Monday, April 28, 2014

Zoeller Wants A "Soft Repeal" Of The 17th Amendment Allowing Direct Election Of U.S. Senators

Add this to the long list of disappointments I've had with Attorney General Greg Zoeller since I made the mistake of supporting him for the Republican nomination at the 2008 Indiana GOP convention. Zoeller is now supporting a "soft repeal" of the 17th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which took away the right of each of the 50 state legislatures to choose a state's U.S. Senators and gave that right to the voters of the 50 states. Zoeller is pissed off because his buddy Sen. Richard Lugar got dumped by Republican primary voters in the 2012 primary election after 36 years in the Senate so he now thinks only state lawmakers of the respective political parties should be allowed to nominate their respective candidates for U.S. Senate. He favors an outright repeal of the 17th Amendment but because his proposal won't require the difficult and cumbersome process of enacting a constitutional amendment, he supports the soft repeal route. From the Northwest Indiana Times' Dan Carden:
Hoosiers never again would vote in a primary election for U.S. Senate candidates if the decision were up to Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller.
Zoeller is among a growing number of state's rights conservatives who favor a so-called "soft repeal" of the 17th Amendment that would empower members of the General Assembly, instead of voters, to nominate each party's U.S. Senate candidates.
Voters still would have the final say on who represents Indiana in the Senate. But Zoeller, a Republican, believes giving the General Assembly's control of selecting candidates could revive the idea that U.S. senators are ambassadors of a state's government and not entirely free agents.
"If they had to come back ... and get renominated each six-year cycle, they'll be less likely to pass statutes that stuck it to states," Zoeller said. "Would we have an unfunded mandate if they had to come back and explain it to members of the Legislature?"
Speaking earlier this year to the Federalist Society of Indianapolis, an association of politically conservative lawyers and judges, Zoeller said the proper relationship between states and the federal government was "slaughtered" when the 17th Amendment, providing for popular election of U.S. senators, was ratified in 1913.
In the century since, the federal government has come to view states as entities it controls, instead of the co-equal sovereigns the framers of the Constitution intended, Zoeller said.
That relationship urgently needs to be rebalanced to bring an end to overreaching federal regulations and unconstitutional laws, and to cut down on the number of legal challenges, he said. Zoeller said he's felt obligated to file against the federal government in the past six years . . .
Only an elitist scumbag would support such a proposal to further erode the right of the people to choose their elected representatives. Primary voters in Indiana are already cut out of the process for choosing other statewide offices, including the office Zoeller holds, secretary of state, treasurer and state auditor, who are all chosen by a small group of delegates elected to the state convention. Over the years, interest in being a delegate has waned because most races are decided before delegates make it to the state convention so many are appointed by county chairmen rather than being elected by primary voters. That means that only guys like Bob Grand get to decide who holds statewide office in Indiana. One of the driving forces behind the enactment of the 17th Amendment was the increasing number of vote-buying scandals that surrounded Senate elections when they were decided by state lawmakers. America has already become an oligarchy for all practical purposes instead of the republic our founders intended when they crafted the U.S. Constitution so I suppose this is just one more nail in the coffin.

I'm still waiting for someone in the media to investigate the more than $800,000 Zoeller has paid out to his former boss, Steve Carter, to handle the state's tobacco settlement requirements. The State of Indiana is losing $63 million in tobacco fund settlements because an arbitrator last year determined that the state had made to little effort to recover money from cigarette companies that weren't a part of the original deal. Great job, Greg and Steve.


Anonymous said...

We don't need a redundant, expensive, and impedimentary second People's House.

Either repeal the 17th Amendment or disband the Senate. A popular Senate is anathema to the foundational construction of the Constitution and federalism.

Anonymous said...

Gary, if we are to keep the stupid 17th Amendment, in clear violation of foundational Constitutional intent, can we please put Senators on the same election frequency as Representatives?

The Framers clearly intended for members of the People's House to face frequent elections. Since we now have another People's House, that house should be on the same election frequency as the People's House the Framers, themselves, constructed.

