US Senators being forced from office provide the opportunity to examine the unintended consequences of the 17th amendment to the US Constitution.
The original Constitution called for the office of US Senator to be appointed from within the ranks of the sitting members of the respective statehouses. The collective membership of these statehouses were tasked with choosing from their own membership, the two Senators that would represent their state. The genius of this system was that the states had the authority to not only select their Senators, but theoretically, the power to recall them.
In 1913, the Constitution was changed by the 17th amendment, mandating popular election of US Senators. The change meant that any otherwise eligible, state resident could run in a general, statewide election.
The 17th amendment is the only significant structural change ever made to the original version of our Constitution. After witnessing over 100 years of federal governmental functionality courtesy of popularly elected US Senators, it seems self-evident that a 28th amendment needs to be passed to repeal the 17th.
The only other repealed US Constitutional amendment was in 1933 when the 21st amendment repealed the 18th. (the nation-wide prohibition of alcohol.) It took voters only 13 years to see the folly regarding prohibition. After 104 years of popularly elected US Senators, the wisdom of our founders originally designed notion of senatorial selection via statehouses should be a vision gaining increasing clarity.
Regardless of individual political bent, we all likely have our own personal opinions regarding Senators we might label as buffoons. With the average senatorial election campaign costing some $10.5 million dollars, what was once a carefully considered mechanism tightly linking states interests and states control over the ever-present threat of a too powerful federal government, has turned into a pay-to-play popularity contest.
The recent resignation of Minnesota Senator Al Franken serves as perfect illustration supporting a 28th amendment. Franken was a comedian and never held public office until his senatorial election. Because Franken enjoyed celebrity via national television notoriety, he attracted the horsepower and the financial backing of a hyper-liberal political machine that vaulted him into national office as a complete political neophyte. It is hard to imagine any statehouse deciding that the best and brightest they had to offer would mirror the Senate we have today.
Clearly, the federal leviathan needs to be weakened and the States need to take back the power that our founders originally intended they preserve. James Madison made it clear in 1788: “The powers delegated by the proposed Constitution to the federal government are few and defined. Those which are to remain in the State governments are numerous and indefinite.” Re-linking states interests to federal legislative undertakings insures the superior strength of states and checks what our founders feared most and what we have today: the unbridled growth of a too strong, too over-arching federal government.