Zell Miller Fights Against “The System”

Making fun of Zell Miller is far too obvious at this point, but I can’t resist commenting on Zell’s latest foray into rewriting the Constitution. Miller now suggests that we should repeal the 17th Amendment, which declares that Senators should be elected rather than appointed by state legislatures. Miller suggests that special interests have far too much control over elections (so, Zell, any significance to the fact that you were appointed, not elected?), so instead of trusting the people to vote for Senators, Miller suggests that state legislators, a group well-known for being above influence by lobbyists and special interests, should take on this privilege. Miller comments (and, no I’m not making this up):

“The individuals are not so much at fault as the rotten and decaying foundation of what is no longer a republic,” Miller said on the Senate floor. “It is the system that stinks. And it’s only going to get worse because that perfect balance our brilliant Founding Fathers put in place in 1787 no longer exists.”

You know, Zell’s too easy a target at this point, and to give him credit, he was an ardent supporteer of campaign finance reform. But I really don’t understand the logic here. Not that I really want to understand how Miller’s mind works (via Atrios).


  1. Chris Said,

    April 29, 2004 @ 10:09 am


    I actually heard a legitimate argument not too long ago in favor of this idea that made some sense. The thinking was this: the framers of the Constitution actually wrote that piece in (that state legislators should appoint Senators) as a way of protecting the states’ rights in the federal government. It was a part of the checks and balances that the framers created to avoid having a federal government that rules over every other branch and over the states as well (you know, shades of the whole British thing we were trying to move away from in those days).

    And on that level, I kind of do get it. I mean, the way things are now, Senators and reps don’t truly represent the people who elect them, in my opinion. On both sides of the aisle, they represent national party interests FIRST. So if they were getting appointed by state legislatures that had the states’ concerns first, it might redress some of the imabalances.

    But I do agree with you that state legislators aren’t above outside influences, so I am not saying it’s a 100% perfect solution. In theory, though, it has merit.


  2. chuck Said,

    April 29, 2004 @ 10:55 am

    This sounds similar to Miller’s argument. He’s claimed (for example) that the Democrats are no longer a “national party,” that they are caught up representing “special interests.” But after observing the Georgia legislature at work this year, I actually trust state legislators (especially in the Georgia legislature) a lot less than I do the election process.

    I actually think that Miller provides a useful example of how this repeal would be met with a lot of resistance; because he was appointed by former Governor Roy Barnes, Miller wasn’t actually elected, and many people, including myself, have been resistant to his leadership. If anything, I think voters should be given more control over the election process, preferably through some very strict campaign finance reform (which would, theoretically, prevent individuals and corporations from buying the interests of politicians). I’m also ambivalent about states’ rights, especially to the extent that Georgia’s legislature has been working to reduce individual rights (through a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage).

    I’d also add that I tend to vote for a party anyway because most party members (Miller being a significant exception) tend to support the party platform.

  3. Chris Said,

    April 29, 2004 @ 11:55 am

    I don’t think this would ever happen, mostly because of the fact that voters wouldn’t want to lose the control they feel they have, as you cite. But how much control do they really have? I think we could debate that, especially as it relates to senator’s races and the options available.

    As far as states’ rights and your ambivalence to them, I can’t say I blame you. And it has caused problems in the past. But this country was founded upon a federal government that wasn’t all powerful, and states that have some say in things, so I am on the fence about the whole issue and how it should work vs. how it actually does.

    I agree with you strict campaign finance reform. But the national parties do control the choice of candidates. They control the message. So even if campaign finance is reformed, we’re still dealing with a very narrow choice in terms of who we actually get to consider when we cast our votes.

  4. chuck Said,

    April 29, 2004 @ 3:24 pm

    Miller himself has acknowledged that he probably couldn’t even get a co-sponsor for the Amendment, and he has been getting roasted on Album 88 today (someone called his proposal the equivalent of creating a House of Lords).

    I realize that we don’t have much control over the candidate nomination process (unless you become actively involved in a specific party, something I’m planning to try to do). Hmm… I should really be grading….

  5. Rusty Said,

    April 29, 2004 @ 5:15 pm

    re: Zell’s too easy a target at this point

    Yeah, it’s sort of like kicking a puppy. It almost feels dirty now. Same goes for the gap between Condolezza Rice’s teeth.

  6. Jen Said,

    April 30, 2004 @ 1:01 am

    Just as a side.. though Miller was appointed, he was elected to the position in 2002. I voted for him, D’oh!

  7. chuck Said,

    April 30, 2004 @ 1:07 am

    Okay, I thought he’d never actually been elected to the Senate (I was living in Illinois in 2002). I *think* I voted for Miller in the 1992 election for Governor. I remember being terribly conflicted about supporting the lottery (because it’s essentially a poor tax, not out of any ethical qualms about gambling in general), but the HOPE scholarship was a pretty impressive idea. And I *really* didn’t like the guy he was running against. Sadly, that’s a common experience here in Georgia.

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