The Senate: The Key to a Genuine Victory

Most of the polls are looking good for Romney five days away from the election. Perhaps the most encouraging are the polls taken of the early voters. Gallup has Romney ahead nationwide 52-45 among those voters. This is particularly positive since the Obama strategy was to get early voters out in mass. Maybe he has, but Republicans seem to be doing even better at it.

There are some polls that are still putting Obama ahead in key swing states, but the internals of those polls show the continuing oversampling of Democrats. For instance, one poll says Obama is four points ahead in Pennsylvania, but when you look at the sample, you see it gives a +13 for Democrats. That’s rather ludicrous. Even in 2008, Obama won Pennsylvania by only +7. Are we really supposed to believe the Democrat turnout will be that high this year? Are we supposed to ignore the renewed enthusiasm on the Republican side?

Of course, even if Romney should triumph, that victory would be severely diminished if Republicans don’t take both houses of Congress. It’s nearly unanimous among analysts that they will maintain control of the House, but the real struggle will be for the Senate. If Romney’s win is large enough, his coattails will probably pull enough Republicans into the Senate to allow them to become the majority. If the opposite should happen, we will once again be stuck in a gridlocked situation—the Senate, controlled by Democrats, will balk at any and all changes the administration might want to make.

So the key to a genuine victory is to take not only the presidency but the Senate as well.

It’s worth pointing out that we have strayed from the original intent of the Founders for how our senators are chosen. The Constitution arranged for the state legislatures to choose the senators, not the people at large. The people already had their representatives in the House. The purpose of the Senate was to establish a body that would represent state legislatures and the laws passed at the state level.

During the Progressive Era [did it ever really end?] reformers agitated for a popular vote for senators, claiming it would be more democratic and that it would prove a remedy to the corruption that sometimes came to the forefront via state politics. The progressive faith in the intelligence and honesty of the people as opposed to the state legislatures [who, by the way, were elected by the people] led them to think that corruption would be contained if the people chose the senators instead. Is anyone really going to argue that corruption has been curbed by this alteration?

When the Seventeenth Amendment—direct election of senators—was ratified in 1913, the state legislatures lost their representation at the national level. No longer would senators have to answer to the state legislatures for their actions. No longer did they have to pay much attention to laws passed by those legislatures. They were no longer accountable to the legislatures but to the people. The job of senator changed from being a representative of state laws to being a representative of the people, even though the people already had their direct representatives in the House.

Some may say, “So what?” Why worry about a technicality like that? Well, it’s much more than a technicality. Let me offer a couple examples of how this has changed the course of the nation.

First, we have seen a slew of legislation emanating from Congress that puts the burden on the states to come up with funding for various initiatives. These laws are referred to as unfunded mandates. Now, if a senator had to answer directly to his state legislature for his actions, how many unfunded mandates do you think would pass Congress?

A more pernicious example has to do with the confirmation of justices to the federal courts, up to and including the Supreme Court. The Senate is the tribunal that considers presidential appointments to the courts. Senators, when considering judges, don’t have to take into account their state laws before voting on their confirmation. In 1973, forty-four states had restrictions on abortion. One Supreme Court case—the infamous Roe v. Wade—in one ruling wiped out all forty-four of those state laws. The Court declared abortion a “right” that applied nationwide. If the senators had to answer to their state legislatures and were responsible for protecting their state laws, they might have given greater scrutiny to candidates for the courts. They might have rejected some whose background and judicial philosophy would have led to the overturning of those laws restricting abortion.

In a very real sense, the Seventeenth Amendment is partially responsible for the slaughter of approximately 55 million babies since 1973.

I would like to see the Seventeenth Amendment repealed and balance restored to the federal system. I would argue for returning to the original intent of the Founders. Give back to the states the representation they have lost in the Congress.

One more point: if state legislatures still chose their senators, there would be no drama this year. Republicans control the majority of the fifty state legislatures, and they would be sending Republican senators to Washington, thus providing the margin needed to take control of the Senate.

The decisions we make in the past sometimes come back to hurt us in the present. Now we’ll just have to wait and see what transpires next Tuesday, but it would have been so much easier if we had never challenged the wisdom of the Founders in the first place.