Thursday, August 25, 2011

Rick Perry's proposal to repeal the 17th Amendment

In a book that he published last fall, "Fed Up! Our Fight to Save America from Washington," GOP front-runner Rick Perry lays out several ways he wants to change the Constitution.  Perhaps the most interesting is his proposal to repeal the 17th Amendment, which provides for the direct election of senators by the people. It's not exactly an argument that gets made very often. Repealing the 17th Amendment would restore the original language of the Constitution, which gave state legislatures the power to appoint senators.

Perry, and a few other conservatives, argue that the 17th Amendment undermined states' rights and upset the balance of power between federal and state governments, which helped lead to the federal government becoming extremely big and bloated. At some level, I see the point. Senators who were appointed by the state legislatures would probably have more of an incentive to resist federal encroachment on issues that should be reserved for the states. Some feel that direct senatorial elections have become dominated by Washington special interests and out-of-state campaign donations, and repealing the 17th would fix that.

However, it seems to me that repealing the amendment would have one fundamental problem: it takes power away from people and gives it to politicians. I do not want to think about what kind of corrupt bargains could take place if state politicians were allowed to elect federal politicians. Instances like the Blagojevich affair, where the Illinois governor tried to sell Obama's Senate seat, could become common. Strict party-line votes in state legislatures could also become the norm. If not for the 17th Amendment, Massachusetts voters could not have elected Scott Brown. Maintaining a balance between federal and state governments is important, but not as important as reflecting the will of the people in that state.

We need to decrease the size and power of the federal government, but repealing the 17th Amendment would probably cause more problems than it solves. As for Rick Perry, if he truly believes in states' rights, then his support of federal amendments that ban abortion and gay marriage make little sense.

1 comment:

  1. This is good thinking who ever your are