I recently had the opportunity to moderate the 2016 Pennsylvania Libertarian Party debate. It was a great opportunity to see the LP in a larger and more organized form, but also get to talk about the candidates in more detail. Getting to meet Darryl Perry and see how he had a clearer vision for a voluntary society than what I had originally thought. Seeing how Marc Allan Feldman was an extremely skilled doctor. Meeting the personality Derrick Michael Reid and witnessing what he has going on. Yet also getting to see someone I’ve known for a long time: Governor Gary Johnson. With Johnson, I’ve known him for five years, known his stances, known his record and I was pleasantly shocked to find what would be the first thing he’d reform about the government, being to end the 17th Amendment.
While I did interview Gary Johnson in my own one on one with him and did moderate the debate for two hours, I afterwards looked at an interview our head of public relations, Mike Mazzarone, did with Gary. He took several questions sent to us via the Being Libertarian Facebook page and answered them for us. While it’s a good video and you can see it here, I was shocked how he said the first thing he’d want to reform if elected president would be eliminating the 17th Amendment. And really, I pretty strongly agreed with him.
For those who don’t know what the 17th Amendment is, it’s the Woodrow Wilson-era (yeah, that’s a pretty massive sign that it’s junk) add-on to the Constitution where it moved the Senate from being chosen by the states to being chosen by the people. In that, people would be the ones to vote for members of Congress, but when they vote for senators or state assembly members, those people go on and choose the senators from the state. It makes a process where federalism and the power of the states really do exist. It also doesn’t hurt democracy due to democracy being Congress. This, however, just has a wider range of people in office chosen by those known already in local community and not allowing situations where one person gets in to represent 30 million similar to California.
Yet why is this such an important issue? Well, first off, look at America post-17th Amendment and before it. Before the 17th Amendment, government didn’t really grow much in the previous century. The hard progressive Teddy Roosevelt, while wanting to do things such as national healthcare and more spending projects, often found himself beaten in the Senate and House. Progressive leaders viewed the Senate and the states as just the roadblock to big government, mainly due to state representatives not wanting senators to take power who’d do policies which directly conflict with their goals. Yet a post-17th Amendment America had the opposite. Within the twenty years after the 17th Amendment, there was rogue spending, a large income tax burden, the New Deal, new regulatory policies, two world wars, an effort to betray fiat currency and more. It’s clear that the states being a rival to the federal government over a partner, created a clear disconnect asking for the growth of government.
In this spree of government expansion, it turned the states from the primary groups in government into more of just forced money sources for the federal government. If the federal government doesn’t have the funds for a new Obamacare-type bill or a new education bill, the burden now goes to the states who get regulated into providing for these services. Many state and local governments over the last century have found themselves going bankrupt due to the compliance costs associated with federal initiatives. This pain and this fiscal disaster positions the states into debt situations which lead to a Michigan or lead to a Kansas where they simply cannot take the initiative to remove spending. Before the 17th Amendment, the states were the bread and butter of government, but now just serve as the card paying for the meal.
Johnson’s recent spike in the polls caused, by the disasters of Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, can help bring this issue into light again. For the 17th Amendment, the last notable politician to bring it up was Mike Huckabee, and examining how his tax policy seems more focused on making sure to tax hookers over anything, it presents a case that the opportunity for him to get into the debates could begin a national movement on many issues, with this being one of them. This being vital for the liberty movement as one of the key issues to end the eras of FDR and Woodrow Wilson from American history.
There’s really not much more to comment on. The 17th Amendment is the decision which destroyed federalism and moved the Senate to this vanity role for future presidential candidates and the celebrities of their regions to seek office in for the vanity of it all. It has destroyed the dignity and abilities of what it is to be a state and I’m glad Gary Johnson wants to be the man to remind libertarians and ordinary Americans of this.
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