Tags: mike huckabee | seventeenth amendment | trump

Huckabee Reconsiders 17th Amendment and Trump Should Too

Huckabee Reconsiders 17th Amendment and Trump Should Too
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By Wednesday, 02 August 2017 05:05 PM Current | Bio | Archive

What is the cause of the apparent dysfunction in our government? Why can’t the Republicans who were elected for the precise purpose of repealing and replacing Obamacare get their act together? Will they similarly fail to pass tax reform and infrastructure improvement? Should we give up on both small “r” and large “R” republican rule? Perhaps not; these things take time and Trump has only been in office for a bit more than one half of a year.

We do, though, have serious structural problems that ought to be addressed, and it is not too early to think about the long as well as the short-term. One problem, recently spotlighted by the astute former presidential candidate and media personality, former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, is the 17th Amendment, the one that replaced the system of election of Senators by state legislatures with the plan of direct popular vote. Instead of putting the interests of their states ahead of those of their own, Huckabee suggests, all Senators now care about is their immediate personal political prospects, so that the 17th Amendment frustrated the Constitution’s wise insertion of some check on pure democracy. In other words, Governor Huckabee was reminding us that the framers’ insistence on checks and balances, on restraints, might be as important as the Progressives’ zeal in democratizing the franchise.

Another wise restraint in the Constitution is the Electoral College mechanism by which the presidency is not decided by simple majority vote of all the citizens, but instead ensures the election of a leader who has the support of a wide swath of the country. This notion of indirect election, which formerly prevailed for the senate as well as the presidency, might be thought of as unduly aristocratic, but the framers of the Constitution were properly fearful of the temporary excitements of the people, which had caused such damage to Greece and Rome in the classical age. Those framers believed in popular sovereignty, but popular sovereignty governed by the rule of law, and in a cautious and careful Constitutional scheme.

It is very difficult in our day for much of the popular press, and, in particular, for today’s Democratic Party, to continue to have faith in these Constitutional restraints, and thus the springing up of “The Resistance.” This movement continues to seek to undermine the Trump administration because Mrs. Clinton received a greater share of the popular presidential vote. One has to hope that this will not be taken to the extremes of an actual military attempted coup d’état to put Mrs. Clinton in the presidency, as Kurt Schlichter has recently half-satirically suggested. Similarly, one has to hope that President Trump will not be undone through the more nefarious, though equally detrimental mode of a special prosecutor who was appointed to examine what is likely a non-existent conspiracy, and who expands his mandate endlessly to harass the administration.

There is another restraint that risks, in our time, being weakened beyond what is healthy for the United States. As Russell Kirk wrote in his great "The Conservative Mind," it is religion that serves in a democratic society “to counteract that materialism which leads to democratic despotism.” Or as Alexis de Tocqueville put it, “while the law permits the Americans to do what they please, religion prevents them from conceiving, and forbids them to commit what is rash or unjust.”

Since the late 1960’s the restraining hold of religion has weakened to the point of inconsequence in our universities, in our media, and to a frightening extent in our culture itself. The idea that there is some higher power that might dictate morals and which might suggest there is something more to life than “self-actualization,” was a difficult one for many Americans to maintain, and, for many, the satisfaction of individual desires was all that mattered.

Tocqueville and Kirk would be alarmed were they alive today, but they might actually be cheered by the current president, who, despite his personal idiosyncrasies, has, in his speeches, emphasized America’s and Western Civilization’s dependence on a religious understanding that duty might be more important than individual desire. There still are a very few scholars who have always understood that, in our tradition, responsibilities are ultimately as, if not more important than, rights, and that without deference to established practices we risk calamity and chaos.

In one of the great paradoxes of our time, those in the mainstream media portray the Trump White House as a place of chaos, but, in fact, the ethos that may actually motivate this administration is the restoration of the traditional understanding of our Constitution, of our liberties, and of our way of life. Now if only the president would come out for the repeal of the 17th Amendment.

Stephen B. Presser is the Raoul Berger Professor of Legal History Emeritus at Northwestern’s Pritzker School of Law, the Legal Affairs Editor of Chronicles: A Magazine of American Culture, and a contributor to The University Bookman. He graduated from Harvard College and Harvard Law School, and has taught at Rutgers University, the University of Virginia, and University College, London. He has often testified on constitutional issues before committees of the United States Congress, and is the author of "Recapturing the Constitution: Race, Religion, and Abortion Reconsidered" (Regnery, 1994) and "Law Professsors: Three Centuries of Shaping American Law" (West Academic, 2017). To read more of his reports — Click Here Now.

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What is the cause of the apparent dysfunction in our government? Why can’t the Republicans who were elected for the precise purpose of repealing and replacing Obamacare get their act together?
mike huckabee, seventeenth amendment, trump
Wednesday, 02 August 2017 05:05 PM
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