As an early 1960s vintage member of the then-new conservative movement, I remember us focusing on the 10th amendment during the 1964 Goldwater campaign. It has been a staple of conservative thought, and the continued dormancy of 10th amendment enforcement has been one of the failures of our now half-century-old movement.
But just as the Tea Party movement in so many ways seems to represent the 2.0 version of our movement, so I again thought about the 10th amendment anew. After about 10 seconds’ thought, it struck me that the best way to revive the 10th Amendment is to repeal the 17th Amendment — which changes the first paragraph of Article I, Section 3 of the Constitution to provide that each state’s senators are to be “elected by the people thereof” rather than being “chosen by the Legislature thereof.”
For about a hundred years after the Civil War, defense of “states’ right’s” was most conspicuously made to defend continuing limitations on the rights of blacks. Thus, states’ rights were seen as a mere euphemism for a repugnant and retrograde proposition, and were therefore a weak banner under which to defend more noble political propositions.
As federal power was expanded at the expense of state rights in order to vindicate the rights of blacks (and, less visibly, to aggrandize other powers in Washington), a dangerous constitutional imbalance came into being regarding all federal/state jurisdictional matters.
The most efficient method of regaining the original constitutional balance is to return to the original constitutional structure. If senators were again selected by state legislatures, the longevity of Senate careers would be tethered to their vigilant defense of their state’s interest — rather than to the interest of Washington forces of influence.
The Senate then would take on its original function — the place where the states are represented in the federal government.
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