Checks and Balances: How the Seventeenth Amendment Altered Legislative Responsibility

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Wednesday, July 5, 2017


Perhaps one of the most overlooked problems in the United States is the Seventeenth Amendment because it altered the political process of the way we elect senators. The biggest problem with this amendment is that it trades out stability in our political system for bigger, faster changewhich is the opposite of what the founders intended.

America’s legislature is bicameral, meaning that there are two separate chambers: the House of Representatives and the Senate. Prior to the passage of the Seventeenth Amendment, senators were elected by our representatives.

Each state had a number of representatives determined by the state’s population and assigned to different districts. Each district elected representatives to represent their district within the state and these representatives comprised the lower house. The representatives would then elect the two senators who would represent them, and the state, in the upper house.

It is important to note that another key aspect of this system provided accountability for the senators. If at any time the representatives felt a senator was not representing the state’s interests, the representatives had the ability to impeach and replace them.

The original way that our senators were elected was far more stable than it is now. The point of electing senators this way was to not force the legislature to bow to the ever-changing minds of the general populous. The population was meant to be represented by representatives and for representatives to choose senators who would represent the state with due diligence.

The biggest problem people had with this was that they couldn’t get the change they wanted fast enough. However, the original point of the federal legislature was not to have great change expediently, but to remain gridlocked most of the time. It was supposed to be hard to bring about a lot of change, thus leading to a more stable political system.

Progressives hated this and sought to change this with the birth of the Seventeenth Amendment.

The Seventeenth Amendment came about when progressivism and populism were the new popular political ideologies of the time. Woodrow Wilson passed the Seventeenth Amendment in 1913, but Wilson’s administration was also the closest thing to fascism America has ever seen. It is therefore also fitting that Wilson is also regarded as the father to progressivism.

For the last hundred year, progressives have been chipping away at all the checks and balances in our system. This is also why the Executive Branch has too much power now.  

Progressives are trying to turn our system of government into Great Britain’s parliament, but this is not the system this great nation was founded on. We, as conservatives, need to combat the progressive altering of the American government because the future of the United States is tied directly to its legislative functions.


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About Connor Roberts

Florida State University

Connor is a member of the class of 2019 at Florida State University. He is pursuing a double major in political science and economics and plans on attending law school after graduating. Connor is a constitutional conservative with some libertarian views. He plans on pursuing a career in politics and using his political platform to push for conservative values and constitutional originalism in the United States.

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