Who would have guessed Antonin Scalia was a Tea Partier? In a recent appearance at Texas Tech University, Scalia threw his considerable weight behind a pet Tea Party project, repeal of the 17th amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

That, in case you don’t have your Glenn Beck-autographed copy of the Constitution nearby, is the amendment providing that U.S. Senators be elected by popular vote rather than selected by state legislatures.

Passage of the 17th amendment in 1913, argues the irrepressible Scalia, was a “progressive” abomination that brought on “the decline of so-called states’ rights throughout the rest of the 20th century.”

Which is to say that allowing voters of a state to choose their senators directly, at the polls, was the first step leading to the expansion of centralized federal power at the expense of the individual states.

Quite a stretch, if you ask me, but who am I to cross juridical swords with the godfather of constitutional originalism? Irrepressible he may be, but give Scalia credit for coming up with an original idea for cutting the cost of U.S. Senate races: The going rate for buying votes in state legislatures – the way U.S. Senators were sent to Washington before 1913 – is a helluva lot cheaper than campaigning for popular support. Just think how many millions Meg Whitman might have saved.