By placing the Senate as a directly elected democratic body but by removing its members from frequent democratic review and assent, we've deeply altered the Constitution's foundational purpose and intent.

Anonymous said...

Prior to the 17th, a Senator was an agent of the state legislature and had to be known to the local legislature and familiar with the concerns of the legislature.

A Senator could be raised up and sent to Washington entirely absent a media-friendly appearance, deportment or agenda. Elections were subject to little popular pressure, conducted as the daily business of the legislature.

Now, we have carpetbagging Senate candidates who know nothing about a state, have never lived in a state, but are elected by dim voters who succumb to a fusillade of marketing paid for by out-of-state interests.

The Founders distrusted popular elections. Only half of one branch of government was to be popularly elected. The 17th has destroyed essential Founding intent and protections.

Anonymous said...

Don't you love the thought of Bob Grand having to go to the Capitol to suck up to Merrillville, Fort Wayne, Lafayette, Evansville and Bloomington? I love the thought of him being laughed out of a few offices, as if Evansville needs or wants the guidance of Indianapolis in electing a Senator.

Don't you love the thought of Lugar having to come to the Capitol for candidate review committee hearings in which he would be compelled to answer questions from Vi Simpson regarding his residency?

Zoeller may back a repeal of the 17th, but it would not better serve his interests than the current scheme.

Gary R. Welsh said...

Richard Lugar wouldn't have had to answer questions from Vi Simpson about his residency. Only Republican lawmakers would vote in selecting the Republican candidate and vice versa for the Democrats under Zoeller's proposal. Voters would have the choice of voting in the general election for the candidates nominated by the state legislators of the two major parties.

A Visitor said...

Now, we have carpetbagging Senate candidates who know nothing about a state, have never lived in a state, but are elected by dim voters who succumb to a fusillade of marketing paid for by out-of-state interests.

The Founders distrusted popular elections. Only half of one branch of government was to be popularly elected. The 17th has destroyed essential Founding intent and protections.

One could argue that Lugar fit that mold of carpetbagging politician. In more recent instances look at those who have moved to states just in time to run as elected reps at the federal level because they couldn't get elected in their home state. I'd like to see the 17th repealed outright.

Our Founders created a republic, not a democracy. Given, per the paper Mass Belief Systems Among Ideological Publics or whatever it was called (I had to read it in a 400 level polisci class at Purdue) and how most people vote based on a singular issue rather than an ideological continuum (35% vs. 11% (11% including ideologues and near ideologues), this wouldn't affect most people's participation in the elections.

Given especially how many people (just look at those videos done every four years during the presidential elections asking how many senators a state has, representatives in the House, etc.) don't know how many Senators are given to a state per the Constitution, probably don't vote, and couldn't care less, this could open up a chance to return power to where it rightly belongs the states and give a chance for those of us who genuinely care about our republic a chance to make a meaningful difference.

Hell, most people don't even know the electors of the Electoral College are chosen by the governor and, at least in Indiana (I know a few states they are required to by law), only vote for the candidate that won the electoral votes out of tradition.

Paul K. Ogden said...

I get that we have a problem that Congress too often rides roughshod over the power of state government. I'm afraid this though is one of those cases where the medicine is worse than the disease. I don't want insiders picking our U.S. Senators.

Gary R. Welsh said...

When our founders entrusted the job of picking senators to state lawmakers, the country was largely agrarian, and the lawmakers elected to state legislatures were true citizen legislators who gave up no more than a couple months' work a year to serve in state legislatures. I doubt those same founders would look as favorably upon state lawmakers choosing senators today if they realized then what they would become--a miniaturized version of what Congress has become--also what they never envisioned.

Anonymous said...

