Nepotism on the Ropes
The graph above comes from Tom Schaller, who's done some research on nepotism in the Senate and took issue with Glenn Greenwald's impression that it's gotten much worse in recent years. He writes:
[W]hen Greenwald cites U.S. senators -- and as he wrote in a related, earlier post that, "Family succession is hardly unheard of in U.S. political history, but what was once quite rare has now become pervasive" -- he's simply not right, or at least as concerns the U.S. Senate. The fact is that nepotism in the Senate is today at historical lows in American history. ...
One of the preliminary analyses we decided to conduct for the paper was to simply compute the share of U.S. senators in each Congress (through the 104th) with a relative who had served in Congress (House or Senate). As the figure above shows, the share of Senators with relatives who were serving or had served in Congress has been steadily shrinking. The passage of the 17th Amendment certainly accelerated this trend, but the downward trend predates even that significant event. As a point of reference when looking at the figure, the 64th Congress was the first in which senators -- or at least the third from seats elected that year -- were elected rather than appointed; by the 66th, the entire Senate had thus stood for election.
Encouraging! And to connect this to one of my own hobby horses, those who like to imagine the Senate is a relatively constant institution tend not to mention that until 1913 and the adoption of the 17th Amendment, senators were appointed by state legislatures rather than elected by the voters. But we eventually decided that was a bad idea, as the will of the majority should be more directly related to the workings of the United States Senate...
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