September 22nd, 2010
11:42 AM ET

Political Theater: Telling tales about the 17th Amendment

Tom Foreman | BIO
AC360° Correspondent

(CNN) - Sometimes it seems as if nothing makes a campaign staff happier than an ill-considered, or misstated position by the opponent, no matter how quickly it is retracted. And such appears to be the case with the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee’s latest commercial against the Colorado Republican Senate nominee, Ken Buck.

In an effort to paint him as an out of control radical, the DSCC has rolled out thirty seconds of ominous music and even more frightening words.

“For nearly one hundred years, we the people have picked our Senators. But Ken Buck proposed a radically different idea. Buck said he wanted to rewrite the Constitution to let state legislators pick our Senators instead of voters. That’s right. Ken Buck actually proposed ending our right to vote for our own Senators. Rewriting the constitution? Ending our right to vote? Ken Buck's just too extreme for Colorado."

Their claim stems from an answer Buck gave at the Pikes Peak Economic Club in the summer of 2009, when he was asked about repealing the 17th Amendment.

Now, before we go any further, let’s remind ourselves what the 17th Amendment is all about. Originally the Constitution called for senators to be selected and sent to Washington by state legislators. The idea was that this would make state level lawmakers feel more politically connected to Washington, and keep U.S. senators above the daily fray of popular politics so they could vote their conscience.

But it grew messy. Warring factions at the state level left some Senate seats unfilled, a lot of feathers ruffled, and by the early 1900’s the 17th Amendment made it official: We’d all just vote on senators. And we’ve been sending our Mr. Smith’s to Washington that way ever since. (Although I should note that Jimmy Stewart’s Mr. Smith was an appointee. Go figure.) Anyway, some folks (particularly in the Tea Party) have argued that now we’ve come full circle, and senators are too beholden to DC power brokers and fund-raisers, so maybe we should scrap the 17th and go back to the old way.

Aware of that and confronted with the question, Ken Buck’s team says he ruminated publically about the idea as a way of making senators more accountable to their voters, not less. I know, it’s kind of convoluted, but no matter: The very next day, Buck’s campaign says he called the questioner back and said, upon further consideration, no dice. The 17th Amendment stays.

In short, campaign spokesperson Owen Loftus says, “Ken Buck does not want to get rid of anyone’s right to vote. He never did.” And yet, the Democrats behind this ad give the very clear impression that that is precisely what Ken Buck is after. It’s not true, and the only way they can even begin to make that claim is by grabbing one comment carelessly tossed out there for 24 hours before it was reeled back in.

On our scale, that makes this commercial a very Tall Tale.

Earlier in Political Theater: Is new Angle ad beef or just bull?

Filed under: Raw Politics • Tom Foreman
soundoff (8 Responses)
  1. Daisy Mae Scragg

    Anyone who advocates taking away any of our Constitutional rights should move to Russia, Saudi Arabia, Cuba, or Iran and leave America to those who actually appreciate and WANT freedom and the right to choose who represents us.

    If the people lose the right to vote, then it is no longer a government of, by, or for the people; and we all lose.

    It IS about the 17th amendment, and it IS about those who would rewrite or repeal part of the Constitution. If it was not, then it never would have been mentioned.

    I don't know about you, but when I enlisted in the Marine Corps, I swore an oath to "protect and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic." Once a Marine, always a Marine–and that applies to the oath we took to protect the Constitution. Anyone who proposes taking away our Constitutional rights, one by one or altogether, is an enemy of the Constitution, and I will fight that enemy by whatever means necessary. So should every U.S. citizen who values his or her freedom.

    October 3, 2010 at 12:42 pm |
  2. Michele Gomis

    This isn't about the 17th amendment. It is about slander and lies to make an opponent look as bad as possible. The 17th was merely the vehicle for the slander.

    Foolish theater. Precisely what electing a Senator should not be...hypocritical pretentious people lying and posturing at the expense of another.

    Unfortunately it works all too well all too often to our shame.

    September 24, 2010 at 4:55 pm |
  3. Kim

    Support term limits and we the people will do the firing and hiring ! Don't let them get there and forget who they work for !

    September 23, 2010 at 8:26 am |
  4. J.V.Hodgson

    I see CNN when for O'donnell and Coons you have to live or die by what you said witches bearded marxists ( 11 and 25 years ago) and never uttered a similar word or words again, MR Buck can retract and suddenly everything is OK.
    What the Ad says is therefore true 100 % but fair to point out he retracted it later.
    As one person I remain unsure how "he" really feels and if I were in his district I'd go to a meeting and ask before voting. Because I want to be able to question my Reps and Senate candidates all parties and then based on responses vote as appropriate my way for, of, by and for the people.

    September 23, 2010 at 1:42 am |
  5. Jennifer C.

    It was take us closer to a parliamentary style of government. Remember that, at the beginning of the U.S., only male landed gentry got the vote. We've continued to expand that until most people now have that right. And the electoral college was designed to keep the tyranny of the majority from being the tail wagging the dog–it was understood that ordinary citizens might lack information to have realistic opinions on some issues. Today there is a push to move either to a straight democracy or a parliamentary system, and I personally think the one we have is superior to both.

    September 23, 2010 at 1:06 am |
  6. jerry

    It might be a good idea to repeal the 17th amendment.
    It would certainly get people more involved in local elections.
    Have the potential appointees to the senate picked out before the election to force local legislators to name who they support.

    September 22, 2010 at 7:08 pm |
  7. neshah

    the 17th admendment was proposed to limit imigrants from voting and possibly corrupting the government somehow (imigrant spies was a big thing at that time. anyway theres always someone trying to get over and the best way to limit wrongdoing is to keep revealing it. so if that ken guy knows something isnt right he should say something-the people of Colorado would appreciate that more/ we all would.

    September 22, 2010 at 12:14 pm |
  8. Ann

    I believe the 17th Amendment should be repealed. I believe the founding fathers were wise when they determined Senators should be elected by the State representatives and that the Senators should choose the President, not the people. If the State representatives chose the Senators, theoretically they would be able to protect the state because the Senators are directly accountable to the State Legislators, likewise the President would be accountable. It is a free-for-all today, who every can line the pockets of government officials gets their way and the "people" lose.

    September 22, 2010 at 11:49 am |

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