By John Aloysius Farrell, Thomas Jefferson Street blog
Of all the goofy ideas from those lovable, wacky Tea Partyers, the suggestion that we repeal the 17th amendment, and take the direct election of U.S. senators away from the people, is the stupidest.
Having spent much of the last five years immersed in the newspapers, speeches and history of the Populist and Progressive Eras, I can tell you why Teddy Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson and millions of Americans took the election of the Senate from the state legislatures, and gave it to the people: The legislatures were corrupt!
As bad as Congress is now, when it comes to knuckling under to special interests, the legislatures at the end of the 19th century were worse. They were owned by the railroads, or the whiskey trust, or the streetcar and gas magnates, or the oil or steel industries. They were hick farmers and working stiffs, sent by state or city machines, to Springfield or Trenton where, it was universally understood, they would supplement their meager salaries by having corporations grease their palms.
You think these boyos were immune to partisanship? In those days, party discipline was imposed and enforced by both Republican and Democratic bosses with the kind of ruthless efficiency that Nancy Pelosi and Newt Gingrich could only dream of. [See who supports Pelosi.]
Look around folks. Does anyone in Albany look like a budding Jefferson or Madison? How about Sacramento? The guys and gals there have done a terrific job with the state budget, no? Have any of you Tea Partyers actually visited Annapolis or Austin?
There is a reason our great-grandfathers undertook the difficult and arduous task of amending the Constitution to have senators elected by the people. They had a saying back then, that has stuck around--for good reason--for more than a hundred years since a judge coined it in a New York court case: "No man's life, liberty, or property are safe when the legislature is in session."