February 22, 2009


Is it me or are all these authoritarian conservatives just losing their nuts now? George Will's latest column in Washington Post (*sigh* again? Katherine Graham must be spinning in her grave. The same paper responsible for taking down the Nixon presidency is now serving up fact-free and bizarre rantings of regressive conservatives) jumps all over Russ Feingold for his proposed change to the 17th Amendment, ending gubernatorial appointments to Senate vacancies, and requiring special elections to fill the seats. Will thinks we'd be better off just getting rid of the 17th Amendment:

A simple apology would have sufficed. Instead, Sen. Russ Feingold has decided to follow his McCain-Feingold evisceration of the First Amendment with Feingold-McCain, more vandalism against the Constitution.

The Wisconsin Democrat, who is steeped in his state's progressive tradition, says, as would-be amenders of the Constitution often do, that he is reluctant to tamper with the document but tamper he must because the threat to the public weal is immense: Some governors have recently behaved badly in appointing people to fill U.S. Senate vacancies. Feingold's solution, of which John McCain is a co-sponsor, is to amend the 17th Amendment. It would be better to repeal it.

What? Hold on...are you kidding me? We don't want no stinkin' voters deciding their representatives now? For those unfamiliar with the history, prior to the ratification of the 17th Amendment in 1913, the individual states' legislatures (not the voters) elected Senators to represent the states. It worked reasonably well until the Civil War, and then all hell broke loose:

This process worked without major problems through the mid-1850s, when the American Civil War was in the offing. Because of increasing partisanship and strife, many state legislatures failed to elect Senators for prolonged periods. For example, in Indiana the conflict between Democrats in the southern half of the state and the emerging Republican Party in the northern half prevented a Senate election for two years. The aforementioned partisanship led to contentious battles in the legislatures, as the struggle to elect Senators reflected the increasing regional tensions in the lead up to the Civil War.

After the Civil War, the problems multiplied. In one case in the mid-1860s, the election of Senator John P. Stockton from New Jersey was contested on the grounds that he had been elected by a plurality rather than a majority in the state legislature.[1] Stockton defended himself on the grounds that the exact method for elections was murky and varied from state to state. To keep this from happening again, Congress passed a law in 1866 regulating how and when Senators were to be elected from each state. This was the first change in the process of senatorial elections. While the law helped, there were still deadlocks in some legislatures and accusations of bribery, corruption, and suspicious dealings in some elections. Nine bribery cases were brought before the Senate between 1866 and 1906, and 45 deadlocks occurred in 20 states between 1891 and 1905, resulting in numerous delays in seating Senators. Beginning in 1899, Delaware did not send a senator to Washington for four years.

Now given all the games the Republicans have been playing in the two short years that they have not had the majority in Congress, does this seem like a smart thing to regress to? Of course, that could be Will's point/desire:

Although liberals give lip service to "diversity," they often treat federalism as an annoying impediment to their drive for uniformity. Feingold, who is proud that Wisconsin is one of only four states that clearly require special elections of replacement senators in all circumstances, wants to impose Wisconsin's preference on the other 46. Yes, he acknowledges, they could each choose to pass laws like Wisconsin's, but doing this "state by state would be a long and difficult process." Pluralism is so tediously time-consuming.

Irony alert: Feingold's amendment requiring elections to fill Senate vacancies will owe any traction it gains to Senate Democrats' opposition to an election to choose a replacement for Barack Obama. That opposition led to the ongoing Blagojevich-Burris fiasco.

By restricting the financing of political advocacy, the McCain-Feingold speech-rationing law empowers the government to regulate the quantity, timing and content of political speech. Thanks to Feingold, McCain and others, the First Amendment now, in effect, reads: "Congress shall make no law . . . abridging the freedom of speech unless it really, really wants to in order to guarantee that there will be only as much speech about the government as the government considers appropriate, and at times the government approves."

Now Feingold proposes to traduce federalism and nudge the Senate still further away from the nature and function the Framers favored. He is, as the saying goes, an unapologetic progressive, but one with more and more for which to apologize.

Oy, there's so much disingenuousness and anger there, it's hard to believe this joker passes as A. Very. Serious. Villager.

Open Left dismantles Will far better than I could.

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