Civil Discourse Now

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Indiana Senate Bill 75: would remove selection of U.S. Senate candidates from popular vote

Senate Bill 75 has been presented before Indiana’s General Assembly by Senator James Buck, a Republican from Kokomo. The bill would remove nomination of candidates for United States Senate from primaries.
To be clear: Buck is a state Senator, but his bill would change the ways in which the two major political parties nominate candidates for United States Senate. In a meeting of GOP people I attended Saturday, people, at first, were perplexed by this move by Indiana Democrats.
After someone pointed out the sponsor of SB 75 was a Republican, the mood shifted. One person said today, about the change SB 75 seeks: it’s only the primaries; people still vote for their Senator in the general election.
Another person said this was the way the founders of the country wanted to choose United States Senators: “The Senate of the United States shall be comprised of two Senators from each State, chosen by the Legislature thereof...” Art. I, §3.
The Framers of the Constitution also provided the mechanism of amendment. Art. V. One such amendment, the Seventeenth, was introduced by Republican - yes, as in GOP - Senator Joseph Bristow of Kansas. Kyvig, “Explicit and Authentic acts amending the Constitution,” p. 210.
The Seventeenth Amendment to the Constitution removed selection of U.S. Senators from States’ legislatures: “The Senate of the United States shall be comprised of two Senators from each state, elected by the people thereof...”
This country, as the Declaration of Independence makes clear, was founded on the premise that government exists by consent of the governed: “to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.”
In 1787 the Constitution began with “We the People,” instead “Men.” To some the difference was cosmetic. Only white, male landowners were eligible to vote for delegates to the Constitutional Convention.
The 55 delegates chosen and who attended the Convention, at one time or another, likewise were white, male landowners. Women could not vote or engage in most legal transactions. The people indigenous to this continent had no rights.
People held in “involuntary servitude” - neither the word “slave” nor any derivative of that word appears in the original Constitution - were bought and sold as chattel - i.e., as common goods.
Slaves were freed and given (what were supposed to be) equal rights as a result of the Civil War. Women, after years of struggle and with ratification of Amendment XIX on March 29, 1920, obtained the right to vote.
Indigenous peoples still were screwed.
By the early Twentieth Century, people wanted to directly elect their Senators. On June 5, 1914, Amendment XVII was ratified. We the “People” now chose our Senators by popular vote.
The idea is we are the proper ones to choose and vote on candidates. For political parties to seek to step backwards implies that we are less capable than delegates to parties’ state conventions to choose the people from whom we are to choose.
The effort by Buck - a Republican - should be soundly drummed out of the hopper. Or, as that brilliant law & order scholar, Bernard P. Fife, would say: Nip it! Nip it in the bud!
On the one hand, leaders of both parties probably would say “You still get to choose who wins - in the general election.” But choosing the candidates from whom to choose is a significant control.
It also increases the power of the two major political parties to control our choices for the general election. That is power undeserved. Primaries constitute both a "`crucial juncture'" in the electoral process, California Democratic Party, 530 U. S. 567, 575 (2000) and a vital forum for expressive association among voters and political parties, see Kusper v. Pontikes, 414 U. S. 51, 58 (1973).
If you agree with me that SB 75 is a very bad idea, contact your Indiana Rep and Senator. We have the right to vite, and that right extends to primaries.
I am Mark Small, a candidate in the GOP primary for U.S. House in Indiana’s 5th Congressional District. I’m in favor of our election system being as transparent as possible. I approve the content of this blog. Hell, I wrote it.

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