Rolling Back A Century

I was looking around Google today to see if Ted Cruz had ever come forth with the Obamacare Replacement proposal that was supposed to be imminent back in November, when I saw some other News of the Cruz I had missed:

Sen. Ted Cruz, elected 13 months ago by actual voters, said Thursday he’d prefer to see state legislators pick U.S. senators – as they were until a century ago, when the 17th Amendment came along.

Direct election of senators has eroded states’ rights, Cruz argued, speaking to a ballroom filled with conservative state lawmakers from around the country.

“If you have the ability to hire and fire me,” he said, “I’m a lot less likely to break into your house and steal your television. So there’s no doubt that was a major step toward the explosion of federal power and the undermining of the authority of the states at the local level.”

Most of the limited coverage of Cruz’ December 5 ALEC appearance focused on his choice of the words “Stand your ground!” in defending the lobbyist-driven source of right-wing cookie-cutter state legislative proposals from recent criticism, some of it derived from the organization’s heavy responsibility for the spread of “Stand Your Ground” laws of the sort that made George Zimmerman’s acquittal for the killing of Trayvon Martin much more likely.

But repealing the 17th Amendment, ratified 100 years ago? Taking voters out of the process of selecting senators? What sort of “conservative populist” would want to do that?

Technically, Cruz didn’t endorse any particular repeal proposal, and technically, ALEC’s own idea is to create a “soft repeal” of the amendment, whereby state legislatures would be allowed to sponsor Senate candidates on general election ballots.

It so ain’t happening, of course, but it says a lot about Cruz’s notion of his “base” that he felt compelled to talk about rolling back a 100-year voting rights precedent.

Support Nonprofit Journalism

If you enjoyed this article, consider making a donation to help us produce more like it. The Washington Monthly was founded in 1969 to tell the stories of how government really works—and how to make it work better. Fifty years later, the need for incisive analysis and new, progressive policy ideas is clearer than ever. As a nonprofit, we rely on support from readers like you.

Yes, I’ll make a donation

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.