THE SEEDS OF DISUNION IV

An amendment to remove the 17th Amendment is being proposed.

As a reminder the 17th Amendment states the following: Section 1. The Senate of the United States shall be composed of two Senators from each State, elected by the people thereof.”

It is truly amazing that our current reactionaries want to remove from the people the right to directly elect senators. They wish to return the power of choosing who our senators are, to the state legislatures. Wow! Let’s give politicians the power to select senators. This is just a bad idea. Could it be that we are hearing a bit of sour grapes? If you are losing at the polls, let’s change the rules.

Revisionist historians may be claiming that the framers of the Constitution valued democracy when the truth is quite different. Their current claims regarding the founding fathers views on democracy remind me of a line in a Paul Simon song, when the lyric was similar to the sentiment that a man hears what he wants to hear and disregards the rest.

Our history is much more complex than the simplistic sales pitch that the advocates for less freedom advocate.

The view of the framers was most accurately described in a George Cabot quote of 1804 when he stated that a democracy was ,” the government of the worst.” The framers were afraid of mob rule. They were popularly described in that day as the unenlightened masses.

Are we to conclude from the movement to repeal the 17th Amendment, that the reactionaries of today have little faith in we the people to make an informed choice at the voting booth on who our senators should be?

At best, during the early days of our Republic there was a limited form of democracy in that the only people who could vote were merchants, professionals, plantation owners and landed gentry whose property value needed to have a certain value in order for them to vote.

Sean Wilentz stated the following, in his award-winning history, “THE RISE OF AMERICAN DEMOCRACY, Jefferson to Lincoln.”

“Philosophically, the assumption prevailed that democracy, although an essential feature of any well-ordered government, was also dangerous and ought to be kept strictly within bounds. The word itself appeared rarely in pamphlets, newspapers, and sermons before the Revolution, most often alongside “monarchy” and “aristocracy,” as one of the three elements of government, tied to specific social orders, that needed to be mixed and balanced in accord with the British model. On other occasions when either the word or the concept of democracy appeared, the context was usually pejorative, connoting, at best, a ridiculous impracticability, especially in large countries. At mid-century, the historian William Smith wrote that “in proportion as a country grows rich and populous, more Checks are wanted to the Power of the People.” John Adams deeply feared that although “the prospect of free and popular governments”
might be pleasing, “there is great danger that these Governments will not make Us happy,” and would be undone by noise, meanness and ignorance.”

These views changed over time and we have evolved into a Republic that is Democratic. Universal enfranchisement has become a hallmark of Americas’ evolution.

As Noah Webster once said in 1789, “A fundamental mistake of the Americans has been that they considered the revolution as completed when it was just begun.”

For many years historians saw a democratic America as an outgrowth of agrarian egalitarianism. But, again, life in the 18th and 19th Centuries has shown that life was more complex and the answers to our questions as to the origins of greater democracy in our country have arisen from not only the Jeffersonian ideal of an agrarian life but that it has also resulted from struggles between classes. An example of those class struggles was exemplified by the struggles between Tidewater Virginians and western Virginians over the right to vote. The example of the victory of white men to be able to vote illustrates the class struggles that went on. Such struggles took place in many states.

It is beyond belief that today’s reactionary so-called conservatives would seek to diminish our rights while at the same time claiming that they want to restore the American Republic.

Whose Republic do they wish to restore? One can reasonably deduce that their intent is to give even more power to the top 1 and 1/2 percent of our country’s wealthy. Unfettered greed is their goal, unburdened by any legal constraints nor regulations.

Do not fall into the trap that they encourage! John Adams worried about two human traits as being dangerous to our survival as a Republic. One was the fear that men are willing to be led, and the other is the human trait of selfishness. The use of selfishness as a political tactic is beneath the honor and integrity of our political past. The idea that you too can be wealthy if only there were not laws that limit the rights of property owners to do whatever they want is an idea that is being used to detract from the goal of working for the greater good of all.

Leaving the choice of our Senators to other politicians is a bad idea that we jettisoned last century. We should leave the past where it belongs and that is in the past. We should be real conservatives and preserve what is good and insist that we the people elect our Senators.

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