By Vin Suprynowicz
Special to The Libertarian Enterprise
In recent discussions of the great 1912 watershed, I think I
neglected to mention the constitutional amendment which changed U.S.
senators from election by the state legislatures to popular election.
This is generally shrugged off, today, as an unimportant
historical footnote, perhaps given a positive spin as "extending
democracy." But in fact, it went a long way to gutting the
sovereignty of the states, by giving us not two houses substantially
different in method of selection, in allegiance, and therefore in
outlook and voting behavior, but rather (in effect) 535 popularly-
elected congressmen, of whom 100 simply have four times more personal
power than the "junior" 400.
Before 1912, it was not standard for the most popular, best-
looking young congressman in a given state to seek a quasi-permanent
senate seat after two or four years in the House. Since a senator was
chosen by the state Legislature, specifically to do the bidding of the
state government in Washington, he was often a retiring governor or
state legislative leader. Already white of hair, it was expected he
would serve six years (or at most 12) and then die. Such a gentlemen
(think of it) never faced a popular election. No need to kiss
babies and prattle nonsense about "saving the children from drugs",
"bringing more jobs to Palookaville with a fine new industrial park",
et nauseating cetera.
Instead, the senator's job was to go to Washington and exercise a
veto power on behalf of state sovereignty ... as though a state
today could send its attorney general (bearing specific, written
instructions) to a meeting of the attorney generals of all 50 states,
where a 26-24 vote could repeal any and all laws enacted by
No wonder the big-government populist/collectivist/socialists made
this such a high priority for "reform", and why the change is so
little mentioned by today's union/socialist government school
Yes, the popular election of senators "extends democracy" ...
which is precisely what the founders didn't want. Democracy was
one element of their successful formula. You can have all the
democracy you want when you vote for your congressman. And because
laws were only to begin in the House, the other "estates" -- the
moneyed aristocracy, etc. -- would have a devil of a time initiating
legislation opposed by the populace at large.
But it also worked the other way. The "will of the mob", as
expressed by the hunger of baby-smooching congressmen to introduce
ever more laws and enactments and agencies and subsidies and pork
allocations, was to be subject to multiple vetoes, first by the
senate (in other words, by the state capitols), and only then by the
president, by the juries, and by the U.S. Supreme Court.
Reintroduce this system today, and the press would scream about
"gridlock; nothing getting done!" ... which is indeed what the system
envisioned by the founders would look like, compared to the national
diarrhea attack of unnecessary and evil legislation that inundates us,
Yet, I bet if you asked 100 randomly selected Americans what was
changed in our method of electing senators in the year 1913, and what
effect it has had on the volume of legislation produced each year
after 1913, as opposed to the volume enacted before 1912 ... not
five could remember.
Vin Suprynowicz is the assistant editorial page editor of the Las
Vegas Review-Journal. Readers may contact him via e-mail at
email@example.com. The web site for the Suprynowicz
column is at http://www.nguworld.com/vindex/. The column is
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Syndications, P.O. Box 4422, Las Vegas Nev. 89127.