental system to a point that it is above all else, and becomes the ultimate provider for the public good.
Republic - Form of government that uses the rule of law through a government system led by representatives and officials voted in by a democratic process. The United States enjoys a Constitutional Republic.
Republicanism - Rule by law through a government system led by representatives and officials voted in by a democratic process. The United States enjoys a Constitutional Republic.
Separation of Powers - A division of governmental authority into three branches: legislative, executive, and judicial; division of powers between the States and federal government.
Statists - Individuals that hold that government should control the economic and social policies of the system it serves.
Questions for Discussion:
1. Why are the originally intended checks and balances so important to safeguarding freedom?
2. What was the concept of the separation of powers designed to protect against?
3. How does the Seventeenth Amendment add to the withering away of State Sovereignty?
4. How is socialism and democracy related?
5. Why would dividing powers include dividing the voting power of the people?
Allison, Maxfield, Cook, Skousen, The Real Thomas Jefferson; New
York: National Center for Constitutional Studies (1983).
David McCullough, John Adams; New York: Simon and Schuster
Devvy, 36 States Did Not Ratify The 17th Amendment: What Will States
Do?; rense.com, http://www.rense.com/general95/36_dev.htm
Earl Taylor, Jr., The Seventeenth Amendment and the Destruction of
Federalism; National Center for Constitutional Studies,
James Madison, Federalist Paper No. 45,
Jon Wolverton, II, J.D., 17th Amendment Mudslinging; The New
American (November, 2010)http://www.thenewamerican.com/usnews/constitution/item/7826-17th-amendment-mudslinging
Joseph Andrews, A Guide for Learning and Teaching The Declaration of
Independence and The U.S. Constitution - Learning from the Original Texts Using Classical Learning Methods of the Founders ; San Marcos: The Center for Teaching the Constitution (2010)
Larry Schweikart and Michael Allen, A Patriot's History of the United
States ; New York: Sentinel (2004).
Richard Aynes, On Misreading John Bingham and the Fourteenth
Amendment; Yale Law Journal (October, 1993)http://www.constitution.org/lrev/aynes_14th.htm