The Tea Parties, who just want the leaders "to listen to us," and who yearn for the days when the government will actually be "for the people and by the people," have devised a brave strategy to attain that end: Repeal of the direct election of United States Senators.
It is an odd stance, to be sure. (If you really want to start repealing amendments, why not go after the Third Amendment, the one that outlaws the forcible quartering of soldiers in peacetime? Would anyone really mind letting a few cadets stay the night?) But the idea is worth a more serious examination, if only to try to understand the forces that would lead a group of politically engaged Americans to demand the curtailment of their own franchise.
The Times article goes on to quote prominent conservatives who oppose the election of senators, seeing it as an infringement of the rights of state legislatures to oversee the federal government. And then there's the good old fashioned argument that the people are too dumb to pick U.S. Senators. Reasonable people (hint: me) could find merit in either argument.
However, the rationale I would use for abolishing direct election of senators is that it would get citizens more interested in state government all-together. Attaching a national figure to state legislatures would make people more interested in voting in legislative elections. Granted, that may be a misguided reason to vote in state elections voters should be taking into account local issues when they vote for an Assembly candidate.
The best part of the article came at the end:
We are living in a Web-enabled moment of decentralized uprisings, where a group of frustrated citizens in Utah can bond almost instantly with like-minded people in Ohio and Vermont and so on.
All of which is inspiring on some level, except that absent a galvanizing figure like Robert F. Kennedy or Ronald Reagan, someone who can channel frustration rather than simply pander to it, such movements tend to veer helplessly toward their fringes. Thoughtful grievances become eclipsed in the public mind by conspiracy theories and the daydreams of those who romanticize the past.
In other words, today's Tea Party activists might not waste time debating the legacy of the last century's reformers if they had a La Follette of their own.
What you have to wonder is whether the same right wingers who believe the people are too naive to elect their own senators are also against a system of judicial elections that highly favors right wing candidates who pledge to be tough on crime.