jor political reform efforts particularly in the Deep South and west of the

Jor political reform efforts particularly in the deep

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jor political reform efforts, particularly in the Deep South and west of the Mississippi River, to reduce the political and economic power of Amer- ica’s burgeoning class of plutocrats—men of humble origin, often, who had 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, who through self-sacrifice and hard work had risen to the top. To the Popu- lists and Progressives, however, they were often the proverbial business tycoons—greedy capitalists, they charged, who engaged in monopolistic practices to maximize their wealth and used their wealth to buy votes in legislative bodies, courts of law, and governors’ mansions. The restruc- turing of State Constitutions throughout the country at this time—for the purpose of circumventing State legislatures through the initiative and referendum devices, and controlling the courts through the election or recall of judges—was the fruit of their labor. Whereas the Sixteenth Amendment promised to limit the wealth and economic power of these millionaire industrialists, the Seventeenth was premised on the assumption that the direct election of Senators would
Amendment XVII 581 limit 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 but they 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 Sixteenth Amendment, the Seventeenth might then prepare the way for breaking up great concentrations of wealth and, hoped some of the more radical Populists, lead to a redistribution of wealth. But some argue that no con- spicuous improvement in the talents and character of members of the Senate 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 his book Frontiers of American Democracy that the Seventeenth Amendment did harm to the quality of the United States Senate. A principal reason for this is the fact that although a Representative in the House has to please only his constituents in his district, a United States Senator must campaign statewide—and wander about his State fairly frequently, if he wishes 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; this money must be found somewhere; so either a candidate’s family must be very wealthy, and have wealthy friends, or else the candidate may find it

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