Thursday, November 18, 2010

Thinking Through the Popular Vote Machine - Damned if they didn't, Damned if they did.

Well it's beginning to sound like proregressives are starting to get rattled. They actually seem worried that We The People might begin considering repealing the 17th Amendment. If We do... well then, IMHO, our work will be nearly complete. But realistically that is a ways off yet, and as Brian J. Noggle noted not too long ago, it won't be easy,
"... this is going to be a hard sell to the American public which has come to believe that the key to an open government is more and more transparency and direct accountability of officials, where more and more citizen votes means better and better government. "
Leaving aside the issue of Federalism (which I do think is the larger and more important concern), I'll take a whack at the flip-side of the political machine's favorite 'reform', the Popular Vote. The "Popular Vote" argument is that anything but direct democracy takes away peoples right to express themselves, and the proregressive's are quick to jump onto that bandwagon.
"“For nearly one hundred years, we the people have picked our Senators. But Ken Buck proposed a radically different idea. Buck said he wanted to rewrite the Constitution to let state legislators pick our Senators instead of voters. That’s right. Ken Buck actually proposed ending our right to vote for our own Senators. Rewriting the constitution? Ending our right to vote? Ken Buck's just too extreme for Colorado.""
I've a question for the promoters of the "Popular Vote": Why do they want you to have so little influence?
They say that everyone should have a right to cast their vote for their U.S. Senator. Well, why just one (legal) vote? Just one single solitary vote amongst millions? How much of a voice does a face in a crowd have? Why do they want those of you who have concerns about your state, to have so little influence over the election of your United States Senator?

What do I mean?

Well, thanks to the 17th Amendment (which, btw, DID rewrite the Constitution), a Senator no longer needs to worry about a handful of state representatives - yours - they no longer need to worry about those people who intimately know the real interests of your state, holding them accountable for their votes in D.C. No, now they only have to worry about using a political machine to mouth attention getting sound bytes to millions of voters at a distance, knowing full well that if they can convince enough wealthy contributors to fund plastering their (too often) meaningless drivel around the state, they won't ever have to engage in anything more substantial than having to smile on a tractor, or in a diner, or even blatantly mislead you (yes Mr. Blunt, we will remember) - so they can collect your vote and then cast those votes their machines wealthy contributors will appreciate.

On the other hand, with the old way, the system which our Founding Father's set up, before the 17th Amendment, a Senatorial candidate had to work hard to convince a relative handful of people - Missouri has 34 Senators and 163 Representatives - that they could, and would, do what those knowledgeable people considered to be in you and your state's best interests.

And two of those legislators were answerable to you,. That means that once upon a time you had an opportunity, through your State Senator, to be one of only several tens of thousands (80,000 in my district) and one of only ten or twenty thousand people your State Representative had to answer to (19,000 in mine) – in comparison to being only 1 out of millions, that is a significant difference - and both of your legislators votes, and their influence among their fellow legislators, would be of significant concern to anyone who wanted to be your United States Senator.

In other words, if you were concerned about an issue affecting your state, you could easily make your State Rep & Sen uncomfortably aware of your position. Most state capitols are only a couple hours or less drive away, it's not too difficult to set up an appointment to see your State Senator or Representative, or even just to drop in on them when in session, as I have done. When out of session they probably live in a neighborhood near by, my outgoing Rep lives 2 subdivisions away, and the one who will take his term limited place lives just around the corner from me and my State Senator lives just a few miles away; setting up a meeting with one or both of them, or even just picking up the phone and calling, is not that tough.

If for some reason your legislators tried dodging you, with the help of a few others across your area - people concerned and informed about an issue - you and your fellows could quickly make yourselves known to them.
Vocal local voters are a big concern to State politicians - not so much to those in D.C.

The point is, any reasonable citizen can easily make their views known to their state legislators, and through simple phone calling and emailing efforts at little or no cost, you could have a very significant voice in the election of your United States Senator.

