Why is the Tea Party Obsessed with the 17th Amendment?
Have you read about the the latest bizarre obsession of the Tea Party crowd? The new litmus test for all good Tea Baggers is repeal of the 17th Amendment. In today’s New York Times David Firestone writes,
Few members of the Tea Party have endorsed Rand Paul’s misgivings about the Civil Rights Act of 1964, but a surprising number are calling for the repeal of an older piece of transformative legislation: the 17th Amendment. If you don’t have the Constitution on your smartphone, that’s the one adopted in 1913 that provides for direct popular election of United States senators.
Allowing Americans to choose their own senators seems so obvious that it is hard to remember that the nation’s founders didn’t really trust voters with the job. The people were given the right to elect House members. But senators were supposed to be a check on popular rowdiness and factionalism. They were appointed by state legislatures, filled with men of property and stature.
A modern appreciation of democracy — not to mention a clear-eyed appraisal of today’s dysfunctional state legislatures — should make the idea unthinkable. But many Tea Party members and their political candidates are thinking it anyway, convinced that returning to the pre-17th Amendment system would reduce the power of the federal government and enhance state rights.
Senate candidates have to raise so much money to run that they become beholden to special interests, party members say. They argue that state legislators would not be as compromised and would choose senators who truly put their state’s needs first.
It is a bizarrely obscure demand and seems to run counter to the “populist” message of the Tea Baggers. Direct election is in actuality far more democratic than the prior practice. And up until now this hardly seemed to be a controversial point. So why the sudden attention to the 17th Amendment? As some have noted it could be based on their inchoate rage at all things “progressive.”
I think though that it also reflects the tribal instincts of the GOP base. This is away for a besieged peoples to consolidate their power and thwart the Mongol hordes. (And if you’re new to this country let me explain my analogy. In this passion play the besieged peoples are always white Christians. The Mongols are quite literally everyone else in the country.) These are a people convinced of their own intellectual and moral superiority and who see repeal of the 17th Amendment as a way to purify the political process.
In my undergraduate days I had a classmate who was an ardent monarchist. And not in that Quirky College Intellectual way either. Yes, he read a lot of Ayn Rand and identified greatly with her pseudo philosophy but there was a conviction that was creepy and went far beyond the usual immature glibertarian nonsense that one encounters in college. When pushed to outline his preferred form of government he was a strident supporter of out and out Monarchism. His rationale (and this is nearly an exact quote), “Why should my fat, lazy sister get as much say in the government as me? She just sits around watching Jerry Springer all day.” Having met his sister I could certainly empathize with his view point.
Kidding aside it was a disturbed viewpoint for all of the obvious reasons and then some. Was he really comfortable with a completely authoritarian government in order to keep those who he deemed “unworthy” from having a voice in their government? He really was and he held steadfast to this view over many classes, a multitude of professors and several years.
But you get the sense that the same mindset is at work when the Tea Baggers discuss the 17th Amendment. They represent all that is good, moral and superior in this country and why should anyone from another tribe be allowed to vandalize their nation? When Tea Baggers look to the state legislatures they see an insular club of people who look, in a broad sense, remarkably like them.
While Tea Baggers may argue that this latest obsession is about reducing the power of the Federal government the reality is that their support is more in keeping with anti-democratic sentiments of the Founders. Popular elections allow all sorts of others – be they poor, racial or religious minorities, or the dreaded homosexuals – to participate. State legislatures are far more white and far more Christian and are thus a much safer electorate from the view of your average Tea Bagger.
From the outside of the movement (and to any sane observer) repeal of the 17th Amendment is an un-American and thoroughly anti-democratic step. From within the movement though it is an act of self-preservation for Real Americans. A way to ensure that The Others have less influence over the way America is run.
Follow us on twitter@thefastertimes
- 1 First Openly Straight Figure Skater Comes Forward
- 2 Brooklyn Man Now Living Entirely Off Own Beard Garden
- 3 “Cra Cra” Now Official Diagnosis in New DSM (DSM-5)
- 4 OfficeMax Marketing Director Struggling to Make Staplers ‘Sexy’ and ‘Conversational’
- 5 Homeless Guy Woos Silicon Valley VCs with Low-Tech Crowdfunding Startup
- 6 Area Man Tailors Life To Be More Relevant To His Hulu Advertisements
- 7 Fan Banging Furiously on Glass Could Be the Difference in Hockey Playoffs
- 8 Survey: 88% of Eagles Fans Too Drunk To Spell Nnamdi Asomugha Last Season
- 9 Local Mom Won’t Stop Being First Person to Like Every Goddamn Thing Son Posts to Facebook
- 10 Shaq Confident He Will Eventually Make Funny Quip on TNT