The John Birch Society is best known for touting conspiracy theories about how the United Nations is plotting to eliminate everything from paved roads to the game of golf, so all of their claims need to be taken with quite a few grains of salt. Nevertheless, their official magazine contains a very plausible report about Tea Party U.S. Senate candidate Dan Liljenquist (R-UT) that raises serious questions about his judgement if it is true. According to this report, Liljenquist told them they he will work to repeal the Constitution’s guarantee that voters — and not state lawmakers — get to elect United States senators:
[I]n a surprising answer to a question, Liljenquist informed The New American that he supports the repeal of the 17th Amendment. Regarding , [sic] Liljenquist explained his opposition to tthe [sic] popular election of the U.S. Senate that was effected by the ratification of the 17th Amendment to the Constitution:
“There is a disconnect between the state legislatures and the state delegations in Washington, D.C.” “I commit that if I ever lose the support of the Utah State Legislature, I will come home and not return to Washington,” he continued.
If this report is accurate, it is disturbing not just because of its content, but because Liljenquist decided to talk to this extremist group in the first place. Moreover, Liljenquist, has a well documented history of attacking the Seventeenth Amendment’s promise of democracy, so it is reasonably likely that the Birchers are telling the truth here.
At a campaign event in Morgan County, Utah, Liljenquist lamented the fact that, as a state lawmaker, the Seventeenth Amendment prevented him from imposing his will on his primary opponent Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT):
Liljenquist also talked about Senator Hatch. He said, “As a state legislator it has been very disappointing. We have almost no working relationship with our Senior Senator…It was supposed to be that the senate would represent the state and work with the legislature to make sure state’s rights were protected. Last year we passed a bill and we said, ‘Hey, we know that the seventeenth amendment is in place, we can’t tell you what to do, but come and consult with us, come and speak with us.’ Mike Lee said I understand that’s my role and Orrin Hatch said I don’t report to you.
Earlier this month, Liljenquist also claimed that there need to be term limits on Senators to help counteract the effect of the Seventeenth Amendment. And Liljenquist’s past digs on the Seventeenth Amendment are also part of a larger record of hostility to the Constitution. Indeed, a centerpiece of Liljenquist’s campaign against Hatch is Liljenquist’s belief that Hatch should not have voted to provide health care to children because Liljenquist believes a national program to heal children is unconstitutional. Indeed, his proposal for senatorial term limits is also unconstitutional.
Liljenquist also would not be the first prominent conservative to embrace the ludicrous idea that Americans should not be able to elect their own senators. Justice Scalia once slammed the Seventeenth Amendment, as has Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) and Gov. Rick Perry (R-TX).
Liljenquist’s campaign did not return a request to confirm or deny the John Birch Society’s claim that he wants to make his own senate election unconstitutional. Nevertheless, in light of Liljenquist’s long pattern of hostility towards the Constitution, and his record of strange statements expressing suspicion about the Seventeenth Amendment itself, it seems reasonably likely that the Birchers’ reporting is accurate.