Last week the Weekly Standard got Glenn Beck hopping mad by publishing a damning critique of his warped view of progressive history. Beck's producer called for a boycott of the conservative magazine (which also happens to be one of Beck's sponsors), claiming that their article was “embarrassing” and “intentionally misleading.”
But it looks like Beck is doing his damndest to prove the Weekly Standard right. This morning Beck claimed on the radio that the Seventeenth Amendment, which provides for the direct election of U.S. senators, was Woodrow Wilson's perfidious progressive scheme to undermine the Constitution. The only problem with this thesis is that every verifiable historical fact shows it to be not at all true. Most significantly, nearly all the action regarding the Seventeenth Amendment took place before Wilson became president.
Here's what Beck said on the radio earlier today:
For those who can't play the clip, Beck bookended some juvenile mocking of Sen. Harry Reid by saying:
BECK: Term limits! Term limits! It's fine for the president, but for some reason it's not for Congress. Congress enacted the term limits on the president because they knew what would happen, but they wouldn't do it. Woodrow Wilson changed it, changes the way our system works. The states -- the Senate was supposed to be from the state.
BECK: The Senate was supposed to be elected by the states, not the citizens. Voted on by the state legislature and then sent to Washington. So what would that do? That held their feet to the fire of the state. They actually represented the state. If it wasn't good for the state, they weren't going to do it. That was the idea. It kept a barrier from the federal government to the state, and it kept those people in Washington closer to you, because you didn't have to get your senator on the phone. You got your state senator on the phone, you got your governor on the phone to say “pull this guy back!” And they would. What happened? Woodrow Wilson.
Let's start with some basic dates. First, let's establish when Woodrow Wilson became president -- March 4, 1913.
1826: First proposal for the direct election of senators.
1893-1902: Ten amendments proposed in Congress -- one for each year -- to provide for the direct election of senators, each one rejected by the Senate.
1900-1907: Oregon attempts various procedures for direct election of senators before succeeding in 1907.
1911: Sen. Joseph Bristow (R-KS) offers resolution to amend the constitution to provide for the direct election of senators, which successfully passes.
1912: The House passes the amendment, sending it to the states for ratification
1912: Of the 48 states in the U.S., 29 already have procedures to elect senators as party primary nominees or in general elections.
May 1912 -- February 1913: The amendment is approved by 29 state legislatures.
March 4, 1913: Woodrow Wilson is inaugurated as president.
March 7, 1913 -- April 8, 1913: Seven more state legislatures approve the amendment, meeting the three-fourths requirement to officially ratify the Seventeenth Amendment.
So, unless Beck has some compelling explanation for how Woodrow Wilson was able to engineer this scheme to directly elect senators even though the movement began before he was born; direct election was the law in more than 50 percent of the states prior to the constitutional amendment; and the amendment itself was proposed, passed, and well on its way to being ratified before he became president, then I think we're safe in calling this one a load of bunk.