Electing the Senate

Electing the Senate: Indirect Democracy before the Seventeenth Amendment

Wendy J. Schiller
Charles Stewart
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  • Book Info
    Electing the Senate
    Book Description:

    From 1789 to 1913, U.S. senators were not directly elected by the people-instead the Constitution mandated that they be chosen by state legislators. This radically changed in 1913, when the Seventeenth Amendment to the Constitution was ratified, giving the public a direct vote.Electing the Senateinvestigates the electoral connections among constituents, state legislators, political parties, and U.S. senators during the age of indirect elections. Wendy Schiller and Charles Stewart find that even though parties controlled the partisan affiliation of the winning candidate for Senate, they had much less control over the universe of candidates who competed for votes in Senate elections and the parties did not always succeed in resolving internal conflict among their rank and file. Party politics, money, and personal ambition dominated the election process, in a system originally designed to insulate the Senate from public pressure.

    Electing the Senateuses an original data set of all the roll call votes cast by state legislators for U.S. senators from 1871 to 1913 and all state legislators who served during this time. Newspaper and biographical accounts uncover vivid stories of the political maneuvering, corruption, and partisanship-played out by elite political actors, from elected officials, to party machine bosses, to wealthy business owners-that dominated the indirect Senate elections process.Electing the Senateraises important questions about the effectiveness of Constitutional reforms, such as the Seventeenth Amendment, that promised to produce a more responsive and accountable government.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-5268-0
    Subjects: Political Science, History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. List of Tables
    (pp. ix-x)
  5. Preface
    (pp. xi-xvi)
  6. CHAPTER 1 Introduction
    (pp. 1-19)

    U.S. senators have not always been elected by the public. The popular stage on which U.S. senators walk, and their place in modern plebiscitary politics, makes it easy to forget that for the first half of the Senate’s history, senators did not derive their electoral mandates from the people—at least not directly—but instead from state governments, acting through their state legislatures. The founders chose to elect members of the upper chamber of the people’s branch indirectly. This suggests that they considered indirect election to be noble, functional, and practical. A century and a quarter later, in 1913, the...

  7. CHAPTER 2 A Theory of Indirect Election
    (pp. 20-50)

    In order to examine the election of U.S. senators before the passage of the Seventeenth Amendment, it is necessary to construct a framework of expectations about how such elections should have proceeded. This chapter does just that.

    Our framework attempts to meld two strands of political science research. The first is that of electoral studies, particularly as it has been applied to congressional elections. Although the study of elections is distinct from that of political institutions within the field of political science, the study of congressional elections is a hybrid subfield that links students of mass politics with students of...

  8. CHAPTER 3 Candidate Emergence, Political Ambition, and Seat Value
    (pp. 51-81)

    The stage has been set for a deeper analysis of who emerged as candidates for the U.S. Senate and their motivations for seeking the office. Modern scholars of the Senate who reference this period rely heavily on anecdotal and even literary descriptions as a basis for examining who became a U.S. senator and why, and what they did once they got there. The data we have assembled, both qualitative and quantitative, are built on these prior efforts, and allow us to learn a great deal more about these officeholders and shed light on the pathways to the Senate in the...

    (pp. 82-120)

    Agenda control, as much as any other idea, has guided the study of legislatures for the past decade. Within rational choice theories of legislatures, institutions such as committees and party leaders determine what manages to get considered on the floor, and how it is considered. Committees are said to be the primary instrument of the “structure-induced equilibrium” that allows Congress to reach agreements on legislation rather than labor under pure majority rule chaos.¹

    In the office-seeking realm, another word foragenda controlisnomination. if strictly adhered to, nominations limit the range of possible outcomes in the election of officers,...

  10. CHAPTER 5 Political Dynamics and Senate Representation
    (pp. 121-156)

    Senator-elect Ambrose Burnside (R-RI) was remarkably candid in his acceptance speech following his win on the twenty-eighth joint session ballot in 1875, acknowledging that his own party was divided over his election and that he would have to work hard to win majority support during this term. The overarching question we pose here is, What could he do in his subsequent years in office to shore up support among both his friends and “enemies”?¹

    A number of works assess both individual Senate behavior and the functioning of the Senate as an institution in the direct elections era.² these authors range...

  11. CHAPTER 6 Senate Electoral Responsiveness under Indirect and Direct Election
    (pp. 157-198)

    The Seventeenth Amendment is one of the most significant changes in the U.S. electoral system to have been brought about through amending the Constitution. It changed the theory about who senators represented by shifting the focus from state governments per se to state residents. as a practical matter, it shifted the electorate from the relatively small confines of state legislatures to much larger mass electorates.

    The fact that the Seventeenth Amendment altered the electoral system for Senate candidates naturally raises the question of how candidates, victorious senators, and the Senate itself changed because of the amendment’s ratification. Despite some scholarly...

  12. CHAPTER 7 Myth and Reality of the Seventeenth Amendment
    (pp. 199-218)

    These were the words that state representative Blazejewski (D-RI) used when the Rhode Island house voted to symbolically ratify the Seventeenth Amendment on June 26, 2013, one hundred years after it was adopted.¹ Rhode Island had originally refused to ratify the amendment because the Republican Party machine saw it as a threat to its hegemonic control over Senate elections. Its fears were justified. From 1871 to 1913, the Rhode Island legislature elected only Republicans to the Senate. In the century after the Seventeenth Amendment was adopted, Rhode Island voters elected over twice as many Democrats as Republicans (ten versus four)....

  13. References
    (pp. 219-226)
  14. Index
    (pp. 227-236)
  15. Back Matter
    (pp. 237-240)