Richard R. John
This essay traces the long and productive relationship between two genres of historical writing: American political development (or APD) and American political history. It is written primarily for political scientists; a secondary audience is historians who wish to become more familiar with APD. Its focus is on the period before the adoption of the federal Constitution in 1788 and the end of the Second World War in 1945, an epoch that has long been recognized as not only formative, but also distinct from the epoch that it followed and preceded. It is, in addition, an epoch that has spawned a dialogue between APD and political history that had proved to be particularly fruitful.
Joel H. Silbey
This article provides a sweeping analysis of the history of American political parties. It specifically uses the lens of critical election theory to explore the scholarly treatment of the development of parties as institutions, of the relationship between parties and the electorate, of the means that parties have used to communicate with and build relationships with the electorate, and of the existence and definition of party systems. The Democrats' administrative state grew during the Second World War and was reinforced and further expanded during the Cold War that followed. There was increased partisan polarization in the 1990s as the Republicans regained control of the House of Representatives and vigorously set themselves against a Democratic president.
Historical institutional scholars can analyze politics as it happens, not just developments long past. A powerful theoretical approach should give clear guidance about questions worth asking and pinpoint factors that need to be taken into account to explain current and possible future developments. Historical institutional analysis stresses timing and sequence, institutional contexts, and policy feedbacks – factors that are crucial for deciphering immediately unfolding political transformations. To illustrate the point, this chapter dissects the early Obama presidency, examining why its reformist goals succeeded in some policy areas but fell short in others. In addition, the chapter explores how and why the Tea Party erupted and pushed the Republican Party further to the extreme right during the Obama presidency
Jeffery A. Jenkins
Rational choice and American political development (APD) both emerged as responses to (perceived) limitations with the dominant behavioral tradition. While their critiques were based on very different research traditions, similarities were also present; in particular, both rational choice and APD approaches focused on the importance of institutions for studying political outcomes. Over time, rational choice and APD research has converged to a significant degree, as scholars in both traditions have increasingly been exposed to different theoretical and methodological perspectives and thus become consumers of each other’s work. This chapter documents how and why rational choice research has moved in an APD direction.
Bruce I. Oppenheimer
This article begins with Robert Peabody's Congress: Two Decades of Analysis. His essay serves as a benchmark to help with the evaluation of the progress in the behavioral study of Congress. It also serves as a means for evaluating how the study of Congress has resulted in a good understanding of the workings of the institution for the past four decades. In this article, the focus is on the strengths and shortcomings of congressional research. It aims to provide a representative overview that will draw appropriate conclusions about the state of behavioral research on Congress and how it has evolved over time. It discusses topics that will illustrate the decline in the study of committees, the linking of the study of process to its policy consequences and the progress in parsing out the influence of constituency, ideology, and party on the members. It also includes topics on the dominant focus of research on the House of Representatives, the insufficient attention given to the Senate, the increasing attention given to institutional change, and the increasing dependency on a limited number of empirical measures and methodological approaches.
Frances E. Lee
In James Madison's Federalist 51, he justified the framer's stand on dividing the national legislature into two branches to disperse and check political power. Reflecting on this institutional choice, Richard F. Fenno, Jr. said that the division of the national legislature into two separate bodies had not been a much-debated issue in 1787 and has been taken for granted ever since. The case of bicameralism has been widely accepted in American politics so that up to date, the fifty state legislatures still have two chambers. In the U.S., bicameral institutions have been the most broadly and tacitly accepted of the political institutions. This article examines empirical and theoretical research on bicameral representation and suggests further avenues for investigation. After discussing theories of bicameralism, the article focuses on two topics. First, the policy and political implications of dividing the legislature into two chambers and second the constitutional features that make the two chambers different from each other.
