Utah Senate votes to repeal 17th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution (with video) | The Salt Lake Tribune

Will Truman

Will Truman is the Editor-in-Chief of Ordinary Times. He is also on Twitter.

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38 Responses

  1. Oscar Gordon says:

    IIRC Such a change should probably involve a bit more language than just moving elections back to state senates. There would have to be some mechanism by which recalcitrant senates can be brought to heel or bypassed. Perhaps a rule that if a senate fails to elect a new senator by a given date, the candidates immediately go on the next public ballot.Report

  2. Will Truman says:

    I’m not sure recalcitrant senates would really be a problem. States want to be represented.

    On the other hand, there’s a lot of gamesmanship with replacement senators. In Massachusetts it kept changing depending on who was the governor. On the other hand, I don’t recall that “leave the seat vacant” was an option considered. It was mostly between appointment, special election, or a combination of the two.Report

  3. Michael Cain says:

    Sigh… those who refuse to study history and all that. At the time, the entire process was viewed as corrupt. The 17th Amendment was bottled up in Congress for years because US Senators weren’t about to subject themselves to popular votes. They finally let it out when we were within three states (IIRC, not going to look it up this morning) of calling a Constitutional Convention. They were more scared of what might come out of that convention than they were of popular votes. I see no reason to think that today’s political process is less corrupt than it was 120 years ago.

    Utah is an initiative state, and Arizona v. Arizona pretty much settled that in such places “the Legislature” can mean popular vote if the state constitution says so. Why does the Utah state senator think that if the 17th is repealed, Utah voters won’t simply appropriate the power to elect US Senators for themselves?Report

  4. dragonfrog says:

    Its sponsor, Sen. Al Jackson, R-Highland, says electing senators by the state Senate is needed because no branch of the federal government now represents the needs of state governments

    I may be missing something, but I thought the idea was that governments were supposed to represent the needs of the people broadly, not of other governments.

    There may be some good arguments to be made for non-elected senators – I just don’t see that as being one of them.Report

    • Will Truman in reply to dragonfrog says:

      Some believe that the Senate is more supposed to represent the state than the people therein. Hence, equal representation.

      I think there is an argument for that being better, but if so senators should serve at the pleasure of the state government (governor or legislature) rather than fixed terms, as they do in Germany.Report

    • Art Deco in reply to dragonfrog says:

      His is a retrospective gloss on the previous system.

      A reasonable conjecture about the effect of such a change is that it will change the social type who gets elected to the U.S. Senate. Right now, you get people adept at fund-raising and publicity (and some students of Congress contend that Representatives tend to be influenced by constituents while Senators are influenced by donors). Going forward, you’ll get people adept at building relationships in state legislatures. Of course, you have some people who can prosper in both environments (Al d’Amato, Marco Rubio). Think of some prominent elected officials who are not or were not clubbable: Richard Nixon, Eugene McCarthy, Jimmy Carter, Gary Hart, John McCain, Ted Cruz.. It’s a reasonable wager these types would be unusual going forward.Report

  5. Morat20 says:

    Hmm. I predict that legislative support for this measure boils down entirely to the fun “off-year” drop in Democratic turnout — which leads to the fun of states with Legislatures dominated by one party (often won in off-years) with one or more Senators representing the other party, a cruel and obviously un-American thing.

    If you can’t get popular with Americans, you just gotta keep building firewalls I suppose.Report

  6. Robert Cheeks says:

    A good idea if the purpose follows the original intent which was to strengthen the idea of federalism. As a counterbalance to the power of the general gov’t.

    Unfortunately there is, today, few state senators that may have an interest in resisting the agenda of the Progressive-elite.Report

  7. Chip Daniels says:

    I know that repeal of the 17th has become a bit of a favorite thing on the right, but I am not sure why.

    I can’t see the “conservative” angle to this, unless “conservative” means “increasing the power of those who already hold power”.

    I mean, I’m trying to imagine how this would play out in California, where Democrats hold every statewide seat. Who would these Democrats select as Senators, and how would they be different than Boxer and Feinstein?

    It seems more like it would turn the state legislatures into a smaller version of the Electoral College, a buffer against the mad whims of the electorate.Report

    • Aaron David in reply to Chip Daniels says:

      It strengthens Federalism, which is a conservative favorite. Yes, CA would likely have the samish senaters, but that really isn’t the point.Report

      • Jesse Ewiak in reply to Aaron David says:

        The point is in states like Michigan or Ohio, which have been gerrymandered to hell, you have two automatic Republican Senator’s instead of the silliness of the people having a voice and a Democratic candidate having a chance.Report

        • Aaron David in reply to Jesse Ewiak says:

          You know what would end gerrymandering?

