A week or so ago, I wrote about Sen. Smith’s SJR 3 concerning an attempt to rescind Indiana’s ratification of the 17th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution (the one that allows direct election of U.S. Senators instead of their selection by the various state legislatures.)
Yesterday, Alan Greenblatt, writing for NPR had an article entitled “Rethinking the 17th Amendment: An Old Idea Gets Fresh Opposition” (h/t Sacha). It appears to be one of those ALEC things, popular among some conservatives. Ted Cruz says that direct election of U.S. Senators instead of having them selected by state legislatures is a reason federal power expanded.
On the other hand:
The 17th Amendment was one of several innovations during the so-called Progressive Era meant to promote direct democracy, such as ballot initiatives, recall elections and party primaries.
The idea was to circumvent the stranglehold that various monopolies and oligarchies had on state officials of the day.
“The state legislatures were just a mess, especially with regard to this issue,” says John Hibbing, a political scientist at the University of Nebraska who has studied the amendment. “People were just buying their way in. It was a real cesspool.”
But, the ALEC thinking goes — or at least the rhetoric — that this change removed the voice of the states themselves in the federal government (as opposed to, I suppose, citizens from that state who are, at the same time, citizens of the country as a whole.) As a practical matter, the article points out that Republicans effectively control 26 states versus Democratic control of 18 with the other 6 split. (Having only 6 split states is a telling statistic about the partisan split of the country.)
“I just don’t see how it could possibly be a winner for anyone running,” says University of Illinois political scientist William Bernhard. “To say we’re going to become less democratic and have fewer votes, that doesn’t resonate.”