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The 17th Amendment


On today's DailyKOS, we learned that Estrada "advocated the repeal of the 17th Amendment", which is supposed to make him sound ridiculous because the 17th allowed for the direct election of Senators, rather than the original system, in which state legislatures appointed Senators. I had heard about this movement before from Todd Zywicki of the Volokh Conspiracy - here - who points to this piece on CNN by John Dean. In it, Mr. Dean writes:
James Madison [...] explained in Federalist No. 10 the reason for bicameralism: "Before taking effect, legislation would have to be ratified by two independent power sources: the people's representatives in the House and the state legislatures' agents in the Senate."

The need for two powers to concur would, in turn, thwart the influence of special interests, and by satisfying two very different constituencies, would assure the enactment was for the greatest public good. Madison summed up the concept nicely in Federalist No 51:

"In republican government, the legislative authority, necessarily predominate. The remedy for this inconveniency is, to divide the legislature into different branches; and to render them by different modes of election, and different principles of action, as little connected with each other, as the nature of their common functions and their common dependencies on the society, will admit."
and then concludes
Returning selection of senators to state legislatures might be a cause that could attract both modern progressive and conservatives. For conservatives, obviously, it would be a return to the system envisioned by the framers. For progressives -- who now must appreciate that direct elections have only enhanced the ability of special interests to influence the process -- returning to the diffusion of power inherent in federalism and bicameralism may seem an attractive alternative, or complement, to campaign finance reform.
To me, anything John Dean says is suspect, but I like the use of "progressives" rather than the often pejorative "liberals". For that reason alone, I'm cutting him some slack. Also, I find the argument persuasive. It doesn't matter, since anyone who argues against the 17th is automatically seen as a loon.

Update: Eugene Volokh on the 17th.
2/19/2003 06:18:00 PM [Link] |