Ed Morrissey has a nice commentary discussing George Will’s article concerning the latest in constitutional attacks by Feingold and McCain. However, there are elements in his post that demonstrate, in my humble opinion, an incomplete understanding of the formation of Congress and of the effects of the 17th Amendment.
As it was created the Senate would be controlled by “politicians,” yet still indirectly at a community level through the people and their vote for their local legislator. For some reason Americans have this strange ideal that direct popular voting is somehow a higher loadstar than votes cast by “politicians,” and Mr. Morrissey’s post reflects this sentiment. Reasonably, with the level of vote apathy in the last thirty years direct elections certainly aren't the best idea. Certainly the founders knew this when they first put forward the ideal of male sufferage.
Mr. Morrissey also misses the mark when he says, “Will runs aground when arguing against the substance of the policy.”
The very case before us makes that argument completely laughable. Are we to assume that a Senator appointed by the Illinois legislature would be somehow less prone to undue influence than one who won in a popular election? Especially if, as Will notes, the Senator remained accountable (and at risk for recall) to the legislature that appointed him? Regardless of whether the populace is “swollen by immigrants”, a public election has more sunlight by its nature than a conclave of elected officials in a state capital — or on Capitol Hill, as the Porkulus package amply demonstrated.
According to Prof. Todd Zywicki (1), he found a sharp rise in special interest influence in the US Senate resulting from the 17th amendment, so I would argue that Mr. Will’s contention is accurate. Mr. Morrissey is point is purely empirical, yet it seems to be fairly entrenched belief among many in this country that needs to be dispelled.
But without blowing out of proportion the small shortcomings I find in his post, it is great to see this issue getting the attention it truly needs.
(1) Senators and Special Interests: A Public Choice Analysis of the Seventeenth Amendment, 73 Oregon L. Rev. 1007 (1994), by Todd Zywicki