Colin D. Moore
Over the past thirty years, scholars in the field of American Political Development (APD) have made major advances in understanding the structure and development of the US administrative state. This chapter considers the exceptionalism of the American state and reviews dominant theories advanced by scholars of APD to explain change in American bureaucracy. It also examines how the unique development of this state influences American social policy and contributes to racial and economic inequality. Evidence is drawn from some of the watershed moments of administrative state development, such as Jacksonian spoils system, the creation of a modern civil service during the Progressive Era, and the remarkable expansion of American state capacity in the post-war period. It argues that such research reveals how the liberal American state exercises power and why it developed as such a unique and fragmented set of institutions.
The importance of congressional campaign finance has been central to congressional elections. Many studies have focused on the overall role of money on election outcomes. However, the role of money in the operation of the chamber and the gradual emergence of an evenly balanced politics in congressional politics has not been thoroughly examined. Previous approaches to the role of money throw a negative light on the effects of campaign finance in Congress and fail to address more critical questions such as: What explains the current regulatory regime and why is there no public funding for congressional elections? How is fundraising prowess rewarded in Congress? Who donates to congressional elections? What does money do in electioneering? This article hence discusses the evolution and current state of campaign finance regulation for Congress, the expenditure side of congressional campaign money, the income side of campaign financing, and the implications congressional campaign fundraising for leadership ambition and legislative behavior.
B. Dan Wood
In many respects, the presidency envisioned by the founders of the American constitution was to be a passive agent of Congress. Historically under a monarchial rule, Americans have become greatly suspicious of executive power. As a result, a deliberate attempt was made to limit executive power through institutional design. Congress was granted powers to make policy while the Chief Executive was given no explicit policymaking powers. The president rather was given limited veto power to negate what was considered unwise policy. The concept of “congressional government” where the early presidents were viewed as clerks who simply carried out the will of Congress persisted in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. However, in the modern form of American government, the concept of “congressional government” has changed. Today, the presidency is widely viewed as the centerpiece of the American political system. This article addresses some questions on Congress and the executive branch through the theoretical lenses of agency theory and transaction cost politics. It specifically aims to address questions such as: What were the changes that caused a more dominant presidency than was envisioned by the founders? Why did Congress cede power to the Executive? What were the consequences of congressional delegation for power relations between Congress and the Executive?
Congressional campaigns are central to democratic governance. They are deemed as the “place where the representative form of government begins and ends” and they serve as institutional mechanisms for interactions between legislators and their constituents. While legislative scholars have long been interested in the dynamics of congressional campaigns, the field is still a largely untilled area compared to other studies. While public knowledge on the legislators as casters of roll-call votes, as members of the committee, and as introducers and cosponsors of legislations is vast and extensive, their activities as campaigners was less known about. Luckily, in the past decade, there has been increased attention given the subject. Studies on the representatives' and senators' campaign experiences and behavior lend sight into the different aspects of quality of campaign and the health of the democratic process. Studies on congressional campaigns provide insight on the information provided by the congressional campaigns to the voters; the assumed advantages of incumbent and of quality challengers compared to inexperienced politicians in terms of holding successful campaigns; and the sincerity or the lack of sincerity (cheap talk) of campaigners in their campaigns. Less obviously, but equally important, evaluation of congressional campaigns provides a rich and nuanced view of legislators' behavior in Washington. Their campaigns give perspective on their strategies and priorities, elucidate on the amount and extent of their activities in the office, and provide a broader conception on electoral connection. This article discusses current knowledge on these topics. It also highlights areas that are ripe for further research.
C. Lawrence Evans
This article outlines significant changes that have happened in congressional scholarship as it relates to committees. This article argues that the transformation of committee research reflects the emergence of rational choice modeling and increased methodological sophistication within the field of political science. While congressional scholars have often led the way in formulating and testing formal methods of politics, the transformation of committee scholarship has also arisen from important changes that have occurred within Congress since the 1960s, specifically the growing importance of party cleavages on the major issues of today. These changes have made the institution more open to rational choice analysis. The scholarly attention which is now devoted to internal committee operations and decision-making also created avenues for new research. Even within a Congress polarized along party lines, most significant legislative decisions remain to occur within the committee stage of the process, and the majority of the questions raised concerning congressional committees by the previous scholars remain relevant in Congress today.
