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Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Finally! Something I can support Joe Miller on!

I was reading in the usually news sources that I frequent many times a day and ran across an interview with Alaska Senate candidate Joe Miller where he supported repeal of the 17th amendment. While I don't think he will win my vote based on this issue alone I do think it would be worth discussing why I think this amendment was a mistake and why I support his opinion that it should be repealed.

For those who are not familar with the 17th amendent, the 17th amendment was introduced in 1912 and ratified in 1913, it modified the constituion with regards to the election of state senators and filling of vacancies in the senate. Essentially the 17th amendment changed the method of electing Senators from a function of the state legislature to a fuction of popular election. It also gave the Governor of the state the responsibility of filling any senate vacancies.

Maybe with any luck we can return to a time where the interests of the states were represented in the senate, where the merits of a person were debated instead of advertised, and where the daily schedule of the senate did not revolve around fund raising.

Popular election? Whats wrong with that? Well let's get started.

First popular elections are expensive and time consuming undertakings, the require alot of preparation and support to make happen where as the state legislature is already formed and need only add it to their current list of business.

Second, because the senators are choosen by the state legislature they are in this case indirectly elected by the people, assuming that the legislators are following their constituents.

Third, the senators have experience in politics and have ample opportunity to debate their choice for senate where as most popular elections are consumed with advertising and mud slinging.

Fourth, (and I like this one alot) should it be necessary the legislature can recall a senator at the snap of a finger, all it takes is a vote. There is no long drawn out petition process and then waiting for an election cycle for the public to vote on it. With the current system the public has almost no recourse against a Senator who is not properly representing the people other than threatening not to re-elect them or starting the lengthy recall process.

The current system has turned being a U.S. Senator into a perpetual fund raiser. You need to money to out advertise your opponent and win the vote of the public. Rarely is an election about the issues as it is about the public's perception of the candidate. The biggest donors get the most time and since states rarely donate to candidates the states themselves are at the back of line for their own Senator's time. Who's at the front? The special interest groups and corporations that give the most money. State Governments have no lobbyist of PACs.

Sadly, I find it hard to believe that Senators elected via a popular vote would choose to change that system. It would be akin to slashing their own throats which is basically what the states did in ratifying the 17th amendment in the first place. The 17th amendment is in direct conflict with the balance between state and federal government and until this power is given back to the states, the people will forever be at the mercy of the federal government and most their senators will forever be the pawns of those who paid for their elections.

EDIT: In response to comment #1, politicians have the reputation of being liars and untrustworthy, saying whatever is necessary to be elected even though their loyalty seems to remain with whomever finances their campaign. In its most basic form a repeal of 17 would eliminate most of this at least in regards to senate seats. It would no longer be necessary to 'sell' oneself to the public by promising this and that and the other and then having no accountability after the fact.

In addition I think that politicans at the state level are far more reliable, trustworthy, easier to contact, and easier to hold accountable. In addition because of the smaller size of house and senate districts, it is much easier and less expensive to run for state government than a larger office. Even if 17 were repealed it would not fix the system immedeatly but would be a certain step in the right direction.

Thanks for the comment

1 comment:

  1. While your fourth point makes me second guess my opinion your first three make me keep it. At its base form I want the 17th to stay because almost all politicians are liars and cheats and so given the power to elect anyone they want is not a power they need. On the other hand Jo Blow voter cant tell a ballot form from a parakeet and that causes its own problems. Changing 17 would be a step in the right direction but abolishing it would only make more problems. But these are just my opinions and could very easily be wrong.