Ed Driscoll

New Republic Goes Wobbly over the 17th Amendment

Passed in 1913, shortly before Woodrow Wilson would run roughshod over the Constitution during World War I, the 17th Amendment was a “Progressive” idea with populist appeal, designed to reduce states rights by giving voters the chance to elect their own senators to send to DC, taking the role out of the hands of state governments, as the founding fathers intended. Repealing it has been a talking point of many libertarians and Tea Party supportors for several years now, which of course, the “Progressive” New York Times tut-tutted back in 2010:

Allowing Americans to choose their own senators seems so obvious that it is hard to remember that the nation’s founders didn’t really trust voters with the job. The people were given the right to elect House members. But senators were supposed to be a check on popular rowdiness and factionalism. They were appointed by state legislatures, filled with men of property and stature.

A modern appreciation of democracy — not to mention a clear-eyed appraisal of today’s dysfunctional state legislatures — should make the idea unthinkable. But many Tea Party members and their political candidates are thinking it anyway, convinced that returning to the pre-17th Amendment system would reduce the power of the federal government and enhance state rights.

“Unexpectedly,” the New Republic discovers newfound limits to the Senate becoming too populist and voters having a say over their Senatorial represenatives. Or as Stephen Kruiser paraphrases at the Tatler, “The New Republic: Senators Should Stop Listening To Constituents:”

Stupid voters.

I find these sorts of rationalizations genuinely bewildering. The ability of the NRA and smaller gun-rights groups to mobilize their members to lobby elected officials has been an established fact for years—this is the “intensity gap” that gun-control advocates have long bemoaned, whereby an ardent minority has been able to make its presence felt more strongly on the issue than a silent majority that may support sensible gun control but doesn’t necessarily lobby on the issue or prioritize it on Election Day.

The title of the article [“Dear Senators, Stop Listening to Your NRA Constituents”] is indicative that the author is a bit out of touch, but the above paragraph confirms it.

There are a couple of recurring and inaccurate themes going on here. The first is the notion that those who oppose sweeping gun legislation are a small but fervent minority. They may not use the words “crazy” and “fringe” but they are most definitely trying to imply it. This is, of course, an easy assumption to make when one is surrounded solely by the real fervent minority: the coastal elitists who would prefer that none of the common folk avail themselves of their Second Amendment rights.

Not to mention their voting rights, next time their Senators’ elections come due. Second look at repealing the 17th Amendment, TNR?