Tuesday, February 9, 2010

A Civics Lesson From Rep. Stevens

Attention Arizonans: Rep. David Stevens of Sierra Vista wants to take away one of your Constitutional rights by changing the way our U.S. Senators are elected. Hyperbole? Nope. He wants a system where state lawmakers pick the candidates and the voters select them.

According to the Arizona Daily Star and Capitol Media Services' Howard Fischer
He said his measure would be a partial return to the way things were before the 17th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was adopted.

Until then, each state legislature selected its U.S. senators. Voters selected only the folks going to the House of Representatives. The 1913 amendment requires direct election of all members of Congress.

Stevens said that amendment was a mistake. He said the old system ensured that senators were responsive to the desires of state lawmakers.
I gather responsiveness to the citizens is just a formality.
"The state is supreme over the federal government," he said. "And when they weren't doing what we thought they should be doing, we could recall them at any time."
Ponder with me the thought of our gridlocked, ideologically tainted, debt-ridden legislature appointing the slate of senators we voted for... and later recalling them because the state pols didn't like what the federal pols were doing. Okay, maybe that last part won't happen.

But at least ponder one of our state lawmakers saying that our state is supreme over the federal government. I'm hoping Rep. Stevens is speaking only in the context of the 17th Amendment and U.S. Senators.

You gotta worry a little.


Peter Schmugge said...

Up until April 8th, 1913, with the addition of the 17th Amendment to the Constitution, it WAS the sole right and responsibility of the state to elect the Senators. This right of the states allowed the states to protect themselves from the people - i.e. the masses creating laws and programs that were unsustainable by the states themselves. This was the intention of the Founding Fathers, to give the states the ability to stop that legislation. By taking that ability away, we have slipped away from the states 10th amendment rights, and have drifted closer and closer to a truly federalist government - one that the Founding Fathers would be appalled at seeing today. They knew the best way to prevent another powerful centralized government from eroding the freedom of the individual, was to de-centralize the government.

Peter Schmugge said...

Oh, and yes, it's only in regard to Senators only... it's as close a system as we can get w/o violating the 17th Amendment.

Christopher said...

I'd believe the "founding fathers intended this" argument more if I hadn't also read about a bill that would take the state's judicial appointments away from a nonpartisan commision and put into the hands of the state governor and senate. This sounds troublingly like a power grab.

Another observation: If Amendment 17 was a dangerous move towards a more federalist system, it was one a heckuva lot of people were comfortable with in 1913, given how hard it is to change the Constitution. But that was a product of the early 1900's progressive movement in this country. The fact that the 17th Amendment is still on the books today says a lot about what we want from Washington... and what we don't want from the states.