The Corruption of the Senate is Tamed by the Representatives

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I’ve been reading the Federalist Papers. For those who don’t know, it’s a set of open letters written to explain why the Constitution was organized the way it was, and to answer every reasonable criticism of the document.

The genius of the constitution is in the genius of the Founding Fathers. Anyone who thinks they were ignorant of governments past or present is an ignoramus themselves.

They saw the motivation of the rich and privileged to influence government. And so, they provided a council that would be forever held within their grasp. This was the senate. Every stable republic in the history of mankind had one. In the Founding Father’s eyes, having a house of literal lords, or a senate composed of lifetime members, who choose their own replacements, mattered little. Allowing the states to choose the senators meant that, inevitably, anyone who made it to the senate would have done so at the expense of great political capital, and would represent powerful government interests from broad spectrums of society.

Is it any surprise that by the time the 17th Amendment was contemplated that the senate had grown into the most corrupt body of our federal government? That was the intention from day one, and the authors of the Federalist Papers were plain and clear in exposing it.

Why is such a thing a good thing at all? Because having the same people running a large section of the government creates stability. The same corrupt people are making the same corrupt decisions every day. This means we are reliable to the other nations of the world, and the senators are free to create whatever alliances they feel is best.

The concern that people had was that the corruption would infect all branches of government, starting with the state legislatures, then the House of Representatives, then the people themselves. We could certainly say that this has happened today! However, the Founding Fathers had an ingenious plan to keep the corruption of the senate forever contained within the walls of the senate.

When you have 30,000 people choosing a representative, that means that the vast majority of the voters either know the person themselves, or know someone who knows them personally. There’s not a lot that can be done to corrupt such a process. The true character of the representative would be well-known. Also, since the only expression of democracy, which is known for being as fickle as it is unjust, would be found in the election of these representatives, the Founding Fathers surmised that it would not be unheard of to see half of them lose their seats every 2 years, particularly when corruption was rampant.

Because the House of Representatives is in many respects a co-equal component of the Congress, this fiery and untameable passion would infect the Federal Government, but only inasmuch as they could temper the corruption of the senate and the dictatorial tendencies of the president. Only when these three powerful motivating forces of government aligned could anything substantial be done.

Is it any coincidence that the house had its seats fixed in 1911, a few years before the senate became a democratic organ? Is it any coincidence that that was the turning point where our government no longer was devoted to protecting individual rights, but began the long digression into socialist policies and practices?

Indeed, imagine a federal government where every 30,000 citizens elected a representative. Washington State would send some 228 to a house with 10,390 members. You would either know your representative personally, or know someone who knew him personally. Of course, I doubt the house would look anything like it does today. Perhaps they would have a massive stadium built with the most modern technologies just to keep 10,000 people moving together. Perhaps they would have a super-committee of 100 members who were chosen from groups of 100 representatives to expedite debate and passage of popular bills. Regardless, it would certainly not be a mini-Senate as it is today.

But think of the consequences. If someone wanted to “buy” the house, they would need to run at least 5,200 simultaneous races just to obtain a majority. What could be done to shift the sentiment of a small group of 30,000? Do you think an advertising campaign, leaflets, or any such money-driven method would be of any effect? I imagine such an attempt would always backfire. Our representatives would have campaign budgets of perhaps, at most, $10,000. We would be trained to recognize good candidates (who generally had small budgets) with corrupt ones (who had warchests.)

I can’t imagine how expensive it would be just to coordinate more than a few thousand races. You’d have to have management at least 3 layers deep just to find the right candidates.

The House would inevitably remain the people’s house, the passionate, unreasonable democratic voice that the people so desire to have these days. The Senate would remain the property of the rich and privileged and elite.

Folks, if you want to truly fight the corruption in DC, start by focusing primarily on your house races. Find out who is running, send them money, and knock on doors to get them elected. When the house is elected by the people, then the house will be what it needs to be: an opposition to the senate.

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2 Responses to “The Corruption of the Senate is Tamed by the Representatives”

  1. The Observer Says:

    Good analysis. The Senate became an organ of democracy rather than an organ of federal republicanism (as intended) largely as a result of the rise of modern progressives and the invention of the methodology of “buying” votes in America with targeted political programs and policies. This, itself, was an outgrowth of industrialization in many ways but that is a detailed discussion for a different time. But, of course, that is why it was so crucial to sell the new approach just right – and what better way than to do so on the premises of democracy?

    If you have not done so already, I highly recommend reading the Anit-Federalist Papers immediately following completion of the Federalist Papers. These are, quite literally, the other half of the story and given that they had the direct effect of inspiring the Bill of Rights give profound insights into the fears of the time associated with a highly centralized federal government and the concerns regarding individual and states’ rights. These papers demonstrate that not all of the Founders were in perfect harmony with each other and true debate was carried out with the deliberate overhaul of the nation’s government. One of the Anti-Federalists (I hate that name, by the way; it unfortunately and erroneously implies a negative connotation) was Richard Henry Lee, for example, who first made motion in the Continental Congress to declare independence from Britain, was a signatory to the Declaration, inspired the 2nd Amendment, was a former President of the Continental Congress and later a Senator, and was great uncle of General Robert E. Lee.

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