The political extremists who run Texas Eagle Forum — the state affiliate of Phyllis Schlafly’s far-right group — apparently think voters have too much influence over our nation’s laws and lawmakers. The group’s fall newsletter, Torch, includes an article attacking “democracy” and even the direct election of U.S. senators. Declaring that “America is not a democracy,” the article sharply criticizes passage of the 17th Amendment (added to the Constitution nearly a century ago), which calls for U.S. senators to be elected directly by each state’s voters (rather than chosen by state legislatures):
“The 17th Amendment destroyed a major safeguard of the federal republic by allowing senators to be chosen by the public, rather than by the states.”
The article, headlined “Save the Republic from Democracy,” was originally published on the fringe-right website WorldNetDaily last August. The writer, Henry Lamb, has openly called for the repeal of the 17th Amendment. He and others on the right are especially angry that the U.S. Senate passed health care reform earlier this year. Of course, senators who voted for health care reform were simply doing what they had promised voters they would do. But Lamb and Texas Eagle Forum think that’s a problem.
So they want to take away the voters’ right to elect their senators and put that power back in the hands of politicians in Legislatures. That’s right: the anti-democratic right thinks it would be better if senators were chosen not by voters, but through the political wheeling and dealing that dominates state legislatures around the country.
We realize that there are serious philosophical issues involved here. But it’s hard to take Texas Eagle Forum and other right-wing groups seriously when they blather on about how democracy is a threat to “the minority.” After all, those same groups have supported direct elections on measures in Texas and other states barring same-sex marriage — even in states where legislatures had passed laws providing the right to such unions. The far right has no problem using direct democracy to target other minorities as well. Last month, for example, Oklahoma voters passed a measure barring “Sharia law” (but no other religious law) in their state. Of course, there was never a danger that Islamic law would be imposed on Oklahomans (the Constitution bars that), but Muslims are a favorite target for the far right these days.
The bottom line? Texas Eagle Forum and other far-right pressure groups don’t like democracy — except when it leads to outcomes they want. When it doesn’t, then voters apparently can’t be trusted.