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The Challenge of Congressional Representation

The Challenge of Congressional Representation

Richard F. Fenno
Copyright Date: 2013
Published by: Harvard University Press
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  • Book Info
    The Challenge of Congressional Representation
    Book Description:

    At a moment when Congress is viewed by a skeptical public as hyper-partisan and dysfunctional, Richard Fenno provides a variegated picture of American representational politics. The Challenge of Congressional Representation offers an up-close-and-personal look at the complex relationship between members of Congress and their constituents back home.

    eISBN: 978-0-674-07428-6
    Subjects: Political Science, History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. [i]-[iv])
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. [v]-[viii])
  3. Introduction
    (pp. 1-3)

    There are numerous reasons why political scientists might be interested in the individual, as well as the collective, activities of our elected politicians. Whatever the reasons might be—theoretical or practical—our interest in their collective behavior patterns has dominated contemporary political science research. In our work on Congress, studies involving career patterns, roll call vote patterns, committee activity patterns, and partisan voting patterns—both cross-sectional and over time—have been dominant. And individual politicians have usually ended up as integers destined for burial in large data collections. Except for the occasional biographical reference, the activities of particular individuals have...

  4. 1 Constituencies, Connections, and Representation: A Research Focus
    (pp. 4-14)

    The United States Congress is both a representative and a legislative institution. Its members are elected individually; and they legislate collectively. By conceptualizing, packaging, and studying vote strategies and vote patterns inside Congress, political scientists have gained remarkable explanatory purchase in studying the organizing and decision-making activities of our elected representatives—when, that is, House members (and senators) calculate and act inside the legislature. At the same time, however, we have been remarkably slow to study the connecting- and support-building activities of our elected representatives when they calculate and act outside the legislature. The result is a marked inside/outside political science...

  5. 2 Barber Conable: Local Boy
    (pp. 15-44)

    In November 1964, Republican Barber B. Conable Jr. was elected to Congress from my Upstate New York district. Two weeks later—prodded by a commission from theNew York Times Magazine—we met and talked over lunch at the University of Rochester.¹ I had interviewed many House members in Washington, but this was my very first interview with a member of Congress in the member’s home constituency. Getting acquainted with Barber Conable was preparation for a planned two-day visit with him in Washington. There was, at the time, no idea whatever of doing research inside Barber Conable’s—or anyone else’s...

  6. 3 Glenn Poshard: Textbook Representative
    (pp. 45-84)

    Glenn Poshard, Democrat of Illinois, served in the US House of Representatives from the late 1980s to the late 1990s. When we met, in the spring of 1996, he was fifty years old and campaigning for a fifth term. He had been born, raised, educated, and made his living in his spacious Southern Illinois congressional district. Only once had he left home— to serve in the US Army in Korea. After which he returned—with his GI Bill to earn BA and PhD degrees from Southern Illinois University (SIU) at Carbondale. During and after college, he lived and worked in...

  7. 4 Karen Thurman: Promising Legislator
    (pp. 85-132)

    When we met in Florida, in 1994, US Representative Karen Thurman was a forty-three-year-old Democrat and former schoolteacher who had served for ten years in the Florida State Senate. She had been elected to Congress in 1992, from a newly created district. We met through the good offices of a student of mine who had worked for her at the State Capitol in Tallahassee. We traveled around together in her home district for a total of seven days during three campaign seasons—in the fall of 1994, the summer of 1996, and the fall of 2002. And we visited briefly...

  8. Addendum I: Two Representatives: Two Connection Patterns
    (pp. 133-137)

    Representatives Karen Thurman and Glenn Poshard were chosen for study independently. But they had enough in common and in contrast to encourage comparison. Both were open, down-to-earth, unpretentious individuals. They took their work seriously and worked hard at the tasks they valued most. Neither one made a noteworthy splash inside the House. They came; they set their goals; they fought their fights in and out of Washington; and they left. They were easy to travel with and to learn from.

    Both members were Democrats in their fifties; and both were schoolteachers by profession. Both came to Congress directly from service...

  9. 5 Jim Greenwood: Moderate Republican
    (pp. 138-184)

    In 1994, the research year that had begun in Karen Thurman’s sprawling, multicounty Florida constituency ended in a compact, single-county constituency in Pennsylvania. The trip had taken the researcher from an artifactual and unorganized 4,200-square-mile territory to a 600-square-mile cluster of identifiable and interrelated parts. The new playing field was Pennsylvania’s Eighth Congressional District, located in the suburbs of Philadelphia. Ninety-eight percent of it was contained within a single well-bounded, historically rich, and politically organized place, Bucks County.¹ The county, in turn, divided itself into three well-recognized sections—Upper Bucks, Middle Bucks (a.k.a. Central Bucks), and Lower Bucks.² Each of...

  10. 6 Zoe Lofgren: Liberal Democrat
    (pp. 185-223)

    In Northern California, in the fall of 1996, this political scientist’s closing adventure began in the home constituency of Democratic Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren. Her birthplace and playing field was San Francisco Bay Area’s Santa Clara County—primarily the city of San Jose, plus a few outlying towns.¹ She was a lawyer—a graduate of Stanford University and of Santa Clara University Law School. She had been elected to Congress two years earlier, in 1994.

    We traveled her congressional district at the end of her first term in the fall of 1996, and again at the end of her third term...

  11. Addendum II: Two Partisans, Two Playing Fields
    (pp. 224-226)

    In contrast to the sprawling, multicounty constituencies of Karen Thurman and Glenn Poshard, both Jim Greenwood of Pennsylvania and Zoe Lofgren of California represented compact, accessible, and, essentially single-county districts. Their constituency connection patterns present a contrast between those of a successful suburban Republican moderate and those of an equally successful urban liberal Democrat. Both of them had enjoyed precongressional electoral success—he in a state legislature, she on a county-wide governing board. Their willingness to take on a stranger promised marked variations in geographical location, constituency makeup, partisan affiliation, issue preference patterns, congressional priorities, and personal opportunities.

    The connection...

  12. 7 Constituency-Centered Scholarship
    (pp. 227-234)

    There are numerous reasons why students of American politics might want to study the US House of Representatives. And there are numerous angles from which to do so. The small set of studies presented here—of a few politicians, their home places, their policy preferences, and their connection patterns—tells us that much. The studies have been presented in hopes of nudging our scholarly attention toward the comparative study of House member activity in their home constituencies. From ambition to accountability, via immersion and inquiry, we have watched and talked with a few of them as they worked in their...

  13. Notes
    (pp. 235-252)
  14. Acknowledgments
    (pp. 253-254)
  15. Index
    (pp. 255-261)