Opinionated @ CFE

A 17th Amendment Reality Check


There have been a lot of waves made lately over candidates who want to overturn the 17th Amendment and return the selection of US Senators to the various legislatures. Certainly, I believe the system of appointed Senators made a lot of sense. It allowed states to directly have a say in the affairs of the national government, contained the power of the political elites to a single house of Congress, and created a much more deliberative body that would act as a check on popular sentiment. All that said, I don’t think the genie can be put back in the bottle quite that easily.

The biggest roadblock is Congress itself. Senators would be essentially asked to vote against their own re-election prospects. Any Senator not on good terms with the legislature of their home state could find themselves quickly out of a job. You then still need 38 state legislatures to sign off on repealing the amendment to get it to go into effect. All of this would need to happen in the midst of citizens likely protesting moving a previously elected position to an appointed one.

Even if a repeal of the 17th Amendment passed, there is nothing to restrict a legislature from retaining a de facto system of direct election anyway. Just a few years before the ratification of the amendment, 29 states allowed some form of popular vote for senators. There’s no reason to believe that most, if not all, states won’t pass statutes to preserve the status quo.

In short, even if a repeal of the 17th Amendment was probable (which it isn’t), it isn’t likely to even change anything. It’s nice to theorize about rolling it back, but taking a hard-line policy position on it as a candidate amounts to so much grandstanding.

Constitutionalist is a Word without Meaning


A lot of people call themselves constitutionalists. Almost universally they claim a particular view of the US Constitution and what it means. And again, almost universally, that view is that of the anti-federalists. The implication is that federalists like Madison and Hamilton were heretics and can be conveniently forgotten when discussing the formation of this nation. That view is wrong.

I do not agree with the views of federalists. I do not subscribe to the notion that the balance of power should be tipped towards the federal government at the expense of the states. I do not support the idea that the Constitution is open to creative interpretations that turn it into a blank check for Congress. I do not think that Hamilton was even a particularly nice or honorable guy. And I do not think that their views can be written off since they were a very important part of the process of creating our nation’s founding document.

Constitutionalist and anti-federalist are not synonymous. To try and make them so it to try and re-write history.

Are Utah's federal fights worth it?


This last legislative session ended in Utah trying to pick some big fights with the federal government. From seizing federal land to bucking federal gun regulations to suing to stop the health care bill that just passed, our legislature and AG are digging in for a knock-down brawl. A lot of criticism has been leveled at them for the expense of these fights, but I’m starting to wonder if the potential payout isn’t worth it.


What I Expect From a Candidate for State Office


I’ve already covered my requirements of someone running for federal office. In a lot of ways, managing a state can be even more complex than handling federal issues. Many problems tackled by the legislature are often based around narrowly-defined groups of people that cross political and sometimes geographic boundaries. It also requires more discipline since going into massive debt isn’t on the table as an option. Here’s what I expect out of anyone running for state office.


What I Expect From a Candidate for Federal Office


I very much enjoyed David Rodeback’s series of If You Want My Vote posts outlining his basic requirements of those running for local office. There’s a lot of sage advice in there for candidate and voter alike. In that spirit, I’d like to list a few things I want to see from candidates at the federal, state, and local level. There’s been way too many politicos insisting that “government” is some nebulous blob that’s the same all over. It’s not. Here’s what I want from anyone running for a federal office.


When Reading Comprehension and Preconceived Notions Collide


It’s always very exciting to find an obscure historical document that backs up one of your political positions, especially when it makes an opposing group look bad. I can imagine that Salon blogger Paul J. O’Rourke experienced that same kind of schadenfreude when he stumbled across “An Act for the Relief of Sick and Disabled Seamen”, legislation from 1798 that would appear to back up his position that a individual mandate to carry health insurance is in line with the Constitution. After all, if James Adams approved, how can you argue against original intent?

On the surface, he appears to be correct. Until, that is, you actually take on the chore of reading the entire thing. Or, heck, even just the first paragraph. Take a look for yourself:

That from and after the first day of September next, the master or owner of every ship or vessel of the United States, arriving from a foreign port into any port of the United States, shall, before such ship or vessel shall be admitted to an entry, render to the collector a true account of the number of seamen, that shall have been employed on board such vessel since she was last entered at any port in the United States,-and shall pay to the said collector, at the rate of twenty cents per month for every seaman so employed; which sum he is hereby authorized to retain out of the wages of such seamen. (emphasis mine)

Huh. So, basically, this applied to foreign trade only. And the ability to regulate foreign trade is rather expressly found in Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution.

Better luck next time, dude.

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