Senator Zell Miller - Printer Friendly Document

Repeal the 17th?

Senator Zell Miller has introduced legislation to the Senate that would fundamentally alter the way Senators are elected. It would, that is, restore the fashion in which they were chosen under the original Constitution:

[N]o matter who you send to Washington -- for the most part smart and decent people -- it is not going to change much.

The individuals are not so much at fault as the rotten and decaying foundation of what is no longer a republic.

It is the system that stinks. And it's only going to get worse because that perfect balance our brilliant Founding Fathers put in place in 1787 no longer exists.

Perhaps then the answer is a return to the original thinking of those wisest of all men, and how they intended for this government to function.

Federalism, for all practical purposes, has become to this generation of leaders some vague philosophy of the past that is dead, dead, dead. It isn't even on life support. That line on the monitor went flat sometime ago.

You see, the reformers of the early 1900's killed it dead and cremated the body when they allowed for the direct election of U.S. senators.

Up until then, U.S. senators were chosen by state legislatures, as Madison and Hamilton had so carefully crafted.

Direct elections of senators, as good as that sounds, allowed Washington's special interests to call the shots, whether it's filling judicial vacancies or issuing regulations.

The state governments aided in their own collective suicide by going along with the popular fad of the time.... As designed by that brilliant and very practical group of Founding Fathers, the two governments would be in competition with each other and neither could abuse or threaten the other.

The election of U.S. senators by the state legislatures was the linchpin that guaranteed the interests of the states would be protected.

Today, state governments have to stand in line. They are just another one of many, many special interests that try to get senators to listen to them. And they are at an extreme disadvantage because they have no PAC.
Miller is under no illusions about this bill's chances:
So, having now jumped off the Golden Gate Bridge of political reality, before I hit the water and go 'splat,' I have introduced a bill that would repeal the 17th Amendment. I use the word 'would,' not 'will,' because I know it doesn't stand a chance of getting even a single co-sponsor, much less a single vote beyond my own.

Abraham Lincoln, as a young man, made a speech in Springfield, Illinois, in which he called our founding principles 'a fortress of strength,' but warned that they 'would grow more and more dim by the silent artillery of time.'

A wise man, that Lincoln, who understood and predicted all too well the fate of our republic and our form of government.
It is true, of course, that the bill will not even get a co-sponsor. It seems a bit odd, and a little sad, that there should be that little support for the founding principles of the Republic. You'd like to see at least a few Senators ready to stand up and fight for them, even if they're doomed to lose.

Maybe the plan even deserves to lose--this is the first time I've heard the suggestion, and would want time to consider it before choosing a side. Still, it's not a bad idea to formally reconsider the major changes to our Republic once in a while, and whether or not they've had effects baleful or healthful. There is no interest in doing so, not even in the Senate--that glorious debating society we learned about in school has no time for this debate, nor any similar one.

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