The 17th Amendment came about because there were too many problems with the old system. There was too much corruption within the state general assemblies in choosing a candidate, and very often there were deadlocks that resulted in delays seating Senators. The 17th Amendment was the result of years of calls for reform. It was ratified by nearly every State, including Indiana. Zoeller only embarrasses himself with his wistful, partisan whining for a return to the 1850’s. He’s a soft AG lite, and his many failures in office ought to haunt him. I have an idea Zoell. Why don’t you get your eye back on the ball. A brilliant strategy by the current Republican Oregon AG has him aligned with young Republicans in that State in an agreement to not defend the State’s Constitutional ban on gay marriage; the young Republicans correctly identified it as so unpopular that it was going to result in landslide wins for Democrats, and so now Republicans join Democrats in asking the Court to find it unconstitutional believing the election will favor a softer gentler Republican slate. Of course Zoeller will continue to fight stupid fights rather than lead the way until nobody can stomach his party any longer. Will somebody tell Gregg Garrison to shut up. He’s turning people away from the party with his wacko rants. The Federal Courts will now stop these ultra conservatives who would not restrain their vile opinions by taking the gay marriage issue out of their hands completely. Rokita tried to tether Garrison somewhat today in his tirade against Boehner on immigration, but these tea partiers have completely hijacked the party and will cost it elections more surely than if they all start talking about rape and abortion again. Will the last Ronald Reagan style Republican in the State please turn out the lights on your way out, because these tea partiers are in the dark anyway.

Anonymous said...

The problems of corrupt state legislatures are a cover for enacting legislation explicitly designed to repeal American government.

The 17th Amendment came about due to a string of very bad legislation in 1913, the heart of the Progressive Era.

America enacted several significant pieces of legislation in 1913 that have proved to be our undoing.

MikeC said...

I agree with Zoeller. The founders meant the Senate to represent state governments. The House was intended to be the only chamber that directly represented the people and were thus chosen directly by them.

Back in those days, and until the late 19th century I think, the Senate was chosen by vote of state legislatures.

There is nothing elitist about that concept. It reflects sound federalist thinking. Even populist Mark levin supports repeal of the 17th Amendment.

MikeC said...

Incidentally, Gary, do you know if in Illinois you still have to cast separate voted for Electors in presidential elections? I remember in the 70s you did, and I think 1980 too. I left the state after that.

Roderick_E said...

I know I'm a little late on this blog to comment about this but since I have taken up this issue as part of my presidential campaign, and because I live in Indiana I thought my comments might help. First, the snide comments about why anyone would want to rescind this amendment just shows that it is those people, not Senator Smith that don't know history.

The 17th amend was ratified by...well, Senators. Why would they want to change the way our Founders' set up our government? What was happening is that since Senators were elected by State legislatures, those same legislatures also had the power to recall a Senator if the legislature believed the Senator wasn't voting in the State's best interests. These recalls were not only annoying to Senators "power", but sometimes a state would go for a time without a Senator while the legislature voted on who to send next. So, as Senator Smith correctly outlines, the 17th amend broke our government.

Originally, the government was set up much like the U.K. parliament, but with a president instead of a prime minister; a president that did not require a coalition to govern. The vice president didn't even need to be of the same party/ticket. See Lincoln/Johnson. The Senate and Congress would act much like the House of "Lords" and the House of "Commons". That is, the Senate was designed to represent the interests of the States -- not the people of the state, but the government of each state. Whereas the Congress is to represent the people directly. Again, the 17th amend broke this balance. You now have two houses that are basically redundant. Why do we need a Senate and a Congress? What are they balancing? They often simply balance the parties and act as a party vs party mechanism. Our government wasn't even designed to be party driven.

Further, there is no longer any state government representation. Senators often promise the people this or that and then once elected, the politicians do their own thing. Before, at least the state government could recall them. Now the federal government can and does impose things upon a state and the state has little to no recourse, no representation.

The 17th amend has nothing to do with fixing "corruption" or wealthy white slave-owning aristocrats (that guy is watching too much Annie or Shirley Temple movies). The 17th amend was passed by Senators so they could be free of threat of recall. It was a coup. It really has broken our governmental system. I guess the Senators feel it is easier to dupe the people to elect and reelect and reelect them over and over instead of having to deal with their state possibly recalling them for being an idiot. -- check out