Sunday, November 14, 2010

Strange Ideas Taking Hold

Ideas have an odd velocity: sometimes they take a long period slogging along followed by impatient leaps forward (say, gay marriage), while sometimes they gather speed so quickly that they hurl forward past everything else into something like the forefront. An example of the latter that has emerged from nothing, proceeded into ridiculousness and now seems almost respectable is the crusade against the 17th amendment, which provides for the popular election of Senators.

When last we left the anti-17th amendment forces, various Tea Party organizations had pressed various Republican candidates into supporting the repeal of the amendment; there it didn’t get reported on much until I saw this report from a debate between Breyer and Scalia, and you can probably guess what position Scalia has taken:
"There's very little that I would change," he said. "I would change it back to what they wrote, in some respects. The 17th Amendment has changed things enormously."

"We changed that in a burst of progressivism in 1913, and you can trace the decline of so-called states' rights throughout the rest of the 20th century. So, don't mess with the Constitution."

Anyway, one’s more than a bit tempted to dismiss it all as nonsense not worth responding to, but the idea has clearly gained momentum and who knows?—maybe it’ll be an issue in 2012. The reason we ought to care about popular election of Senators is that people’s rights are far more important than states’ rights; the people who care about states’ rights have a remarkable caring for the alleged well-being of abstract entities and as such probably support full-throated corporate rights and, who knows, probably fairy tale rights too (support Santa’s rights! Tooth Fairy’s Rights—the property issues are undeniable!)

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