Two years ago, conservatives were on the ropes. But the GOP victories in
last month's elections have them dreaming big again. They're back to
Some in the political meth labs of the right dream bigger still, and
push for new Amendments to the Constitution. So what would you expect
these newly-empowered Sons of Liberty to push? The Human Life Amendment? Repeal of the Civil Rights Act? A ban on the cursed TSA?
No, comrades, those are from the old wish-lists. The front
runners so far are an Amendment to have state legislatures, rather than
citizens, directly elect U.S. Senators, and another allowing state
legislatures to overturn federal laws.
The first proposal would repeal the 17th Amendment, passed in 1913, which gave citizens the right to choose their Senators directly, back when progressivism was all the rage.
Tea partiers have been warm to repeal 17A. Alaska tea party Senate candidate Joe Miller supported repeal; that he later felt obliged to dodge the issue we can put down to pressure from the liberal media, which also discouraged Rand Paul from his principled stand against the Civil Rights Act.
If you think giving voters less power on Election Day is a
strange way to promote liberty, you're just greedy, rightbloggers tell
us -- that power rightfully belongs to the states, not to sheeple like
For one thing, your insistence on roads and bridges is costing us money
as well as Constitutional authenticity. Back in the glorious pre-17A
era, Senators "didn't have to worry about bringing home 'pork' and other
such nonsense to bribe voters with, because they were accountable to
the state legislatures," said Thoughts from a Conservative Mom. This makes some kind of sense: It was probably cheaper for the Republic when pre-17A Senators accepted Credit Mobilier stock or other emoluments for their services, instead of trying to get public works for their states.
Hey hey, ho ho -- direct election of Senators has got to go!
the 17th Amendment was meant to prevent outright bribery of state
representatives in Senator selection," said tea party candidate Glen Bradley,
"today, the winning candidate is most often the one backed by the most
special interest money. The avenue of US Senate corruption was taken
away from the State Legislatures and handed to the corporate lobby. The
corporate lobby is able to buy the media needed to reach the whole
freed corporate lobbies to dump as much money into political media as
they wished. But better that power should go to them, we guess, than to
whatever other "special interests and mobs demanding more from the
people's treasury" World Net Daily's Devvy Kidd
was talking about when she discussed 17A. (She didn't favor repeal, as
she believed the Amendment was not properly enacted in the first place.)
For others the real issue is that other Lost Cause,
states' rights. "Prior to the ratification of the 17th Amendment, the
states, through their representatives, had a say in legislation that was
passed by the central/federal government," explained The Federal Observer.
"With the passage of the 17th Amendment, that say was passed to the
people, leaving the states almost devoid of any say in the operations of
the federal government."
"The 17th Amendment was necessary to eliminate the voice of the states in congress," said Random Bits of Randomness, who laid the blame on a (new, to us) historical progressive villain, William Howard Taft.
The call to end 17A reached National Review, where Todd Zywicki
claimed that with direct election of Senators, "progressives dealt a
blow to the Framers' vision of the Constitution from which we have yet
to recover," and created a "master-servant relationship between the
federal and state governments that the original constitutional design
sought to prevent." Among the atrocities Zywicki laid to this corrupt
deal: Motor Voter Laws.
Perhaps sensing that he was losing the crowd, Zywicki quickly added that
"the provisions of Obamacare that override state policy decisions...
would have been unthinkable" without the 17th Amendment; better repeal
it before a 17A-enabled Obama establishes a national car pool or
something. (World Net Daily's Henry Lamb
agreed: Obamacare "would have never seen the light of day" without 17A.
Maybe they should work next on an Amendment authorizing the development
of a time machine.)
Zywicki also claimed that "there is some evidence that the indirectly
elected Senate was more accessible to non-career politicians than
today's version is." He did not, alas, provide examples, though he might
have cited the grand might-have-been that was Sen. Caroline Kennedy.
(It seems a weird talking point, anyway, after a tea party election in
which activists bucked their own political establishments to nominate
"non-career politicians" like Christine O'Donnell and Joe Miller. Maybe,
after reform, state legislatures will endeavor to find even less
careerist candidates by going into warehouses and slaughterhouses,
quizzing the guys on civics, and appointing the ones who get the lowest
That one's still cooking, but recently there's been a flurry of
rightblogger commentary on another kind of "Repeal" Amendment -- not to
restore old ways, but to newly empower state legislatures to nullify
federal laws if two-thirds of them can agree.
though it mostly cited conservative politicians, and a claim that "hits
on the RepealAmendment.org website have mushroomed over the past
month." There's no poll, either, but Republican-friendly
pollster Scott Rasmussen told The Caller "he would likely find
overwhelming support from most Americans were he to conduct a poll on
support for the 'Repeal Amendment.'"
Eventually they'll have to get around to informing the masses about this
Amendment they're going to love. So far they're mostly talking about
how it's a sure thing.
"So Communists, er, Democrats, meet your nemesis, those damned innovative Americans, again," said Right Side News.
"The Daily Caller headline (November 24, 2010) says it all. Yet another
unanticipated fastball has been hurled directly at the radical left's
destructive agenda." The headline, "Power the the People! Repeal
Amendment Gaining Strength," has rampaged across the blogosphere.
Others waited for liberals to complain, and then attacked those complaints as ridiculous.
scoffed, "Since the Repeal Amendment, proposed by Randy Barnett, can
easily be portrayed as an effort to return to something closer to the
balance of power provided for in the original Constitution, it is pretty
silly to portray yourself as brimming with respect for the Founders
when what you really support is the shift of power to the national
government that occurred over the long stretch of time, a shift that the
courts have allowed to take place." So the Repeal Amendment wouldn't
mess up the Constitution -- it's already been messed up by activist
judges. Plus Milbank can't spell "hare-brained."
great attraction of the Repeal Amendment... is that it reveals the
abysmal ignorance of those on the Left who oppose it," said RedState's Moe Lane. "The Repeal Amendment - Can you smell the liberals fear?" said a poster at Argue With Everyone. "Meanwhile, Dahlia Lithwick and Jeff Sesol recycle Dana Milbank's dumb criticism," said Instapundit.
"Is it just me, or do the lefty critics just seem to be phoning it in
lately? ...the criticism of the proposal is so amazingly ignorant that I
find myself warming to it despite myself." Look out, liberals, your
criticism is having unintended consequences on Instapundit's opinions!
As we are resigned to the imminent collapse of the Republic, we can't
say that these Amendments have no chance at all of passing. But we
suspect most of the drum-beating over them is less about changing the
Constitution than about sending a message of support to two major
This is where the next generation of national conservative politicians
will be bred. Advocating for an elevation of their responsibility over
national affairs is a good way to acknowledge their power, and perhaps
sharpen their appetite for more of it. Maybe the Representative for
Gopher's Gulch will start talking about the evils of the Federal Reserve
and fiat money in his newsletters, rather than constituent services,
and thus more widely disseminate the new rightwing gospel.
Second, the tea party people. Some of them may get impatient about
seeing their agenda realized in Congress. Even at this early stage, some
had never fired the shot heard 'round the world. No doubt more
disappointments are in store. Demands for big changes that would take
years to realize could serve as a useful distraction. The problem isn't
the Congressmen you elected -- it's Congress itself! It even involves
the Constitution, which they love talking about. It's change they can believe in even if, as often, it never comes.