Rebirth of Reason


Mack Sennett (Or Quilting, a Senatorial Pastime)
by Robert Davison (Wolf)

The recent spectacle of U.S. Senators as holy warriors girding their loins for battle amused me.  While they were tearing their hair and rending their garments in praise of the Constitution, I wondered which constitution they were defending, the document designed by the founders or the bastardized 20th century version?  It was probably the latter.

Senator Byrd, the ersatz Roman Senator, pontificating in unctuous tones informed us that

“We have lifted ourselves above politics, we have kept the republic…it’s been protected.” (The trumpet fanfare is optional.) 

Harry Reid, the self-righteous leader of the opposition added:

The end of the filibuster for judicial nominees would have meant “the end of the Senate as we know it.” (He knows it in the Biblical sense.)

Demi-savior Lindsay Graham giddily added:  

“We are not gonna blow up the Senate…”

He’s right. It was blown up 88 years ago.

It is not only amusing, but also ironic that these heroics come on the heels of the vaulted campaign-funding reforms that are now such a disappointing reality; ironic because both fixes were engineered by miracle worker John McCain. (J. McC. - J.C., so close.)

Since the future of the Senate looks bleak, perhaps we ought to reflect upon the past - specifically the 17th Amendment. 

Few in Congress or in the press get energized about the 17th Amendment; it is a footnote in American history.  Most citizens are not even aware that Senators are not seated as the Founders intended.   “What difference does it make if Senators are elected or appointed,” you’ll hear them cry.  Well, to the Founders, it meant a great deal. 

The difficulty inherent in getting two very different constituencies to concur was designed to thwart the machinations of special interests.  John Dickinson, a Delaware lawyer, the delegate who proposed selection by state legislatures, wrote:

"The preservation of the States in a certain degree of agency is indispensable. It will produce the collision between the different authorities that should be wished for in order to check each other."

In Federalist No. 51 James Madison wrote: 

“In republican government, the legislative authority necessarily predominates. 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 in Federalist No. 10,

“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.”

Nathan Lehman in his article for NeoPolitique, “Far-Reaching and Forgotten:  The 17th Amendment,” wrote that “Dickinson predicted that eliminating the states’ agency (representation) in the national government would be ‘ruinous,’ and would result in the national government operating as ‘one great current’ without restraint”.  Truer words were never spoken.

Todd Zywicki, while a law professor at George Mason University, authored a pair of journal articles that were particularly elucidating.  He pointed out that the most ardent promoters of the 17th amendment’s passage were special-interest groups frustrated over their inability to influence legislation in a diffuse Senate.  He makes the equally convincing argument that “It was the 17th amendment that was responsible for federal expansion, which grew exponentially after its passage.”

America is not a Federal Republic by accident.  It is so by design.  It is no oversight that neither founding documents, the U.S. Constitution nor the Declaration of Independence, contain the word democracy.  The Founding Fathers were deeply suspicious of democracy.  Our form of government was purposefully crafted as a collaboration of autonomous states headed by a deliberately shackled federal government.

The Founders did not set out to establish a utopia.  They were practical men who knew only too well the mischief of which government was capable.  They set their backs to thwarting government at every turn, to making it impossible for the Republic to act in haste. Article III, Section 4 of the Constitution “guarantees to every State in this Union a republican form of government''; the 17th Amendment defeated those republican aims.

By now, it should be apparent, to one and to all, that ‘patching’ Senate rules will not mend the fabric of the Republic.  Let us agree to opt for a professional restoration, and repeal the 17th Amendment. 
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