Many people look at the American government around 1850 and wonder how the government that exists now, in 2004, is even the same government. While
some of that change has been positive, there have also been a few negative changes. An often overlooked amendment, the 17th, is responsible for much
of the negative change that has taken place. However subtle this Amendment may seem, it is quite possibly one of the biggest mistakes in America's
history. Don't be scared away by the size of this issue, it may just be the most important one out there.
This is a very, very, complex issue and before we can realize why this particular amendment has done so much to harm our nation, lets first look at
why Senators were elected by state legislatures originally.
Article 1, Section 3 of the Constitution states that Senators should be elected by the legislatures of their respective states. The founding fathers
believed in something we call federalism, the distribution of power over many levels and the sharing of power by the state and federal government. By
allowing the states to select their own representatives, the states would have a voice in the workings of the federal government while not becoming
too powerful by themselves. The Senators would also be free from the pressure exerted by the general populace and would then be able to take time and
vote in the best interest of the nation instead of the best interest of getting re-elected. Members of state legislatures were more educated on
candidates for Senator and could make more educated decisions. All of this also helped fit into the traditional British style of government that the
framers of the Constitution were trying to emulate and improve upon, with a House of Lords (The Senate) and a House of Commons (The House of
Now lets look at why the 17th Amendment was created. While the plan worked out in the Constitution worked fine, eventually politics grew so hostile in
the mid 1800s (due mainly to issues of slavery) that many state legislatures couldn't decide on whom to choose. The Federal government became
deadlocked because state legislatures could not choose a Senator in time for the Senate to be in session. After the Civil War, during the Gilded age
of politics, bribes became rampant and Senators became Senators due to underhanded tactics, like bribes. In 1899, problems were so tumultuous that
Delaware did not have a single Senator for 4 years. So the 17th Amendment was passed in 1913 and in the election of 1914, every person voted for their
With all of the problems mentioned above, how could the 17th Amendment be a bad thing?
First off, now almost no one is charged with looking out for the states. States rights have been eroded constantly, in a good way starting with the
Civil War, but after the 17th Amendment, only in a bad way. No branch of government, except for the Supreme Court is looking out for the states. The
federal government grows in power and jurisdiction every day and no one is there to remove that power except for the states. By the repeal of the 17th
Amendment, the Senate could now look out for the states like it originally did.
Second, the ever-present issue of Special Interests. At George Mason University, Professor Zywicki has done an in-depth study of the 17th Amendment
and it's history. He says that while the reasons for the 17th Amendment are real, they were grossly over-exaggerated and could be fixed with smaller,
less all-encompassing laws, without the creation of the 17th Amendment. The real reason the 17th Amendment was passed was due to pressure from
lobbyists because they could have no influence over the Senate as long as the states controlled it. By repealing the 17th Amendment then the Special
Interest Lobbyists would lose control over half of Congress.
Finally, with the repeal of the 17th amendment campaign spending would be cleaned up as well. Candidates for the House would have more access to more
money, due to the funds that are freed up by not being poured in to Senators campaigns. House candidates would have more money and a way to get their
voices heard more so the populace could make better decisions on who should represent them.
So, as you can see the many problems we face today, Lobbyists, Campaign Finance, and Federal Power Abuse (i.e. the Patriot Act and Dept. of Homeland
Security) could be helped or even solved by the repeal of the 17th Amendment and by allowing states to elect their senators again. Let's hope this
becomes an issue in this years election and isn't swept under the rug.
ed: Add sources
[edit on 8/7/2004 by lockheed]