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Huntington POV: Second Coming Of Progressivism

Nearly a century ago, in what is known as the Age of Progressivism, the United States Government underwent a seismic political shift via a series of constitutional amendments. Alas, big-government was born.
A systemic extension of governmental power with the aim of eliminating the evils brought about by the industrial revolution was, and is, the preeminent theme of the American Progressive movement. In the early 20th Century, leaders of the Progressive movement were vocal in their calls for state interference in the social and economic dealings of the nation, laying the groundwork for the eventual rise of an American “welfare-state”, a term they used freely and openly. In 1913, two amendments to the U.S. Constitution, ratified by a Progressive Congress, would deal a near fatal blow to the maxims of American government.
The 16th Amendment arguably represents the most profound departure in American history from the vision of the Founding Fathers, as it grants the federal government the power to tax its citizenry “without apportionment among the several States and without regard to any census or enumeration.” It is the 17th Amendment, however, and its subsequent effects, that bear the most relevance to the controversies and tensions of today.
The 17th Amendment, ratified on April 8th, 1913, established the direct election of United States Senators through statewide popular vote. The original premise of the Constitution, and of the republican form of government it encompassed, was based upon a complex system of layered checks and balances. Most people are familiar with this “separation of powers” philosophy as it pertains to the inner-workings of America’s federal government, i.e., the executive, the legislative and the judicial branches. What many forget, however, and what the Founding Fathers considered vital to the success of the new government, was that the individual states were to hold the majority of discretion and influence in the governing of their respective citizenry. As stated in the 10th and final article of America’s Bill of Rights: “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.” To ensure the general sovereignty of the states, and to safeguard state-governments from federal usurpation, the Founders established in article 1, section 3 of the Constitution, that the “Senate of the United States shall be composed of two Senators from each State, chosen by the legislature thereof,” therefore ensuring a voice for the states in the affairs of the federal government. States would be represented in the Senate via legislative election, the people of those states would be directly represented, via popular mandate, in the House of Representatives, and the federal government would find its voice in a “President”, whose mode of election would be left to the respective discretion of the individual states. This would ensure a balance of power within and between the state and federal governments, a factor the Founders considered absolutely essential to the perpetuity of the union of the states.
The 1913 ratification of the 16th and 17th Amendments marked the apex of American Progressivism. The former established federal hegemony with regard to the American economy, the latter severely limited the ability of the states to defend against attacks upon their sovereignty.
So here we are, two years shy of one hundred years hence, having recently witnessed the second coming of Progressivism in the guise of healthcare reform. Whether or not the Obama Administration will prove as successful as its Progressive forefathers is a question yet to be answered. The states, stripped of their power by the 17th Amendment, are presently fighting back with their final means of recourse – that of the U.S. judiciary.
Because Obama-Care exceeds its constitutional mandate by forcing states into spending billions of dollars rearranging their current healthcare systems, irrespective of their ability to afford it, twenty of these states have opted to challenge the law in court. Had the 17th Amendment never been passed, one is tempted to wonder whether or not a Senate beholden to the interests of its states rather than performing, as it now does, as an arm of the federal government, would ever have passed Obama-Care. The same can be pondered of the Dodd reform bill and the multiple “stimulus” packages, all of which will ultimately prove detrimental to the interests of the states.
Of course, history is replete with “what ifs?” and while a repeal of the 17th Amendment is certainly not unthinkable and would surely represent a welcome revival of the system of checks and balance, such a repeal would also represent, at least for the time being, a highly unlikely scenario. One thing, however, is certain. The slow erosion of the federalist system began in 1913. Nearly a century later, in 2010, the chickens have come home to roost. The second coming of Progressivism is upon us. How the states react in the upcoming years will ultimately decide their respective relevance, or lack thereof, in the future of American government.

Jeremy Pitcoff

Jeremy Pitcoff is a contributor to the Village Tattler’s Huntington POV and a freelance columnist and a committeeman for the Smithtown Republican Party. The VT welcomes perspectives from all area residents. Huntington POV does not reflect the views of the Village Tattler, rather the individuals who submitted them. Click here for more about the rules and process for submitting an article or other media for publication.

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4 comments to Huntington POV: Second Coming Of Progressivism

  • Johnny Reb

    Gelding states such as Massachusetts,New York and California will obey what Obamanation says but country proud states like New Mexico,Virginia,Texas,the Dakotas and South Carolina will tell this socialist regime to go piss up a rope.

  • Douglas

    Once again, another cry to return to a fantasy of a “better time.” Perhaps the author prefers the idea of poor, sickly and starving people crowding our streets and cities? In truth, “the poor will be with us always,” but that does not mean we as human beings have no responsibility to care for them! What Mr. Pitcoff seems to want is to see our nation fractured into individual states that each come up with their own ideas about what is right. The truth is, the United States was not a true world power until it started THINKING and ACTING like a unified nation. There are, or at least ought to be, certain inalienable rights shared by all, regardless of what state you happen to live in. And one of those is a right to good, basic health care. The efforts to combat health reform in the courts is not courageous…it is a cynical, politically-motivated act that has nothing to do with the will of the people and everything to do with trying to regain political power and keep it in the hands of the rich and powerful. What’s truly unfortunate is that so many people have been hoodwinked into believing that the RepubliCons and Tea Party advocates are somehow defending the honor of our nation. Nothing could be further from the truth.

  • A great one

    Barack Obama has the potential of becoming the greatest Republican President this nation has ever had.

  • MARK

    take from the rich and give to the lazy.
    thats good, but far too true.

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