Sunday, January 25, 2009

Through The Looking-Glass

I have in the past written of my dislike of the direct election of U. S. Senators. That's not how it was originally set up; Congress comprised The People's House, the House of Representatives and the State's House, the Senate. Therefore, State governments selected their own Senators. The two assemblies were each thus suited to their own sphere.

That all changed with the ratification of the Seventeenth Amendment, which blurs the distinction between the House and Senate, making a Senator little more than a super-Representative with a longer term and more power. A Progressive measure, it was sold on the grounds that without it, a deadlocked or lax State Legislature could (and had) allow a State's Senate seat to go unfilled.

Fast-forward 95 years to find a new kind of seat-filling: The Nation is soiling itself over the notion that Governors can still, boo-hoo, fill midterm Senate vacancies until a special or regular election can be held (and thus ensure, see above, that States do not go without their brace of Senators).

...And it's coincidence (of course) this this outrage comes when one Gubernatorial pick is, due to the Governor doing the picking, an embarrassment to the Left while another, even though she is a Democrat, is deemed the wrong sort: "New Yorkers do not deserve a caretaker Senator who [...] proudly carries the endorsement of the National Rifle Association, an organization that is uniquely responsible for the death and injury by gun violence of hundreds of thousands of Americans," says union activist Jonathan Tasini.* Ah, yes, dat ol' debbil NRA, slandered again -- it's not gang members and criminals that pull the trigger, then? (Maybe he's referring to the huge numbers of criminals stopped in the act by lawfully armed citizens? Sorry. Jon, way too few of them are killed or injured -- mostly they surrender or run away without any shots fired).

I, for one, welcome Kirsten Gillibrand to the U. S. Senate. And, oh, what the heck, Roland Burris, too -- I figure a fellow who builds a monument to himself was born to be a Senator in the style of the great Claghorn himself. Senator Claghorn, that is.

Now, who's up for Vice-President Biden's seat? Ted Kaufmann? ME, MBA, Biden staffer --D00d, you are way not the closing act I expected. Really, a weightlifter guy in purple tights juggling puppies while riding a unicycle with his hair on fire would fit in soooo much better. Ah, well.
* Former president of a writer's union that seems to be a UAW local. Four-door sedan, War And Peace, what's the difference? Weld that verb on anywhere, Chollie, the upholstery hides it!


perlhaqr said...

Yeah, people look at me funny when I suggest the 17th ought to be repealed just like the 18th was. And hey, while we're rolling down that direction, we might as well snip the 16th, too... ;)

And not related to the post, I'm curious about the "Oh Hell No" graphic on the right. The picture is sufficiently distorted that I can't tell the subject matter. And googling that phrase doesn't help much.

Ed Rasimus said...

One of the questions I have my American Government class write a short paper on is, "Did the Founding Fathers Believe in Democracy?"

Until the 17th Amendment you can make a good case that the were scared to death of an emotional electorate. (Imagine if that group had been around to see this recent election!)

Only the House was elected by the citizens. The Senate was appointed by the State Legislature (a definite form of elitism); the judiciary was appointe by a President (who wasn't elected by the citizens) and confirmed by the Senate.

Take a moment to dig out your dog-eared Constitution and read how the President is chosen. There is not one word in that section which mentions any citizen casting a vote! The electors are appointed by the states through whatever process they chose to establish!

Arguably, what the Founders gave us was a more stable, effective and reliable system of leadership even if it wasn't "democratic".

Jim said...

Catch the reader line in the Burris layout: "That's no cemetery. That's a precinct."

Roberta X said...

Perlhaqr, "Oh hell no" is just my riff on the Obama "HOPE" poster. I started at the Obamanizer site with a photo of me, looking down, and didn't like how it came out; this is the same picture, "posterized" in Paint, background edited out and color-flipped.

Ed: oh, I think the Framers would have been shocked at many modern Presidential campaigns, perhaps from T.R.'s third-party run onwards. But I suspect they were a bit shocked at some in their own time; there's a reason the Constitution was drafted while Jefferson was out of town.

(FWIW, T.R. is a conundrum for me -- I really like him as a person but as President, he presided over sweeping Federal intrusions that strike me as being unconstitutional).

Jim: hey, it's Chi-town, of course the cemeteries vote.

Arcadia Iris said...

I'm glad someone else asked about the "Oh Hell No" graphic... I was afraid I just wasn't catching onto something. Personally, I'm in favor of, "Yes we can! But we'll be sorry we did."

P.S. Any unicorns stop by there yet? We still haven't seen any in Texas. Jackalopes coulda scared 'em off, though.

Anonymous said...

Funny, when the governor's pick doesn't go as planned or they're unhappy with the choice, it's a "loophole" and we should let the people choose.

But when some call for a special election and let the people choose (perhaps because your state government is up to neck in corruption), no, it's too expensive. Which is doublespeak for "they might choose the wrong one."

Pretty soon "Yes we can!" will become "We did what?"

Ken said...

I'm with perlhaqr on amendments to be eliminated. I'd add to Roberta's essay that the other Progressive claim with respect to direct election of senators: that certain state legislatures were in the thrall of certain trusts. "Standard Oil has done everything with the (canna remember whether Ohio or Pennsylvania or some other) legislature but refine it," went the refrain.