100%(1)1 out of 1 people found this document helpful
This preview shows page 602 - 604 out of 656 pages.
jor political reform efforts, particularly in the Deep South and west of theMississippi River, to reduce the political and economic power of Amer-ica’s burgeoning class of plutocrats—men of humble origin, often, whohad become wealthy almost overnight as a result of the industrial revo-lution and exerted a powerful influence in State governments.In the legendary stories of Horatio Alger, they were America’s heroes,symbols of the American success story—immigrants, perhaps, whothrough self-sacrifice and hard work had risen to the top. To the Popu-lists and Progressives, however, they were often the proverbial businesstycoons—greedy capitalists, they charged, who engaged in monopolisticpractices to maximize their wealth and used their wealth to buy votes inlegislative bodies, courts of law, and governors’ mansions. The restruc-turing of State Constitutions throughout the country at this time—for thepurpose of circumventing State legislatures through the initiative andreferendum devices, and controlling the courts through the election orrecall of judges—was the fruit of their labor.Whereas the Sixteenth Amendment promised to limit the wealth andeconomic power of these millionaire industrialists, the Seventeenth waspremised on the assumption that the direct election of Senators would
Amendment XVII581limit their political influence. Many Senators were millionaires them-selves, and many more, it was generally believed, were obligated to spe-cial economic interests. The wealthy might bribe State legislators butthey could not bribe the entire electorate. The direct election of Senators,thought the Populists and Progressives, would cure the evils of Big Busi-ness, giant trusts, and corporate monopolies. Buttressed by the SixteenthAmendment, the Seventeenth might then prepare the way for breakingup great concentrations of wealth and, hoped some of the more radicalPopulists, lead to a redistribution of wealth. But some argue that no con-spicuous improvement in the talents and character of members of theSenate seems to have been the result of this Amendment.One prominent public leader of recent decades, Eugene McCarthy—United States Senator from Minnesota for two terms—remarks in hisbookFrontiers of American Democracythat the Seventeenth Amendmentdid harm to the quality of the United States Senate. A principal reasonfor this is the fact that although a Representative in the House has toplease only his constituents in his district, a United States Senator mustcampaign statewide—and wander about his State fairly frequently, if hewishes to remain in office. Much of his time is wasted in perpetual cam-paigning. Besides, the campaign expenditures of a senatorial candidate,both in the primary and in the regular election, usually are gigantic; thismoney must be found somewhere; so either a candidate’s family must bevery wealthy, and have wealthy friends, or else the candidate may find it