In the age of Trump, a tweet from a political figure can be a canary in a coal mine. And it looks like America’s canary is currently having trouble breathing. Early this morning, Mike Huckabee tweeted out a bizarre proposal, and it legitimately makes me concerned for the future of American democracy. Or whatever’s left of it, anyway.
Yes, that’s former Arkansas Governor and mainstream Republican, Mike Huckabee, proposing that we repeal the 17th Amendment. Before ratification of the 17th Amendment in 1913, US senators were chosen by state legislatures. But the that amendment made it so that the individual citizens of each state could elect their Senators directly. Huckabee would like to get rid of all that. And I feel like this is all just a really bad dream.
The 17th Amendment reads in full (emphasis mine):
The Senate of the United States shall be composed of two Senators from each State, elected by the people thereof, for six years; and each Senator shall have one vote. The electors in each State shall have the qualifications requisite for electors of the most numerous branch of the State legislatures.
When vacancies happen in the representation of any State in the Senate, the executive authority of such State shall issue writs of election to fill such vacancies: Provided, That the legislature of any State may empower the executive thereof to make temporary appointments until the people fill the vacancies by election as the legislature may direct.
This amendment shall not be so construed as to affect the election or term of any Senator chosen before it becomes valid as part of the Constitution.
That should not be a controversial amendment. It simply lets Americans decide who they’d like to represent them in the US Senate. But the US is slipping into a style of authoritarian thinking that should concern all Americans, regardless of party affiliation.
Why does Huckabee, whose daughter Sarah Huckabee Sanders just became the White House Press Secretary, want state legislatures to choose US Senators? Obviously he’s frustrated with last night’s failure of the Republicans to repeal Obamacare. But the reason that repeal of the 17th Amendment would favor his party is because the majority of state legislatures are Republican. The Republicans control both chambers in 33 states. Not because the majority of Americans are Republican, mind you. But because Republicans have gerrymandered their way into power.
Twitter is a platform that allows our politicians to shoot out messages in an unfiltered manner like never before. Sometimes that’s great, but other times it can be incredibly dangerous. And it gives us a look at some of the most unguarded thoughts of our leaders. But Huckabee’s 3am tweets, whether he’s simply frustrated by the Senate voting down the repeal of Obamacare or not, should give everyone pause. Because we just got a glimpse of how Republican party stalwarts are shifting the discussion.
Voter ID laws have suppressed the vote in many states. But it now looks like Republicans are openly talking about doing away with the right of the American people to choose their leaders. This isn’t a small thing. And we ignore these tweets at our peril. It’s only going to get worse from here when mainstream Republicans are openly talking about not letting people vote for one of the most powerful positions in American politics.
Correction: This post originally said that Huckabee was governor of Alabama. He was governor of Arkansas and currently spends most of his time as a commentator on American state TV. I regret the error.