Michael P. McDonald
Members of the United States House of Representatives represent geographically define constituencies called districts. Redistricting is the process of defining district's boundaries. It is usually practiced in legislative districts at all levels of the government worldwide. In the United States congressional districts, an elaborate redistricting process exists which mirrors the nations's decentralization of power through its federal system of government. The fifty state governments in the U.S. are responsible for defining congressional districts within their borders through their federal oversight. This article discusses congressional redistricting and the representational stakes that come with redistricting. It focuses on the significance of redistricting as an avenue for social engineering. Some of the topics discussed include redistricting motives, redistricting institutions, and redistricting criteria.
E. Scott Adler
This article provides a wide-ranging review of the political science literature on congressional reforms. It traces the historical development of literature and highlights the most significant milestones in reform research. It particularly tracks the transformation to large-N data collection and hypothesis testing in reform research, and the adoption of rational choice models of legislative organization that have guided and dominated contemporary work on the field. The article also emphasizes the long-standing interplay between scholarship and practice of congressional restructuring. It also recounts the significant role congressional scholars have played in defining the reform agenda during its various stages and movements over the twentieth century. The article concludes that although institutional understanding of Congress is now better, the remaining deficiency in the reform agenda is due to the lack of engagement between research based on sophisticated tests of well-developed models of legislative organization and the struggles of lawmakers to cure the institutional problems that affect the legislative body.
Paul J. Quirk and William Bendix
Winning and losing is a prominent feature of politics in Congress: an institution where decisions are determined by counting votes. In the politics of Congress, the more important concern is whether decisions are intelligent in the view of the circumstances of policy and the goals and interests relevant to a decision. Such intelligence depends on the manner Congress uses information and reasoning in making decisions. Simply put, intelligence depends on the quality of effectiveness of deliberation. While there has been vast research on Congress, most of it has been focused entirely on influence, coalitions, and other issues of winning and losing. Much of these research has overlooked deliberation and the intelligence of decisions. This neglect on the issue of deliberation is unfortunate as intelligent decision-making is rather difficult for Congress and stakes are generally high. Luckily, there has been an increasing interest in the process and problems of deliberation in Congress. This article reviews the development of literature that focuses on the issues of deliberation in Congress. It focuses on the conflicts and ambiguities, including advances in the literature of deliberation in Congress. It also offers some suggestions about promising directions for future work.
Descriptive Representation: Understanding the Impact of Identity on Substantive Representation of Group Interests
Michele L. Swers and Stella M. Rouse
Since 1992, the U.S. Congress has experienced dramatic change in the demographic makeup of its membership. While Congress is dominantly a male, white institution, the creation of majority-minority districts in the early 1990s resulted in the election of African-Americans and Hispanics to Congress. 1992 also saw the rise of an increased participation of women in Congress, particularly Democratic women, and this number has increased steadily over the years. The expansion of minority and female representation still continues at a slow pace. The electoral advantage of the incumbents presents a stumbling block on the advancement of new groups into the institution. Moreover, to date, few minority legislators have been elected from districts that do not contain a high percentage of minority constituents. Furthermore, women in the profession of politics often express a lack of interest in running for office and they are often subjected to the effect of “career ceilings”. While women and minorities remain underrepresented in Congress, some individual legislators have achieved seniority and enough political clout necessary to move into leadership positions. Among them is Nancy Pelosi who became the Speaker of the House in the Eleventh Congress and James Clyburn, an African-American who served as Majority Whip. This article examines theoretical expectations on the importance of descriptive representation. It evaluates empirical evidence on the impact of race, gender, and ethnicity on the behavior of legislators. The article concludes with a discussion on the important avenues for future research as the level of diversity in Congress increases and more women and minorities enter the ranks of committee and party leadership.
