Some Republicans have been throwing around the idea of repealing the 17th Amendment to the Constitution. This is the amendment that allows for the direct election of Senators, instead of having them appointed by State legislatures. It was passed in 1913, after decades of groups like the Populist party arguing for it.
The Republican version of American history does seem to really hinge on the year 1913. that was the year that the power of the Federal government began to increase. In addition to the direct election of Senators, it was the year the 16th Amendment–the income tax–was passed. (This was also something the Populists had wanted.) It also was when the Federal Reserve was created, thus paving the way for many a libertarian conspiracy theory.
I’m assuming this why the Republicans want to do this–it’s a first step towards repealing the so-called “Progressive Era”. I think the real point they’re driving at is the repeal of the income tax, as part of a “Starve the Beast” strategy.
That said, I do actually see some reason for opposing the direct election of Senators. I don’t endorse it, but I can see some logic to it. The Senate was supposed to be a less polarized place than the House of Representatives–the idea being the Senators could compromise with each other more than the elected Representatives in the House. Probably having the members be appointed rather than elected might decrease the amount of fighting among Senators.
This might be a good step towards reducing the gridlock in Washington, especially since the current trend is the Senate becoming more like the House, and ending up just as deadlocked.
Then again, there’s no reason to assume giving control of appointing senators back to the State Legislatures would help anything. Whichever Party controls the legislature will just appoint their favorite cronies, and we’ll end up in the same predicament.
In addition, I don’t know how you would ever get people to vote for someone advocating this. It essentially boils down to saying “I think you people vote for lousy candidates, and so am going to take away your ability to do so. Vote for me!”
I suppose the legislatures could call for a Constitutional convention and try to get it changed that way, though who knows what else they might end up changing in the process. (This is another scheme the Republicans have been toying with for some time.)