But... as it stands now... you are stuck with being just one anonymous vote amongst millions in an argument of soundbytes.

Did these ‘popular vote’ enthusiasts ever think of that? If so, knowingly relegating your voice to relative insignificance... don't they have some explaining to do?

If they didn't think of that... if they're that uninformed (might I suggest beginning with Federalist #'s 51, 62 and 63, to start with) about a topic they actively – and ignorantly - promote - that makes them the fools that sound byte politics were designed to move the masses with.

Like I said.

They're Damned if they didn't think of it... and they should most assuredly be Damned if they did.
(Originally posted at "24th State")


In lieu of Andrew said...

Your logic is flawed. Having to go through two layers of voting (for state Sen & state Rep) and trusting on their vote (which you can't control, only influence, at best) does not give you more voice in the election of a U.S. Senator, but less. You don't get any actual say in the election of a U.S. Senator, you get zero, even if you're but one face in a million, that's more than zero.

(Andrew called me yesterday about this post, not wanting to sign up for an ID to post a comment - the above is the gist of our connection, which was sketchy due to my cell. If he'd like to add to, or amend it, I've cross posted this here which requires no ID to comment at, or he can use the dreaded email, and I will relay the conversation here.)

Van Harvey said...

And of course if you are looking at it from the position of pure vote count and direct democracy, Andrew is correct.

Note, however, I said at the outset that "I do think [Federalism] is the larger and more important concern", and I was dealing with the 'popular vote' issue as best as is possible, from that perspective.

If you are looking at the issue from the position of desiring a Republic (which our government was designed to be), over that of a democracy (which the Founding Fathers went to great lengths to ensure we would never become), and having in mind what the Senate was constitutionally designed to be; the somewhat detached, more thoughtful, slower moving voice of the States that was tasked to be looking out for the interests of their states and protecting the important principles of individual rights of their citizens rather than showing deference to popular preferences - the Senate was designed to receive the sometimes hot-headed legislation of the peoples voice through House of Representatives, and "...pour legislation into the senatorial saucer to cool it"; from that perspective - then Andrew is flat out wrong.

The U.S. Senator should be, by design, attuned to the interests of his state and the preservation and protection of individual rights and their political anchor, property rights. Given that, the Senator should have little or no interest or care for the voice of current popular passions and opinion (that is why they have a six year term, and were two layers of elections removed from that of the 'will of the people') - that is the job of the House of Representatives - he should be concerned for the interests of his State, and those interests are best understood, and communicated through the body of the state legislators in the state's House of Representatives and the State's Senate.

Given that, if you can communicate your concerns and influence your two members (Rep & Sen), then and only then will they will communicate those informed interests to your Senator, who will be sure to have them very much in consideration during his tenure in the Senate - or face losing re-election, or even being recalled.

That is the purpose of the Senate, and that is how your voice should be heard and felt in the elections of Senators, and from that perspective, your voice has it's greatest value - as well as that of your fellow citizens - through the election of Senators by the legislatures of their respective states, NOT through the popular vote.

The popular vote is a sure fire method (as the proregressives understood at the time they pushed the 17th Amendment through) for destroying the true purpose of the Senate, and it laid bare the throat of the Constitution and the Gov't of the United States of America to a more direct democracy, something that was anathema to the founders; and it is difficult for me to imagine how anyone who has familiarized themselves with the information and reasoning which they were familiar with (and this, from the constitutional convention, isn't a bad place to start looking), could possibly prefer the popular vote for electing U.S. Senators.

The original method was far and away the best guarantor of our freedoms and liberties ever devised.

The current method is the most pernicious method yet devised to subvert and disintegrate our freedoms and liberties.

Proof? Have a look at the quantity and nature of legislation passed into law prior to passing the 17th Amendment... and compare it with the quantity and nature of legislation passed into law since then... our current unfathomable healthcontrol bill being exhibit A.

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