Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Texas' Next Lieutenant Governor Thinks You Shouldn't Be Trusted to Elect Senators

It's not yet clear who will become Texas' next lieutenant governor. David Dewhurst, though tarnished by his defeat at the hands of Wendy Davis and her "unruly mob," could hang onto the seat. Or he could be out-flanked to the right in the Republican primary by a trio of challengers: Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples, Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson and state Senator and talk radio show host Dan Patrick.

All are deeply conservative men who wear their patriotism on their sleeve. None seem particularly keen to tinker with the Constitution, the bedrock upon which the greatest country in history was built -- except for one thing.

The 17th Amendment was ratified a century ago to allow for the direct election of Senators. Repealing it would shift the power to choose members of Congress' upper house from voters back to state legislatures, which was what the framers had originally intended.

The Tea Party has been tilting at this particular windmill since its inception, which is counterintuitive given the movement's full-throated embrace of direct democracy in other forms. The reasoning goes that the legislatures would be more vigilant about protecting their state's interest -- and thus the federalist system as a whole -- than would individual voters.

For the challengers, this seems a straightforward appeal to their Tea Party base. For Dewhurst it just so happens to dovetail perfectly with his own self-interest, as Burnt Orange Report notes. He would, after all, probably be a sitting U.S. Senator now if not for the populist tidal wave that swept Ted Cruz into office last year.

A movement based on the idea that voters can't be trusted to pick their Congressional representatives is unlikely to gain much traction. Then again, Ted Cruz is a Senator. Maybe they're onto something.