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.