An Unbalanced Change
We Americans are a fortunate yet an absurdly undeserving lot. We have a structure of government which is limited in its authority. More importantly and unique to this American experiment is the source of our rights. All American citizens inherit their rights at the time of their birth from their Creator. Thus the designation, inalienable. In other words, above “the mischief of man,” or man’s government. And it’s a good thing when viewing some of the changes that “mischief” has produced.
In my mind, the most important of our three branches of government is the Legislative branch which legislates law and controls the purse strings. The executive branch is more of a figure head, a spokesman or representative, whose powers are defined and greatly limited. At best, the Executive signs into law legislation passed by the legislators. He also has the authority to appoint Supreme Court Justices, which has now taken on the aura of an abusive “stacking of the deck” ritual..
The third branch, the Judicial, resides over judicial matters pertaining to the Constitution, maritime matters, along with varying issues arising at the State level. The nine Supreme Court justices hold their positions, dependent on proper behavior, for as long as they desire.
The interesting part of the legislature is its “bicameral” makeup. The House is known as “the people’s House” since they are directly elected by the constituents from each representative’s district. As such, their power is derived from the people.
Here’s where it gets sticky. The second house of Congress, the Senate, orgially derived its power from the States. The two Senators were chosen by their State’s legislators and thus were considered to be Ambassadors representing their individual sovereign State at the federal level. So, the Senate’s power was derived from the States. This was reasonable, given that it was the States which created our federal authority and the need for a voice in Washington was a given. Also, this direct State authority had instant recall ability if their chosen senators detoured from their assigned agenda.
This distinction between the two chambers of Congress was intentional in that it separated both chamber’s source of power; one from the people and one from the State level. This all changed when the Seventeenth Amendment was ratified on April 8, 1913.
The reasons for dismantling State control over the selection of Senators came from hyping isolated instances into being the norm. One instance, that of deadlocks, addressed the need for State legislative agreement in order to pick their senators. While exceptions occurred, with one State not filling a Senate seat for approximately four years, the system worked better than advertised to the public. Mostly, these “deadlocks” occurred when newly admitted western States began their Senatorial picks. Once established, their internal differences dissolved as order prevailed. However, similar with today’s media hype, much was made from nothing in order to persuade and that persuasion resulted in the passage of the Seventeenth Amendment, which erased State representation and reduced its independent authority.
With the Senators now being elected by the often managed popular vote, the balance designed by our Forefathers has been drastically altered. No longer are Senators aswerable to their States. Their only concern is to the people, once in every six years. As western States have stopped joining, that issue of “deadlock” has died a natural death. Our Congress now consists of two “people’s Houses,” which in hindsight, just might add to this bipartisan bickering and do nothing record. Prior to the Seventeenth’s passage, how many Congress’s failed to issue the following year’s budget? Just a thought.
The bottom line to our experiment with freedom is that something given is never appreciated. Our Forefather’s valued their creation since they were the ones who sacrificed. Since then, we have inherited without respect and have taken for granted without toil this most precious of gifts. That my friends, creates an undeserving lot.
Jim Bowman, Author of
This Roar of Ours