Going Native (Inside the Beltway)

I always tell my students that Senators and Representatives are more in touch with their constituents than most people think. Re-election depends on it, so they pay attention to the hometown newspapers and host town-hall meetings and coffee hours when they’re back in their state/district, and they count up the phone calls, letters and emails from constituents, so whether or not they like what they hear, to do hear.

But of course there remains a persistent suspicion, and not wholly unfounded, that long-serving politicians develop a Beltway mentality; they become Washingtonians more than Michiganders, Hoosiers and Oregonians. So I was intrigued to read the following snippet from James Madison’s Notes on the Federal Convention.

The duration of the 2d. branch [FN1] under consideration.

Mr. GHORUM moved to fill the blank with “six years,” one third of the members to go out every second year.

Mr. WILSON 2ded. the motion.

Genl. PINKNEY opposed six years in favor of four years. The States he said had different interests. Those of the Southern, and of S. Carolina in particular were different from the Northern. If the Senators should be appointed for a long term, they wd. settle in the State where they exercised their functions; and would in a little time be rather the representatives of that than of the State appointg. them.

Apparently, out-of-touch representatives is an age-old concern.

Also of interest, Delaware’s George Read (variously, Reid) proposed a nine year term, with one third to be re-elected triennially. Did this shift the Overton Window to make 6 years more acceptable?

And Pinkney proposed that there be no pay for Senators, because “As this [the Senatorial] branch was meant to represent the wealth of the Country, it ought to be composed of persons of wealth; and if no allowance was to be made the wealthy alone would undertake the service.” I wonder how long, if enacted, that would have lasted?

The full recounting of the day’s debate can be read at Yale Law School’s indispensable Avalon Project.

About J@m3z Aitch

J@m3z Aitch is a two-bit college professor who'd rather be canoeing.
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8 Responses to Going Native (Inside the Beltway)

  1. Scott Hanley says:

    Apparently, out-of-touch representatives is an age-old concern.

    Let’s not forget that the colonists had already been offered — and rejected — the theory that “virtual representation” by English MP’s was adequate to protect their interests. How to tie Congresscritters to their voters was no minor issue at the time. They also long held to the idea that only farmers could represent farmers’ interests, trademen tradesmen’s interests, and so forth.

  2. Matty says:

    I didnt know that claim was made, after all MPs have always been held to `represent` a specific geographical constituency. OK sometimes they have been expected to represent their areas `interests` independent of the actual opinions of anyone in the constituency but saying they were also representatives for colonies they had no individual connection with is a new one too me.

  3. D. C. Sessions says:

    they pay attention to the hometown newspapers and host town-hall meetings and coffee hours when they’re back in their state/district

    But which of their constituents do they invite to those meetings? Because I’ve been tracking “my” representative (Schweikert) since last summer, and he’s yet to appear at any event in Arizona where I’m welcome unless I bring large amounts of money.

  4. J@m3z Aitch says:

    So I looked up your Rep’s congressional web page and viewed his “events” page. Curiously, it’s blank. Here’s my Rep’s webpage. IMO he’s a douche, a social conservative prig. But at least I could go to one of his coffee hours could I stomach his smug moralistic face. So I guess he’s better than your guy.

  5. D. C. Sessions says:

    Blank, and been blank for more than a year, barring closed fundraisers.
    As for your rep being “better” than mine — no argument. What’s annoying is not that I live in a district that attracted both Schweikert and Quayle, but that when I move to NM I get to live in the one district in the State that has another of their stripe. Nice people, they deserve better — but the district is pretty much West West Texas.

  6. J@m3z Aitch says:

    Dude, I’m from Quayle’s district! And I now live in another moral majoritarian’s district. I feel your pain, brother.

  7. D. C. Sessions says:

    In my case, it’s Baby Quayle — Ben, not Dan. Of course, Daddy ran the whole campaign for him so it was a case of “vote for my little boy because I’m so awesome.”
    That was in 2010. Then the Independent Redistricting Commission (PBUT) rearranged the lines and Quayle and Schweikert were in a cage match last year.

  8. James Hanley says:

    Whoa, I knew nothing about him. I’m sorry for you, but I can’t adequately express my relief that he’s safely far away from my home state.

    To give daddy Dan his due, though, he was a good campaigner.

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