Thursday, January 29, 2009

If only we could get Feingold as interested in the first amendment as he is in the seventeenth

In this week's column for the Waukesha Freeman, I suggest Senator Feingold may actually have hit upon a good idea:

But letting voters choose replacement senators in a special election rather than letting the governors decide is consistent with our principles and our experience.

With special elections we need not fear whether someone has paid a price to obtain a seat in the Senate. Whether that price is gold or political support or even political cover, the real cost is the public’s confidence.

Special elections also leave it to the public to decide whether the name of their next representative in the Senate is sufficient recommendation. Whether the name is Kennedy, Biden, Murkowski or Carnahan, surely it would be better for the public to choose whether dynastic succession is appropriate.

The federal Constitution is unlike the state constitution. As a founding document we should be loath to alter it. But this is not a substantial change and it is consistent with the previous amendment requiring the popular election of senators.

Some will cite the long process as a reason to abandon the effort, and others will cite the worst disaster scenarios. Neither are sufficient excuses to prevent this necessary reform. If we cannot trust the public to fill vacancies as they occur, why are we entrusting them with the election of senators at all?