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The 17th Amendment Should Be Repealed

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 10/13/2013 Category: Politics
Updated: 3 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 1,668 times Debate No: 38846
Debate Rounds (3)
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The first round is for acceptance only.

I've recently returned from a short break away from DDO. I had hit a losing streak due to multiple forfeits from lack of time (and just darn good opponents) and want to get slowly back into the swing of things. I'm looking for a thought-provoking, intelligent, and educational debate, please. Please don't accept this if you're going to forfeit or are largely unfamiliar with the topic.

As always, best of luck to my opponent, and God bless.


I too have recently had a streak of losses due to forfeits. I accept the debate.
Debate Round No. 1


Bacon for Everyone – Repeal the 17th Amendment

“Great ideology creates great times.” – Kim Jong-Il

British Prime Minister Winston Churchill once said, “The best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter.” Realizing this truth, our Founding Fathers designed a vital check in our federal government to restrain the people. Originally, US Senators were elected by state legislatures instead of the populace. Unfortunately, this system came to an end in 1913 with the passage of the 17th Amendment. Today the affirmative supports repealing the 17th Amendment and returning elections of Senators to state legislatures instead of the people. While it might seem counter-intuitive, this reform will actually increase the people’s voice, and also restrain the growth of the federal government.

This is why I stan Resolved: That the 17th Amendment should be repealed.

The affirmative today would like to propose a criterion of Federalism, which is a balance of power between states and federal government. The best way to protect your rights as an individual is to ensure the state and federal governments are balanced, so that neither gains excessive power. Whichever side which best upholds Federalism deserves your vote. The best way to re-balance the relationship of state and national government is to repeal the 17th Amendment. This Amendment, mandating Senatorial elections by the populace instead of state legislatures, has created 3 harms we see today:

Harm 1: States Cannot Prevent Federal Encroachment

Before the Seventeenth Amendment, the now-widespread Washington practice of commandeering the states for federal ends — through such actions as “unfunded mandates,” laws requiring states to implement voter-registration policies that enable fraud (such as the “Motor Voter” law signed by Bill Clinton), and the provisions of Obamacare that override state policy decisions — would have been unthinkable. Instead, senators today act all but identically to House members, treating federalism as a matter of political expediency rather than constitutional principle.”

The original purpose of the Senate was state representation on a national level. The Senate gave states a veto on any bill that would expand the federal government (at the expense of the states). This safeguarded Federalism by ensuring a balanced – not dictatorial – relationship between states and the national government.

Harm 2: More Pork

“Indeed, it is inconceivable that a Senator during the pre-Seventeenth Amendment era would vote for an ‘unfunded federal mandate,’ thereby requiring state legislatures to raise taxes and spend money on projects they did not devise and for which they receive no political benefit.”

Harm 3: Special Interests Fill Power Vacuum;[note: all quotations and brackets below are original]

“The decline in state power had indirect consequences as well. Power is not static, and the gaping hole this Amendment left in the balance of powers was soon filled—only it was filled less by voters and more by interest groups than was intended. The chain of causation that led to this outcome can be illustrated in four steps: (1) the Amendment made Senators accountable to the voters at large instead of a set group of legislators; (2) the average voter is less capable of monitoring a Senator’s conduct than is a legislator; (3) with less monitoring, Senators are more susceptible to legislative schemes that sacrifice their constituents’ concerns for their own interests and those of special-interest groups; and (4) special-interest groups enjoyed increased influence because they could now centralize at the federal level and influence the Senators directly instead of being ‘dispersed across several states’ and having to lobby ‘multiple state legislaturesin order to get the Senate [to] consent to a piece of legislation.’”

Instead of bribing or corrupting a 40-member legislature, now special interests can target individual senators. The outsized influence of special interests distorts democracy and minimizes your voice as an individual. Because of the harms of popular election of US Senators, the affirmative proposes the following:


Mandate: The 17th Amendment of the US Constitution shall be repealed.

Timeline: The repeal process shall begin immediately upon an affirmative ballot.

Agency: The US Federal Government, Congress, and any other necessary bodies.

No Funding is necessary, as this plan is purely legislative.

In other words, the affirmative plan returns election law to what our Founding Fathers intended: Senators elected by state legislatures instead of the people at large. There are 3 main advantages of repealing the 17th Amendment.

Advantage 1: Federal Government Restrained

“Additionally, the notion of federalism has also suffered tremendously with the erosion of the state legislatures and their capacity to choose U.S. Senators. Under the original design, states had an invested interest in policies by the federal government. Additionally, the statescould essentially check and curtail the power of the federal government by having their representatives in the Senate control such policies. Any encroachment by the federal government unnecessarily into the affairs of the states would be spoiled once the bill or action reached the Senate. This would also prevent other unconstitutional actions or overstepping by the federal government in most areas of life. However, with the increase in democratic movements and subsequent amendments, and the absence of truly-appointed Senators by the state representatives, the states lost most checks, other than the courts, to curtail such broadening of the federal government’s responsibility.”

The foundation of Federalism is an equal relationship between states and the national government – not a national government that dictates policy to states, which is what we currently have with the 17th Amendment.

