By Dr. Harold Pease
On May 31,1913, one hundred years ago this month, the U.S. Constitution was changed by the Seventeenth Amendment nullifying the most essential safeguard and ingredient in our remaining a republic. Although our “Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag” still uses the word republic we, on this date, took a giant step into a democracy from a republic and in doing so initiated the era of purchased U.S. Senators, something the Constitution had protected us from heretofore by having senators chosen by the state legislature rather than by the masses.
Some unfamiliar with our history may not know that the Senate was specifically designed to protect state authority from federal government intrusion and to cool the emotional whims of the peoples’ branch—the House of Representatives. To accomplish this, and to keep this body committed to, and aware of state needs, U.S. Senators were to be elected, not by the people at large, as was the House, but by the state legislatures themselves. All prospective law was to be evaluated from two perspectives, the needs of the populace and the needs of the states. Why else would we need two branches of government essentially doing the same thing—making law? The 17th Amendment reduced law making to but one perspective virtually eliminating the perspective of the states.
We live under two political systems: one primarily national in function, the other primarily domestic. It’s called federalism—the two share power and are equal. Neither was to be subservient to the other and each was to have separate duties. Thomas Jefferson explained it best when he said, “The states are not subordinate to the national government but rather the two are coordinate departments of one single and integral whole…. The one is domestic the other the foreign branch of the same government.” Think of this relationship as an ideal marriage, where neither partner is subservient to the other. Neither feels beneath the other, rather they are a team.
The Senate was specifically charged with ensuring federalism but could only do so if they were not subjected to the popular vote. Again, that essentially ended on May 31, 1913, when the 17th Amendment made the senate popularly elected and responsible solely to the emotion of the masses that tend to vote with their stomachs. Prior to this date each state sent the two, usually from their own members, most qualified and able to defend the interests of their state—not who was best funded, best looking, most charismatic, or worse, promised the most handouts to those less productive. These elections cost nothing and no one argued for term limits. It was not needed.
Today, because of this amendment, U.S. Senators must raise between 5 and 10 million for a successful senate campaign thus they are always campaigning and attention to local constituency is the key to their survival—not attention to their state legislature issues. Moreover, the candidate that spends the most money normally wins. The change allowed the moneyed interests to purchase U.S. senators, not the masses. The masses hardly care. “Indeed only about 60 percent of the general public can name one U. S. senator from their state, and only about 40 percent can name both of their U.S. senators” (Politics in America, Thomas R. Dye, Edition 13, p. 379). Some senators receive large sums from contributors outside their states enabling outsiders to help purchase their senator.
But the biggest obstacle to retaining our republic, and thus our liberty, is that there now exists no body whose principle duty is to keep the federal government harnessed to the powers listed in Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution and to protect Amendment 10 of the Bill of Rights that makes it clear that all power not listed remains with the people and the states. Without this body a republic deteriorates into a democracy, which deteriorates further into socialism, which goes into extreme debt because it can’t say no to the expensive whims of the masses. Sound familiar? We must rescind the 17 Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
The New American said it best when it noted, “Today the federal government is involved in everything from our farms to our health and education, along with our sex lives (Viagra is covered by the prescription drug benefit for seniors, and contraception coverage is mandated under ObamaCare) and preschool programs for toddlers” (The April 1, 2013, p.39). Constitutionally all of this falls within state prerogative without a constitutional amendment authorizing the federal government to have these specific powers. If senators represented their states, as designed, they would have prevented this federal intrusion and the high taxes that come with it and we would be a much freer people. Moreover, the era of purchased U.S. senators would never have become the practice.