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date: 21 June 2021

Reflections on the Study of Congress 1969–2009

Abstract and Keywords

This article offers a reflection on the study of Congress. From the personal perspective of the author, the article examines the progress of congressional studies during the past half-century. It examines the evolution of the Textbook Congress and the inside and outside models of congressional studies. In the study of Congress in the 1950s and 1960s, the behavioral movement that invaded the study of Congress drew primarily on sociology and social-psychology for its core concepts. During this period, scholars examined roles, norms, and sanctions, integration, conflict management, and socialization. The explanatory frameworks in the background were those of small group and systems theories. By the turn of the late 1960s, congressional studies were beginning to find existing frameworks inadequate as illustrated by Fennos's move to a more purposive goal-oriented framework. In the late 1960s, rational choice ideas were virtually absent from the field and by the late 1970s, a kind of informal soft rational choice was becoming common. Renewal of scholarly criticism also became prevalent in the study of Congress. Evaluation and criticism of congressional procedures and policies became more common in the literature as scholars gradually became willing to draw out the implications of their findings for representation, responsiveness, accountability, governance, efficiency, and other long-standing concerns in democratic theory. Overall, the study of Congress has shown remarkable progress during the past half-century. The research enterprise has adapted to significant changes in political conditions by making significant changes in methodological approaches. The result is a significant advance in our understanding of Congress, and an improved capacity to evaluate it.

Keywords: study of Congress, progress, congressional studies, Textbook Congress, inside models, outside models, purposive goal-oriented framework, rational choice ideas, scholarly criticism, evaluation

The editors of this Handbook have invited two senior scholars to reflect on the study of Congress. Other than a word limit, the invitation offered no guidance about what was expected, perhaps reflecting a pessimistic belief that scholars our age tend to ignore such instructions anyway, or perhaps expressing a more optimistic hope that we might write something more interesting if unguided, than if guided. I will assume the latter more positive interpretation and hope that the editors' confidence is justified. On reflection I have decided to make no attempt at a comprehensive mulling‐over of forty‐odd years of work. Rather, I will write from the standpoint of one personally associated with a number of lines of research and one particular approach. This is certainly not to discount other lines of work and other approaches, but only to express my confidence that these will be adequately covered by the authors of the earlier chapters in this volume.

(p. 862) The road to the textbook Congress

My association with congressional studies began in the spring of 1969 when a dozen or so University of Rochester graduate students crowded into Richard Fenno's quasi‐ annual Congress seminar.1 The literature was relatively sparse at the time, but growing rapidly. As Polsby and Schickler (2002) recount, political science as we know it today had only recently come to the study of Congress. Briefly summarizing their discussion, beginning in the 1950s a few empirically minded scholars with a behavioral orientation had moved into what previously had been a subfield, characterized more by evaluative and prescriptive than empirical work. Then around 1960 the fruits of the American Political Science Association Congressional Fellowship Program began to appear in the literature, and by the end of the decade the APSA Study of Congress Project was producing a rich scholarly return on its investment. Looking back it is clear to see how this first generation of research cumulated into what Shepsle (1989) later termed the “Textbook Congress,” a stable, rule‐bound institution inhabited by weak party leaders, strong full committee chairs, and a rank and file relatively unconstrained by constituents, parties, interest groups, and presidents, whose congressional careers advanced slowly and predictably through the inviolable operation of seniority.2 By the time this portrait had become widely accepted it was already beginning to change, but we didn't know that at the time.3 More on that below.