Stephen Ansolabehere and Philip Edward Jones
Congressional representation occurs at two levels: local and national. Constituents select their representative and the country as a whole selects the entire Congress. The understanding of congressional elections and representation similarly operates on two levels: the relationship between the individual representative and his or her constituents; and the relationship between the national conditions and the politics of the legislature as a whole. This article focuses on the first level which defines the meaning of representation in the United States. It discusses dyadic representation, or the connection between the individual members of Congress and their constituents. For Americans, Congress refers to the concept of “my representative”, the individual who represents the district in which they live. Through the lens of public policy and legislative votes, dyadic representation has many forms and faces. Dyadic representation means how well the sitting legislator acts as an agent for the constituency on legislative decisions. For American politicians, representation also means taking the role of an advocate, ombudsman, fixer, local celebrity, and friend for their constituents. This article also discusses policy and non-policy forms of dyadic representation. It discusses the policy (dyadic) and party (collective) representation which characterizes representation in the United States. The individualistic and collective nature of American representation in the United States has great influence on the members of Congress. Within this context, the party affiliation, the policy preferences of the constituents, and the policy preferences of an individual legislator play in an interweaving manner in shaping the actions and preferences of the members of Congress. The remaining part of the article focuses on the strength of the dyadic relationship in the U.S., from macro-level election data, and the ways that it is manifested in micro-level survey data.
E. E. Schattschneider’s short book, The Semi-Sovereign People: A Realist’s View of Democracy in America (1960), is an analysis of the functioning of US democracy, especially the struggle between “privatization” and “socialization” of issues as well as the competition for space on a crowded political agenda. Its major contribution was to develop the concept of agenda-setting, the “conflict of conflicts,” as an essential dimension of the policy process. Intended as a “defense of parties” manifesto against the then-popular group theories of politics, Schattschneider’s book was part of the elitist–pluralist debate in its time as well as leading to a variety of later, more empirical studies on various dimensions of the policy process. Schattschneider’s ideas have inspired many subsequent studies on agenda-setting, both in the US and abroad. This chapter examines the longer-term impact of these ideas as well as the book’s shortcomings, such as lack of attention to the media.
Terrence A. Maxwell
This article investigates the executive function in New York State. The governor of New York is considered among the most powerful executives in the 50 states, while the actual degree of direct control that the state's chief executive wields is circumscribed by historical and structural conditions. While the governor has been given broad administrative and legislative powers, the administrative mandate is circumscribed in several areas. New York's constitution defined the governor's role more clearly than most states, and the state's governor was the first in the nation directly elected by the people. The negotiations between the governor and legislature laid the groundwork for many subsequent decisions that continue to shape New York's executive branch. The significant areas of executive branch reorganization are explained. The data on the executive branch organization and reorganization in New York show the potential success of state government restructuring efforts.
William G. Howell
This article provides a survey of the state of quantitative research on the presidency twenty-five years after Edwards issued his original entreaty. It briefly documents the publication trends on quantitative research on the presidency that has been found by a variety of professionals. This is followed by a review of the contributions of selected quantitative studies to long-standing debates about the centralization of presidential policy-making, presidential authority, and public appeals. This article focuses on the ways recent scholarship addresses methodological issues that regularly affect studies of the organization of political institutions, their interactions with the public, and their influence in systems of separated powers.
David Brian Robertson
Federalism has influenced American political development deeply because it has been used as a powerful, enduring weapon in battles over politics and policy. The Constitution authorized the national government to exercise the tools of national sovereignty, but authorized the states to govern most of everyday life. This constitutional arrangement has encouraged interstate competition and market-driven economic growth, while it has impeded policies aimed at mitigating economic hardship and inequality. Federalism encouraged fragmented political parties and a pluralistic interest group system, splintering both organized business and trade unions and thus many political conflicts. State policy initiation has left domestic policy profoundly fragmented and unequal. Decentralized power allowed states to implement separate and inferior citizenship rights for different categories of citizens, most prominently, racial minorities and women. In turn, state laws and their legacy frequently shape national efforts to mitigate these inequalities.