In Federalist Papers 52, 62 – 63 and 68, the electoral processes for the United States national government are described and defended. If you have ever wondered why senate seats are six years long, why representatives from the house are elected every other year, or why there are even a Senate or House of Representatives in the first place, then those Federalist Papers would answer these questions. The bottom line? A mechanism for anti-corruption, and a government which can still maintain stability and take action.
Frequent meetings, frequent elections
Federalist paper No. 52 states, “Frequent elections are unquestionably the only policy by which this dependence and sympathy can be effectually secured.” This is something I not only agree with, but find myself asking the question, “Are elections frequent enough?” I recently watched Charlie Wilson’s War where Tom Hanks plays Charlie and he says something along the lines of, “I keep getting elected for doing nothing.” Not only does that statement bring light to the problem with elected officials, it also raises another question, “Why do we call a presidency’s second term ‘Lame Duck?’” And why does every president seemingly come out with a policy in his third year in office of the first term, to get re-elected? Or spend most of his time campaigning to get re-elected? In any case Hamilton is right, frequent elections are important.
Hamilton goes on to talk about why parliament needs to meet frequently as well. Referencing how monarchies of Kings have disallowed sessions, until Charles II brought it to a three year maximum intermission. “…the greatest frequency of elections which has been deemed necessary in that kingdom, for binding the representatives to their constituents, does not exceed a triennial return of them. And if we may argue from the degree of liberty retained even under septennial elections, and all the other vicious ingredients in the parliamentary constitution, we cannot doubt that a reduction of the period from seven to three years, with the other necessary reforms, would so far extend the influence of the people over their representatives” So frequent elections also mean closer ties between the government and the people. It also means that “stuff gets done” and a degree of responsibility is present. That’s probably why the House of Representatives are on as low as two year terms.
To further that responsibility Hamilton says, “Responsibility, in order to be reasonable, must be limited to objects within the power of the responsible party, and in order to be effectual, must relate to operations of that power, of which a ready and proper judgment can be formed by the constituents.” Elections surely keep this in check. If officials go out of line, or past the judgment of “reasonable,” back lash and outcry occur, and at least a replacement for the next elections will be present to escape the iniquity.
It is interesting to note that the Senators are supposed to be older and have stayed longer in America. They have to be 30 instead of 25. They have to live in America for 9 years instead of 7, comparatively to the House of Representatives.
As for equal state representation - I don’t find it as relevant any more. Now a days everyone says they are American. No one is “statist.” It’s more symbolic than anything else now. Plus the senators from big states get more symbolic power any way. (That Californian senator pulls more weight than Rhode Island...)
Federalist paper 62 reads, “A good government implies two things: first, fidelity to the object of government, which is the happiness of the people; secondly, a knowledge of the means by which that object can be best attained. Some governments are deficient in both these qualities; most governments are deficient in the first.” Unhappy people would use elections as a way of becoming happy. If they don’t like what a representative or senator has done they can elect a new official instead. They aren’t life time appointments like some judge positions. Ironically Hamilton points out that the Senate is the first part of government that is corrupted. “It is evident that the Senate must be first corrupted before it can attempt an establishment of tyranny. Without corrupting the State legislatures, it cannot prosecute the attempt, because the periodical change of members would otherwise regenerate the whole body.” At the same time, government must have the ability to maintain stability and take action responsibly. "Responsibility, in order to be reasonable, must be limited to objects within the power of the responsible party, and in order to be effectual, must relate to operations of that power." - Federalist #63
Officials in our government represent the American people, or as Hamilton says “The difference most relied on, between the American and other republics, consists in the principle of representation.” Representation is best constituted through elections because of the spoken of responsibility. Then, Elections create stable government. To get rid of a dictator you need a coup. To get rid of a bad official you just have to wait for the next election. “Great injury results from an unstable government.” Frequent elections then, create even more stable government.