          Don’t pass heavily disliked laws just before a census.Report

          • Being a westerner (where it’s generally feasible), take redistricting authority away from the state legislature. Voters in Arizona and California did. IIRC, the Washington legislature referred their own plan to the voters before something more drastic got put on the ballot. I expect several more of the western states to adopt independent commissions drawing of US House districts before the next census results are available.Report

            • Aaron David in reply to Michael Cain says:

              California did, but it couldn’t end Minority Majority districts. Which is gerrymandering no matter what anyone thinks of them.

              Though overall, I think independant commissioins for this is an OK idea, I would rather it went to counties. To me that just seems more logical.Report

      • Chip Daniels in reply to Aaron David says:

        Well, I don’t think there is a person alive who gives a rats ass about federalism, including and most especially those who call themselves that.

        Its like “Burkean Modesty” or “Fiscal Conservatism”, or “Judicial Activism” things people throw up when they want a veneer of respectability over their self interest.Report

      • Federalism is the answer I most often hear, when it comes up. It was also the primary factor in my sympathy, when I was open to the idea. Having senators answerable to state legislators gives them incentive to represent the state government (and thus not so enthusiastically pass on more power to the federal government).

        The main problem with the plan is that it’s not entirely clear how likely it is to work. They’re only “answerable” every six years, and their re-election is far more likely to be the product of partisanship than what they did or didn’t do with regard to state and federal authority.

        If you are interested in the latter, then the answer is a senator that can serves at the pleasure of the legislature or the governor. Even then, it’s most likely to be a matter of partisan ideology rather than federalism. But that would at least have more of an effect.Report

        • Aaron David in reply to Will Truman says:

          I like your idea of a Senator who serves at the behest of the state, and can be recalled at any time. They are the states embassador to Washington.

          Is it partisan? Of course, but I don’t think it would change much except at the margins. Most states are already moving toward being permanant majorities for one party anyhow.Report

      • LeeEsq in reply to Aaron David says:

        But it never really worked that way in practice just like the Electoral College didn’t work out as intended. The Founders actually thought that people would vote for Electors who would than meet and debate who should be President amongst themselves before selecting somebody. That isn’t how it worked. Same thing with State Legislatures elected Senators. Senators acted more or less as they do now, either being functionally some sort of Super-Representative or for the various interest groups that got them elected. They never acted as Representatives of their states interests to any greater extent than they do today. The entire system was a corrupt farce.Report

        • Aaron David in reply to LeeEsq says:

          I am not disagreeing with you that it didn’t work then, but that was the reason for it to be handled like it was, with the senate being a supposed representation of the states in Washington. I do think the idea is better than popularly elected senators for the simple fact that I feel that it keeps the idea of the senate rooted in that concept. Makes the idea of all states getting equal representation easier to swallow. For some.Report

    • I know that repeal of the 17th has become a bit of a favorite thing on the right, but I am not sure why.

      State legislatures are currently more reliably Republican than individual voters are. Never underestimate the ability of people to insist that short-term political gain is a matter of principle.Report

      • El Muneco in reply to Mike Schilling says:

        Regarding a fairly similar topic (separation of church and state), I once proposed the “I pour, you choose” test. Specifically, if you get to choose whether there is a state religion or not, I get to choose the religion. It didn’t exactly take the conversation by storm, but it made some people think about unintended consequences.Report

      • Chip Daniels in reply to Mike Schilling says:

        Serious question-
        I wonder what the Venn diagram of Trumpian anti-elite populist voters, versus opponents of the direct election of Senators, would be.


      • You’re wrong. The people who fancy this sort of thing in comboxes populated by Republicans are not party cheerleaders but libertarians of the antiquarian subtype (who often despise the usual run of Republican pol). Some attribute black magical properties to the 17th Amendment. The 16th Amendment is also regarded with disdain, and often the Federal Reserve as well.Report

  8. Tod Kelly says:

    That video is outstanding.

    “We think we should have the power to elect Senators and not the people, because we are trying to return power to the people, who already have it, and will be powerless unless we take that power away from them.”Report