Proponents say repealing the 17th Amendment would make Senators more responsive to state governments. But Salon's Alex Seitz-Wald disagrees, pointing out the 17th Amendment was originally designed to prevent corruption.
But repealing the 17th Amendment would be far worse than merely undemocratic. In fact, democracy wasn’t the main motivation behind the amendment at all; corruption was. If you think campaign finance is bad now, image how much easier it is to buy an election when you only have to reach a handful of state legislators instead of an entire state’s electorate. Lewis Gould, a history professor emeritus at the University of Texas at Austin who wrote a book about the Senate in the 20th century, told Salon that by the turn of the century, there was a “stench in the nostrils” of many Americans about how senators were elected. “It was much easier to manipulate and much cheaper — the cost per vote was much smaller,” he explained.
The Senate developed such a bad reputation that a popular fable had it that President Grover Cleveland’s wife woke him up in the middle of the night to alert him that there were “robbers in the house.” To that, a sleepy Cleveland replied, “I think you are mistaken. There are no robbers in the House, but there are plenty in the Senate.” Sen. William Frye from Maine wrote to a friend in 1889, “You do not believe that a man should buy a United States Senatorship, nor do I, yet there are several in our distinguished body who hold their seats by purchase.”
The Senate’s official historical office notes:
Intimidation and bribery marked some of the states’ selection of senators. Nine bribery cases were brought before the Senate between 1866 and 1906. In addition, forty-five deadlocks occurred in twenty states between 1891 and 1905, resulting in numerous delays in seating senators. In 1899, problems in electing a senator in Delaware were so acute that the state legislature did not send a senator to Washington for four years.