Repealing the Seventeenth Amendment
The New York Times recently published two back-to-back articles (here and here) mocking members of the Tea Party Movement for supporting repeal of the 17th Amendment to the Constitution—the one that changed the election of US Senators from state legislatures to the popular vote system we have today. Having endorsed this idea myself on occasion, I am compelled to say that just because some crazy people endorse an idea doesn’t necessarily make the idea crazy. Following are links to some serious commentaries supporting a return to the original system of electing senators established by the Constitution.
George Mason Law School professor Todd Zywicki is probably the leading authority on the history and problems with the 17th Amendment. Following is some of his work:
● “Senators and Special Interests: A Public Choice Analysis of the Seventeenth Amendment,” Oregon Law Review (1994). Online here.
● “Beyond the Shell and Husk of History: The History of the Seventeenth Amendment and Its Implications for Current reform Proposals,” Cleveland State Law Review (1997). Online here.
A 1997 article in the American Political Science Review by Sara Crook and John Hibbing concluded that the 17th Amendment dramatically changed the nature of the Senate. Different sorts of people were elected and senators became much more sensitive to changes in public opinion.
Claremont McKenna College government professor Ralph A. Rossum was highly critical of the 17th Amendment’s erosion of federalism in his 2001 book, Federalism, the Supreme Court, and the Seventeenth Amendment: The Irony of Constitutional Democracy. A good summary of his argument can be found in this paper delivered in 2003.
In 2002, former White House counsel John Dean wrote a column saying that repeal of the 17th Amendment would “restore both federalism and bicameralism.” One benefit, he said, is that the cost of running statewide senate campaigns would disappear and there would be more focus on state legislative races—a good thing in Dean’s opinion.
In a speech reported in the Harvard Crimson in 2004, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia said that the 17th Amendment was “a bad idea.”