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Leave the 17th Amendment alone

Ray Boone/Flickr

For a couple of years, specifically 2010 and 2011, far-right activists pushed a muddled constitutional message. On the one hand, conservatives claimed to be the true, unyielding champions of the Constitution and all it represents. On the other, these same conservatives said the Constitution needed to undergo major changes to bring it more in line with the right's expectations. This never really made sense, but we apparently weren't supposed to note.

As a practical matter, the latter goal of giving the Constitution a touch-up led to some fairly radical proposals. Conservative Republican lawmakers and candidates, for example, said they might want to scrap at least one part of the 14th Amendment. The right also hoped to "restore" the "original" 13th Amendment. A variety of conservatives, including Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R), said the 16th Amendment should also probably be removed from the Constitution, too.

And for quite a while, the right seemed especially animated by the idea of repealing the 17th Amendment -- the one that lets Americans choose their own U.S. senators -- so much that it became "part of the Tea Party orthodoxy." Dave Weigel noted yesterday that this idea hasn't completely faded, at least not yet.

Georgia's legislature, now run by a Republican supermajority, has inched ahead on a resolution endorsing the repeal of the 17th Amendment. Honestly, I thought that fad died out sometime in 2011, but it's easy to forget that the 2012 election firmed up Republican control in red states, and that ideas like this have empowered sponsors. [...]

If state legislatures were re-empowered to pick senators, there'd be no nettlesome Democrats from North Dakota, South Dakota, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Alaska, Louisiana, Arkansas, Florida, Ohio, Indiana, or Michigan. The only states with Republican senators who wouldn't be there under the legislative-election system are New Hampshire and Maine. So, yes, this would make it easier to undo a few things.

Efforts to repeal the 17th Amendment will probably be about as successful in the near future as they were in the recent past, though it's disconcerting that the efforts are ongoing.

Regardless, I still find it rather remarkable that those who celebrate "freedom" the loudest also hope to transfer power away from the American electorate when it comes to electing members of the Senate.