I ran the U.S. Marine Corps Marathon this past Sunday around our nation's capitol. The beautiful buildings and monuments are indeed inspiring, but it made me think about their purpose as well, which is to serve...yes, SERVE....We the People.
Everything our government does is required to be authorized by the U.S. Constitution. Federal government's scope is limited just to those authorized duties by the Tenth Amendment. Anything not named as a power of federal government is reserved for the States or People. The Constitution can be amended either by vote of Congress and ratified by the public or by two-thirds of the States calling for a Constitutional Convention (as has been done recently by Georgia, Alaska, and Florida).
There was one thing, however, that the Founding Fathers deemed too important to change and forbid it. "...Congress may at any time by Law make or alter such Regulations, except as to the Places of chusing [sic] Senators." So how did Congress get away with doing just that in 1913? The only answer I can give is, "Not legally" as the 17th Amendment changed the "Places of chusing [sic]" away from the State Legislatures.
This brilliant design feature was there for a reason. Power was intended to lie mostly with the States, under a limited federal government. The House of Representatives consisted of those chosen by "We the People" to be our voice(s) to federal government, but the States were also represented by its two Senators. That was the purpose of the U.S. Senate, and it worked quite well in limiting the size and growth of federal government. Senators were required by the U.S. Constitution to be elected in and by their respective State Legislatures, and that was the one thing our Founding Fathers said could not be changed.
Once that piece of the puzzle was corrupted, however, power immediately shifted to Washington, DC. Our present mess is the result of this disastrous (and unlawful) alteration to our nation's design. If the job of U.S. Senators were still subject to election and recall by the governments of each State, those men and women would still be working very hard to protect the powers of those States rather than allowing federal government to continue expanding into areas in which it is not authorized. Anything not specifically granted as a power of federal government was reserved for the States and People by the Tenth Amendment, but that law has been wholly ignored as well since the Guardians of States' Rights became peddlers of public power one hundred years ago.
Though it sounds good from a populist standpoint that citizens now elect Senators rather than the States, it is not. We now have 100 men and women who are basically Congressmen at large, whose loyalties can be bought and sold by corporations, PACs, unions, and their political parties. Loyalties are rarely limited to the best interests of the State from which they hail as was once the case. A Senator who did not jealously guard his or her State's powers and interests would not be a senator very long. That was a brilliant part of the design, and it acted to limit federal government's power and scope for most of our history.
This part of our nation's design was also considered the one thing too important to change by our Founding Fathers, and returning that important piece of the design is the one thing we could most effectively do to restore the balance of powers that went missing in 1913 when the Seventeenth Amendment was proposed and ratified.
We need to devolve back to our Constitution and this principal of States' rights and representation and we need to do it soon. The Seventeenth Amendment should be repealed or in this case, since it was unlawful to change it according to the U. S. Constitution, challenged by the States in the U.S. Supreme Court as unlawful. Let's get back to the game plan and save our country.
Viva la devolution!
Born in North Carolina and educated at the University of Virginia, Wake Forest University and Caledonian University in Scotland, Howell now lives in Warsaw, Poland with his wife, Dr. Magdalena Iwaniec-Woltz. Howell is the European Correspondent for The Richardson Post and Chairman of The International Centre for Justice.