Ramesh Ponnuru discusses the need to retain the 17th Amendment to the United States Constitution. If you were unaware, some conservative groups want to eliminate this amendment that allows the public to elect their US Senators directly, and return things to the way they used to be: your state legislature appoints your Senators for you. The theory is that this would return considerable power to the states and make it quite easy to remove dingbats like, for example, Harry Reid.
Mr. Ponnuru lists some very good reasons not to bother with this: chiefly, it is impractical due to the massive effort required in doing anything to the Constitution, there is no benefit in doing so, since conditions that would enable such a change would no longer necessitate the action, and so on. Additionally, the American people now have the power to change their senators regardless of what their legislatures think, if they want to.
The Czar agrees with all of these. But one has to remember why the direct election of Senators was put forward in the first place, and for that, we go to history.
Basically, prior to 1913, your state legislators would vote and decide whom among them would go to the US Senate. The theory behind this was that the people pick the representatives, the representatives pick the Senators, the electoral college picks the President, the President appoints judges, and so on. This way everyone shares influence.
The reality, which was in play very early on and was in full swing by the presidency of Andrew Jackson, was this glitch: the governor of a given state could appoint or promote state candidates (as is the case today); in turn, when enough of those candidates win, they joyfully elect, why, the governor as your next US Senator. This was a direct result of the spoils system, which in turn gave way to the horridly corrupt patronage system: you make me governor, Ill get you and your friends into office somehow, and then you make me Senator, and I can try to get you named vice-president, et cetera. See the problem?
No? Well, here it is: if you have a horrific governor (like Illinois did with Blagojevich), he could appoint people to office (as he did with Roland Burris*). Now imagine that within two years, Blagojevich is not only unimpeached as governor, he becomes Senator Blagojevich, and Mike Madigan becomes Vice-President Madigan. And the people have very little choice, especially if the presidental candidate is pretty good. With a heavy Democratic legislature in Illinois, you would decidedly have a Senator Giannoulias, and the people of Illinois would have no way to push out an obvious mob shark. Senator Brown of Massachusetts? Never happen. And so on and so on.
With direct election of US Senators, the people of any given state can vote out the idiots or retain the guys they like. Would the outcome of the Reid-Angle race be any different? Reid would still be Senator either way. On the other hand, look at all the GOP gains in the US Senate this month. How many would occur without the 17th Amendment? Less than half?
Mr. Ponnuru and the Czar come to the same conclusion: Republicans have enough on their plates as it is, and need public focus on those tasks. Discussions of the 17th Amendment are a trivial distraction, and need to stop outside college dorm rooms.
*The Czar understands that Burris was named a Senator pro temp, and that he was not a state legislator. But you are smart enough to follow the logic of the argument either way, right?
Божію Поспѣшествующею Милостію Мы, Дима Грозный Императоръ и Самодержецъ Всероссiйскiй, цѣсарь Московскiй. The Czar was born in the steppes of Russia in 1267, and was cheated out of total control of all Russia upon the death of Boris Mikhailovich, who replaced Alexander Yaroslav Nevsky in 1263. However, in 1283, our Czar was passed over due to a clerical error and the rule of all Russia went to his second cousin Daniil (Даниил Александрович), whom Czar still resents. As a half-hearted apology, the Czar was awarded control over Muscovy, inconveniently located 5,000 miles away just outside Chicago. He now spends his time seething about this and writing about other stuff that bothers him.