The impasse in Washington witnessed by the world in recent weeks is a good thing. The philosophical differences between the two political parties have prevented either party from dominating the other. Instead, the sharp points of difference have been ground blunt by contentious debate to a more palatable fit with both parties. This is precisely how the government was designed. The only improvement that could be made is to change the parties to the debate.
The founders were quite aware that these debates between conflicting ideas about the proper role of government filled the legislative chambers in every state. They designed the new federal government to ensure that the conflicting visions of sovereign power would forever be held in balance by forcing the new popularly elected House of Representatives and president of the new federal government to gain approval from the state-appointed Senate for every new law, every appointment to the Supreme Court and to the Cabinet, and for every international treaty.
The debate in Washington should be between state governments and the federal government, not between Democrats and Republicans. The debate between Democrats and Republicans, and other political parties, should be settled at the state level. The states’ selection of senators would reflect the choices made by the states. The legislative battles in Washington would still reflect the will of the people, but the states would not only have to be considered, but would have to approve virtually all actions of the federal government. This is the only hope of controlling the growth of power, size and cost of the federal government. This is the system James Madison, George Washington, Ben Franklin and the founders forged from four months of vigorous debate.
This built-in conflict between the states and the new federal government created intense debate that often resulted in impasse where no action was taken. No action is a limitation upon the other side of the debate. That is the function of the design. It worked! For more than 100 years, actions by the new federal government were approved by both the popularly elected House of Representatives and by representatives of the state legislatures in the Senate.
For more than 100 years, the genius of this design prevented any political persuasion from dominating policy and forced all ideas to be considered before the best policy could emerge and gain the support of a majority. During this period, the Constitution was king, and private property rights were sacred. Progress outstripped expectation, and opportunity knocked on every door. Some people, however, failed to find the prosperity that freedom unleashed. Some people believed it unfair that some should prosper while others suffered. Some people believed that government should be the equalizer to ensure that the people who prosper pay the people who didn’t.
This idea was advanced by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels in their 1848 book, “The Communist Manifesto.” European immigrants helped to spread this idea in the last half of the 1800s, and by the end of the century the ideas of Marx and Engels were wrapped in the “progressive” label and infused both the Democratic and Republican political parties.
So annoyed were the progressives by the impasse between the state-appointed Senate and the popularly elected House of Representatives, they launched a campaign to rid the government of any participation by the states. William Randolph Hearst devoted his massive media machine to propaganda promising a better government and a better life when the 17th Amendment was ratified.
A major split in the Republican Party created Theodore Roosevelt’s “Bull Moose Party,” which resulted in a Democratic victory for their leading progressive, Woodrow Wilson. Among the many progressive policies ushered in by the Wilson administration was the 17th Amendment, which authorized U.S. senators to be elected by the public instead of by state legislatures.
Since the 17th Amendment was ratified in 1913, the federal government has grown in power, size and cost. It has also grown ever closer to the progressive policies championed by Marx and Engels. These include, for example, Obamacare, progressive income tax that penalizes success, government control and management of land use through the Endangered Species Act, wetland polices, comprehensive land-use planning requirements, and management of the economy through bailouts, takeovers and regulations that mandate fuel mixtures, minimum mileage-per-gallon for cars and prohibition of development of fossil fuel energy.
Individual freedom and private property rights guaranteed by the Constitution are routinely ignored, and even ridiculed. States have absolutely no voice in the federal government and are required to implement policies forced upon them by the federal government.
Just as the progressives took control of the federal government a hundred years ago, Americans who celebrate the Constitution – not Marx and Engel – must rise to retake control of government in this century. The first step toward reclaiming the federal government is the repeal of the 17th Amendment. Then comes the removal of progressives from every office in the land – from the courthouse to the White House. Then comes a return to the opportunity and prosperity offered only by a free market to a free people in a free nation.