Advantage 2: Senate Again Insulated from the 51%

“The Framers understood what today’s self-interested sloganeers of democracy do not: What matters is not whether a given method of selecting governmental officials is more or less democratic, but whether it will safeguard the constitutional functions bestowed upon each branch and conduce to their competent execution. Indeed, certain of the Senate’s duties — such as its role as a type of jury for impeachment proceedings — make sense only if it is somewhat insulated from the public’s passions of the moment, as was well demonstrated by the farcical Senate trial of Bill Clinton.”

Repeal makes possible unpopular reforms, such as cuts to entitlement programs. The People should be represented – and they already are, in the House of Representatives. The Senate was designed to be different.

Advantage 3: Restored Accountability

“Because of the small size of state legislatures, each legislator had an incentive to monitor the senator’s behavior. One legislator in a body of forty legislators can have some practical control over a senator’s behavior; one voter in a constituency of several million cannot.”

Ironically, having state legislatures elect senators actually strengthens your voice. Your local state legislator (perhaps your neighbor down the street) is one of only 40 or so people selecting the Senator. Under this system, your voice is not just one of millions. If you want greater accountability from US Senators and less federal government growth, we ask you to uphold Federalism by voting to repeal the 17th Amendment.



'British Prime Minister Winston Churchill once said, 'The best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter.'

He also said "Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time." While I am no supporter of the flatulent right-wing racist who opposed the NHS and banned Labour Party Broadcasts, I agree with what he said to a degree. I am in favour of an accountable technocracy - the country should be run by experts in their fields, with facilities for recall and a large governmental organisation devoted to investigating their conduct; and the technocracy works alongside an elected body of representatives, but this is currently unfeasible. Therefore, I think the best way for the political system to be run is through the current system of representative democracy, but with an emphasis on local government above central, while maintaining standardised legislation; and an efficient, rigorous organisation to crack down on corruption, lobbying and interest-serving. This can all be done without repealing the 17th Amendment.

'...our Founding Fathers designed a vital check in our federal government to restrain the people.'

The founding fathers had no concern with the effective running of government or with the people. They did not necessarily think that the electorate were stupid, they were more concerned about what could happen if the peoples' consciousness reached such a level that they realised that the supposed values of freedom they apparently fought for in the War of Independence should be universal, rather than just for the new American aristocracy. James Madison said: '...(The Upper House) ought to be so constituted as to protect the minority of the opulent against the majority.' This was as part of what happens to all violent revolutions that remove an ancien regime - the stage where they reinstate the policies of the old regime. The original aim of the senate was to build an American House of Lords, full of appointed representatives of the moneyed classes. The world a hundred or more years ago was a far more unstable place than it is at the moment. In living memory, there was the Civil War, the Paris Commune, Hungarian, Polish and Balkan Nationalism, the Young Turks and many other violent revolutionary movements. Early on, in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the governments, especially Britain and Austria, responded with repression, as seen in the prelude to the War of Independence, as well as the post-Napoleonic Six Acts; and the Anglo-Austrian war on France that involved pretty much all of Europe's absolute monarchies against the progressive nature of the Constitutional Monarchy and republic in France; and the Austrian imposition of martial law for half a century in Northern Italy and for three centuries in Hungary and Transylvania. But this did not work, so instead, towards the latter half of the century, began to make concessions. France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Russia and the Warsaw Pact countries are the only states that were not made of concessions. Most of the social reforms in Britain and the USA were from the elites wishing to avoid a violent revolution, which was a genuine and legitimate fear of the ruling orders of that time. Universal and female suffrage, employment law, healthcare (in all other countries) and the end of segregation were all concessions made by the ruling classes to maintain stability, and it would be ridiculous to overturn them.

'Advantage 2: Senate Again Insulated from the 51%'

This is not an advantage. The views of the majority have consistently been constructive. For example, before the Iraq War, of the countries involved, popular support ranged from 13% in Spain to 51% in the Netherlands (1). So the governments of all countries are not only currently insulated from the 51%, they are insulated from the 87% as well. The same can be said of cuts to social security. In a poll of January of this year, it was found that eight out of ten Americans support social security as it provides for 'millions of retired Americans, disabled individuals, and the children and widowed spouses of deceased workers'; and nine out of ten Americans supported getting the rich to pay for increased social security payments, and eight out of ten supported increased payments on their part. This also included seven out of ten Republicans in favour of taxing the rich to pay for it, and three quarters willing to pay more themselves (2). The same can be said for opposition to cuts in Medicare and Public Education, and conversely support for cuts to defense and foreign aid (3). The opposite to all of these points of view has been taken. The 51% is, for better or for worse, the dominant force in a democracy, and giving more power to the majority over the Senate would help to close the gap between public opinion and public policy.

In order to debate your alternative, I need to know more about the process of selecting the selectors, so I can evaluate the practicality, success and ethics of the programme; and in the event that you win me over, propose amendments, so to speak, to your idea for a better implementation.

It's your turn now, sir.
Debate Round No. 2


JustinAMoffatt forfeited this round.


Judge the argument based on what has been so far; BOP is on pro, so I don't feel the need for any further arguments from here.
Debate Round No. 3
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Total points awarded:03 
Reasons for voting decision: Forfeit