Monday, November 17, 2014

The Seventeenth

“The U.S. Congress is gridlocked”. “The Congress can’t get anything done”. You hear these phrases and many like them almost every day. You also hear the president say things like “the Congress won’t act, so I will”. Never mind that he has no legal authority to step around the Congress. If the framers had meant for him to have, and the Constitution gave him that authority the establishment of the legislature would have been quite unnecessary. If we want to solve the issue of Congressional or governmental gridlock it seems that we must first determine the cause of said same. We must begin by asking ourselves the question: “Why do we have governmental gridlock?”

Everyone is familiar with the three legged stool analogy for the structure of the U.S. government, with the Executive, Judicial, and Legislative functions being the three legs of the stool. The Legislature is further divided into two parts, the Senate and the House of Representatives.

When the government was being formed, there in the sweltering summer of 1787 in Philadelphia, the questions were asked: in a federation of states, how will the people be represented? How will the states be represented? Even then it was a collection of diverse states, some being large some small, some having large urban populations and some being more sparsely populated and mostly rural. What was a way in which equal representation could be provided to all parties? It was called the “Great Compromise” and it provided that there would be not one, but two parts of the legislature. One, the House of Representatives, would provide representation to the federal government of the public, and would be made up of delegates directly elected by the populations of the several states based on how many people resided in each one. The other, the Senate, would provide equal representation of each state to the federal government and would be selected by the legislatures of those states. The terms of the Representatives were to be two years, and Senators six.

This scheme was to carry the angry, hot, emotional blood of the public to the government through their directly elected Representatives and the more deliberate will of the several states, whose Senators would be selected by state legislators who would themselves be directly elected by members of the public to the Capitol. The idea was both to provide equal representation to the several states and to temper the immediate desires of the public. The demands of a sharply divided electorate would be moderated and directed by the states.

But in 1911 the 17th amendment to the Constitution which provides for the direct election of Senators was ratified and put into force. It was put forward that a directly elected Senate would be less corrupt and more responsive to public demands. One might argue that the desired result has not been achieved.

And so now here we are. A century has passed since the ratification of the 17th amendment. Many people, most perhaps, aren’t even aware of its existence. The states have gone one hundred years without any means to direct or control the federal government that they formed for the benefit of their citizens, and we have a sharply divided, some would say “gridlocked”, national legislature that perfectly represents a sharply divided angry, hot, and emotional electorate. In short, we are now experiencing the effects of actions our great grandparents took a century ago.

Isn’t it now time to admit to ourselves that they made a mistake? Isn’t it now time to repeal the 17th amendment, the same way we did the 18th ending prohibition, and restore federal representation to the states. Isn’t it time to end the gridlock?

But that’s just what an average guy thinks.

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