Mike Lee Doesn’t Want Your Vote
Our best hope in the Clone Wars showed up on CNN to disown his potential constituents:
Utah Republican Mike Lee said Friday that he favors changing the way senators are elected, even as he seeks his own seat in that body.
Speaking on CNN’s John King, USA, Lee said that the 17th Amendment was a mistake, and that while he wouldn’t focus on repealing it, he does “think that we lost something when we adopted it.”
The 17th Amendment established the direct election of senators by the popular vote. Senators had previously been elected by state legislatures.
We thought we were done with this issue after Glenn Beck helpfully explained that you could use one of those rare 1913 wall phones to call your local politico about your senator, who would pass along your complaints to other politicos at the statehouse, who would then
laugh in your face exercise their solemn constitutional reponsibility to put a different crook in office recall your senator from D.C. for a severe tongue-lashing.
But no, it’s not going away. Which raises the question: Where the hell did it come from?
Our hunt begins, as most things do, with the Idaho Republican Party, understandably bitter that their electorate would send a restroom stall splasher to the World’s Greatest Deliberative Body. The Famous Potatoheads have voted Repeal into their party platform, and local commenters provide some insight into their motives:
And i assure you if there were no 17th amendment, there would be no obamacare.
Well! That was enlightening!
We’re skipping over a lot of Constitutional theory there, of course, because really, we’re more interested in why this issue would suddenly turn up now, instead of why it would turn up at all.
So let’s pose a working hypothesis: Folks want to repeal the Seventeenth Amendment because the Sheriff is near. This would suggest that nobody thought of Repeal until on or about January 20, 2009. That seems to be the date when, to update another chestnut from the era, human character changed.
This would also explain why Louie Gohmert was so quick to embrace it.
Or why George Will got on the Repeal bandwagon as early as February 22, 2009.
Although it doesn’t explain why John Dean raised the issue on September 24, 2002:
Returning selection of senators to state legislatures might be a cause that could attract both modern progressive and conservatives. For conservatives, obviously, it would be a return to the system envisioned by the framers. For progressives — who now must appreciate that direct elections have only enhanced the ability of special interests to influence the process — returning to the diffusion of power inherent in federalism and bicameralism may seem an attractive alternative, or complement, to campaign finance reform.
Heck, you can trace Repeal chitchat back to at least 1996, if you care to:
If there was once cause for concern in the muckraking stories of industrial tycoons and railroad barons buying Senate influence through contributions to the state legislators, then the largess of lobbyists and activists that is today handed openly and directly to Senate candidates (overwhelmingly in favor of incumbents) should be a cause for outright alarm.
Then again, we found this background through the very helpful Campaign to Restore Federalism, domain registered September 28, 2007, by the otherwise unfindable “Merrie Center for Ethics and Politics”, run by the very findable John W. Truslow, III. Who, as it happens, is not averse to including a link to LewRockwell.com among his major sources.
Still, it’s hard to find any popular discussion of the Seventeenth Amendment prior to January 2009. January 24, 2009, to be precise:
Now that Gov. David Paterson of New York has completed his operatic quest to fill Hillary Clinton’s Senate seat and Roland Burris, chosen by the embattled Illinois governor to succeed Barack Obama, has made it past Capitol Hill security, we can safely conclude that appointing senators might not be such a good idea.
That would be David Segal, “a Rhode Island state representative and an analyst for FairVote, a voting rights advocacy group,” writing in the New York Times.
Segal’s take, reflecting his Krist Novoselic-chaired organization, is that the Seventeenth Amendment left a gaping loophole: Governor-appointed replacements of prematurely disappeared senators, accounting for almost a quarter of vacancies since 1917.
All vacancies. Including senators later properly elected to their posts.
Maybe it’s just coincidence that three of the four names mentioned in his opening paragraph refer to folks of the Near Sheriff persuasion. But it strikes us as, well, odd that if senatorial appointments have been so frequent in the past nine decades, and if Repeal itself has been a deep-background issue for at least sixteen years (Hello, University of Oregon Law Review! Go Ducks!), that it would suddenly hit the boiling point now.
Especially among folks who are vociferous in their refusal to accept the landslide election of a Near Sheriff to the Oval Office.
We’ll have to leave our evidence circumstantial, however, and our hypothesis unproven. Our gut tells us we’re right, but that damn church bell keeps distracting us.