Texas Eagle Forum’s Contempt for Democracy

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.

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5 Comments

  1. David
    Posted December 8, 2010 at 9:17 am | Permalink

    Gordon, thanks for the history. You’re right, the 17th and its passage has nothing to do with religion, however it’s repeal has something to do with religion.

  2. Posted December 7, 2010 at 11:14 pm | Permalink

    The main effect of the 17th Amendment was to weaken the link between the state legislatures and governors who appointed Senators before then. The Senate represents the sovereignty of the states in the aggregate and any issues involving the authority of “these United States” such as the ratification of treaties and the confirmation of officers of the United States (includes all miilitary officers).

    Under our jurisprudential system the source of authority for law starts in the state legislature and is parceled out to cities and counties and other state jurisdictions. The ratification of US Constitutional amendments is, by default by three quarters of the state legislatures which is a way of stating that power starts in the state legislatures.

    The direct election of Senators broke the grip of many state legislatures over legislation in the Congress via the Senate. The driving force behind this change. Likewise the recall and referendum found in many western states was intended to break the monopoly of power in the state legislatures.

    Behind these changes was the corrupting influence of the Robber Barons from the oil, steel, rail, shipping, mining, iron industries on legislation at state and national level. The state legislatures were considered owned and operated by these “Barons” and shamelessly.

    The assertion that the US is not a democracy is technically correct by factually irrelevant. “Democracy” as a political buzz word in US politics became dominant about the time of Wilson’s Administration replacing the dominance of “republic” in political jargon. This matches the changes in the relation between the voters and political power at the state and national level resulting in a more democratic republic.

    None of the 17th Amendment or it’s passage has squat to with religion.

  3. Charles
    Posted December 7, 2010 at 7:10 pm | Permalink

    It is as I have said before. The Religious Right and their minion organizations like the Texas Eagle Forum despise the constitution of the United States. It just does not suit them, and they would like to rewrite it to say some new things that they would like better. This is the way of totalitarians and authoritarians.

  4. Montie Guthrie
    Posted December 7, 2010 at 4:24 pm | Permalink

    Excellent point in the last paragraph. I have concluded this past election may have been the last strong blow of a mortally wounded OWPP (Old White People’s Party), intent on ho;ding the reins of power at all coasts.

  5. David
    Posted December 7, 2010 at 2:02 pm | Permalink

    Hopefully TFN and the other opponents of the Theocratic party (GOP,Fox, teaparty and all the rightwing groups like Eagle Forum, John Birch etc), will use this to rope-a-dope these groups and cause them to expend a lot of money attempting this, and dry up support.
    Amending the Constitution is a big, heavy burden in this day and age, and the righties may think they have the moment when they have control of state houses, but that won’t last long. People will not be interested in giving up their vote to their state legislatures.
    What is happening is that the right wing and the GOP are looking at the demographic shifts that favor the Dems and are thinking in terms of creating fortress states, and “ghetto-izing” by state the non-white, non-wealthy populations. So there’s a rush on.

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