Saturday, March 25, 2017

The 17th Amendment

The Senate of the United States shall be composed of two Senators from each State, elected by the people thereof, for six years; and each Senator shall have one vote. The electors in each State shall have the qualifications requisite for electors of the most numerous branch of the State legislatures.

When vacancies happen in the representation of any State in the Senate, the executive authority of such State shall issue writs of election to fill such vacancies: Provided, That the legislature of any State may empower the executive thereof to make temporary appointments until the people fill the vacancies by election as the legislature may direct.

This amendment shall not be so construed as to affect the election or term of any Senator chosen before it becomes valid as part of the Constitution.

With this amendment, ALL the members of the Congress were chosen by direct election rather than through some intermediate body.  The Representatives had always been so chosen, but it was not until after April 8, 1913 with the ratification of the 17th Amendment that the people could vote directly for their Senators.  Why was that?

We use the words democracy and democratic with great abandon here in the United States, but our founding fathers feared the potential of utter chaos if they attempted to establish a pure democracy were everyone had an equal voice and every decision had to have majority approval.  Therefore, they took steps in the framing of the constitution to limit the potential for pure democracy.  We see that in the appointment of Judges, in the Electoral College, and in the selection of Senators, where article 1, section 3, clause 1 said, “The Senate of the United States shall be composed of two Senators from each State, chosen by the Legislature thereof, for six Years; and each Senator shall have one Vote.”

At the Constitutional Convention, there was only one delegate, James Wilson[i] - a Pennsylvanian, who favored the direct election of the Senators.  During the next 100 years or so the process worked, but with some difficulty.  The principle problems are the same thing we see today where political party affiliation became the dominate concern, and if a State’s Legislature was divided they might not reach consensus on a nominee, leaving that state without a Senator, or perhaps having one too many and forcing the U.S. Senate to decide who was the best qualified.

As in all things political, there were also allegations of graft and other corruptions that led to investigations into a number of Senator nominations and the odd removal for being found guilty of bribing their way into office.  These events flashed across the social media of the day; cutesy of the muckraking journalists who made their living through the exposure of political corruption.

Following this last Presidential election, we heard much caterwauling, condemnation, intimidation and attempted corruption of the Electoral College as it assembled to do its constitutional duty, by those who were upset their beloved candidate was not victorious. To those who were so emotionally distraught as to believe that life as we know it was ending, I suggest you contact your elected officials and demand they follow the same process our great grandfathers had followed when they wrote the 17th Amendment.

No comments:

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...