Did the Seventeenth Amendment Repeal Federalism?


In 2001, Dr. Ralph A. Rossum, Professor of American Constitutionalism at Claremont McKenna College, published Federalism, the Supreme Court, and the Seventeenth Amendment: The Irony of Constitutional Democracy. He thereby joined an almost century-long dialogue over the efficacy and the merits of the alteration in our basic law that shifted the method by which United States senators are chosen, from selection by the state legislatures to direct popular election. He also offered a startling thesis: the amendment, which was intended by its Progressive Era proponents to advance democracy and to eliminate one manifestation of corruption in government, fundamentally transformed the nature of American federalism by removing from the national government the primary institutional safeguard for the protection of the states as corporate entities. Rossum's exploration led him first to review and critique efforts by the U.S. Supreme Court since 1976 to protect federalism through an array of constitutional doctrines; then to discuss the Framers' view of federalism, and the Senate's special role in protecting it, by drawing upon excerpts from the records of the Constitutional Convention of 1787, The Federalist Papers, case studies from the First Congress, and some landmark cases of the Supreme Court under the leadership of Chief Justice John Marshall; then to examine the forces that led to the adoption of the Seventeenth Amendment; and finally to review the subsequent expansion of national powers at the expense of the states, concluding with some recommended constitutional doctrines that, in his judgment, the Court should now adopt.
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