Network News

X My Profile
View More Activity

Nepotism on the Ropes

senatorial relations.PNG

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...

By Ezra Klein  |  September 3, 2009; 11:57 AM ET
Categories:  Senate  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Tom Toles Is on Fire Lately
Next: Lunch Break


Now I'm fairly innumerate, so I don't know if this is statistically meaningful, but in 1790 there were 3.9 million americans, and now there are over 300 million. Would some of this be accounted for by the fact that there were less people to be related to? Though I suppose congress was corresponding smaller back then. So, in sum, this comment represented an half-baked thought developed and recorded in real time. Internet, what!

Posted by: UberMitch | September 3, 2009 12:20 PM | Report abuse

Well, I'm torn on this issue.

I like the idea of directly electing my Senator. Then again, oftentimes it can be easier to gain control of a state legislature than it is to unseat a sitting senator with a multimillion dollar special interest war chest.

For my part, getting fresh blood is important. So what I would like to see is what the turnover rate was before the 17th amendment, and what it has been since...

Posted by: J-NC | September 3, 2009 12:22 PM | Report abuse

So, does this mean that the 12th Amendment was a good or bad thing? Before the 12th, a divided Senate would have been subject to the vote of the Vice President, who would have been the non-majority Presidential candidate; further, the majority's hold on the Presidency was held accountable by the possibility of a "2nd Amendment" mid-term election.

Posted by: rmgregory | September 3, 2009 2:56 PM | Report abuse

Interesting graphic. Thanks for posting it.

Posted by: tbass1 | September 3, 2009 5:29 PM | Report abuse

Unfortunately, Glenn Greenwald wasn't just talking about the Senate -- he was talking about the whole of the federal government as well as the media stars who cover it and the crossover between the two. So the graph doesn't really refute Glenn's argument, it just cherry-picks a subset of his targets.

Posted by: fmvolpe | September 4, 2009 9:19 AM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

RSS Feed
Subscribe to The Post

© 2010 The Washington Post Company