Congressman Jim Clyburn (D, SC), in an interview on Fox News Sunday, made the below claim in defense of his Progressive-Democratic Party’s Freedom to Vote Act and John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, which together are intended to take the Times, Places and Manner of holding Elections for Senators and Representatives of Federal elections away from the States and to entirely Federalize those election procedures. In citing Alexander Hamilton’s (as alleged by Clyburn) statements that elections “cannot” and “should not be left up to the states,” he made this claim:
That’s why the voting rights act was necessary and that’s why the fifth amendment to the constitution, why the 18th amendment to the constitution are necessary—all because it had to go beyond the states to determine.
It’s impossible to determine what “amendments” Clyburn was referencing here: the 5th Amendment is concerned with trials, punishments, and takings; it has nothing to do with voting or elections. The 18th Amendment was the Prohibition Amendment attempting to outlaw liquor; it, also, has nothing to do with voting or elections, and it was rescinded a few years later with the 21st Amendment.
It’s clear, though, that Clyburn, far from misspeaking on the Amendments, was badly misinterpreting Hamilton’s views on elections to Federal office and the relationship between the States and the Federal government regarding those elections.
This is what Hamilton wrote in his Federalist No. 59 essay [emphasis added]:
[I]t will therefore not be denied, that a discretionary power over elections ought to exist somewhere. It will, I presume, be as readily conceded, that there were only three ways in which this power could have been reasonably modified and disposed: that it must either have been lodged wholly in the national legislature, or wholly in the State legislatures, or primarily in the latter and ultimately in the former. The last mode has, with reason, been preferred by the convention. They have submitted the regulation of elections for the federal government, in the first instance, to the local administrations; which, in ordinary cases, and when no improper views prevail, may be both more convenient and more satisfactory; but they have reserved to the national authority a right to interpose, whenever extraordinary circumstances might render that interposition necessary to its safety.
He introduced that discussion with this, in his lede [emphasis added]:
The natural order of the subject leads us to consider, in this place, that provision of the Constitution which authorizes the national legislature to regulate, in the last resort, the election of its own members.
The States, according to Hamilton, are to set their own rules for how their own representatives and those of their citizens in the Federal government will be elected, and the Federal government is to act in the last resort and only under extraordinary circumstances, most assuredly not in the first, or even merely default, resort. Clyburn’s touted bills would go beyond that, and make the Federal government the only serious determiner of how each State will determine its representation.
The Federal government, according to the Progressive-Democrats, will tell us citizens who it will permit to speak for us to it. We average Americans, after all, are, in the words of Herbert Croly, one of the modern Progressive movement’s founders,
morally and intellectually inadequate to serious and consistent conception of [our] responsibilities as a democrat.