As I recall, the first two‐thirds or so of Fenno's seminar was devoted to careful reading and evaluation of recently published books and articles. We discussed Bauer, Poole, and Dexter (1968) on interest groups, compared classic case studies like Stephen Bailey (1950) to the latest ones like Eidenberg and Morey (1969), learned all about norms in the Senate (Matthews 1960), the House Appropriations Committee (Fenno 1962), and the House Ways and Means Committee (Manley 1965). And we pored over historical articles by Bob Peabody, Nelson Polsby, Doug Price, and Rip Ripley. Although Home Style (Fenno 1978) was far in the future, Fenno had already begun thinking about representation, so we spent a session or two reading a thin and generally confusing literature on congressional and state legislative constituencies and elections, the starting point for what became my Ph.D. thesis (Fiorina 1974). (p. 863) This eclectic list of topics shows just how far the field has developed. Today scholars conduct entire seminars on several of the topics we covered in a week or two.4

In “The Institutionalization of the U.S. House of Representatives,” Polsby (1968) advanced a sweeping evolutionary account of the House. His argument illustrates a style of thinking that was quite common in that era—a tendency to view the world in terms of (generally positive) continuous development toward some end, a progressive view of politics and society. Thus, earlier in the decade sociologists had pronounced the “end of ideology” (e.g. Bell 1960). Simplifying, in a world where the ends of foreign policy (the containment of Communism) and domestic policy (economic growth and prosperity) were consensual, the only remaining questions were ones of means. Pragmatic policymaking would replace ideological struggle. The kinds of ideological conflicts that had taken place in the advanced democracies in the first half of the twentieth century were things of the past. Later in the decade Time magazine noted that theologians were debating the question, “Is God Dead?” According to modernization theory, as societies developed economically and became more prosperous, and as education—especially science education—spread, the inevitable consequence was the fading away of traditional religion and the ascendance of secularization.

Polsby's argument was more specific and limited, of course. In order for democratically elected legislatures to retain legitimacy and perform the necessary functions of lawmaking and representation they must be institutionalized, where the latter term encompassed three major components. First, the legislature had to be bounded—differentiated from the rest of the political and societal environment. The chief indicator of such boundaries would be a stable membership, one characterized by low turnover and high tenure. Second, the legislature had to be internally differentiated, evidencing specialization and division of labor. The chief indicators of such differentiation in the U.S. House were the committee system, the formal party leadership structure, and the presence of staff and other support structures. Third, the legislature would operate according to automatic or universalistic procedures, rather than personal or political considerations. For example, members would advance to committee leadership positions via recognized and accepted procedures like seniority, rather than membership in one or another personal or political faction. Judged according to these criteria, the U.S. House of Representatives was clearly one of the most institutionalized legislatures in the world.

Polsby himself noted that curvilinearities in his data indicated that the process of institutionalization could reverse (and had, in the case of the Civil War era), but my sense is that there was a widespread, if unstated, view that the process of institutionalization was one of movement toward a teleological end, the textbook Congress in this case.5 Few, if any of us, could have foreseen the “reform era” which was about to burst upon us, let alone a return to anything approaching the caucus (p. 864) government days of the Woodrow Wilson Administration (Haines 1915), which the Republican Congresses of the post‐reform era seemed to approach (Chapter 21, this volume).

As it turned out, developments beginning in the mid‐ to late 1960s were providing strong suggestions that pronouncements of the end of ideology were premature. And by the late 1970s it was clear that the same was true for pronouncements of the death of God. Similarly, within a few years of Fenno's 1969 seminar, developments in Congress provided the first indications that some aspects of institutionalization as Polsby had defined it indeed were reversing, and the textbook Congress was passing from the scene.

From inside to outside models

Among our seminar readings was a review of the legislative literature by Heinz Eulau and Katherine Hinckley (1966). Their review was organized under two major headings: the “inside model” and the “outside model,” with subheads dealing with the major examples of each.6 Studies that adopted the inside model explained features of congressional behavior and operation by reference to factors internal to the institution, especially the fellow members—not only the sticks and carrots controlled by party leaders and committee chairs, but the informal expectations of peers. Fenno's (1962) study of the norms constraining member behavior in the House Appropriations Committee at mid‐century epitomized the inside model. Studies that adopted the outside model explained features of congressional behavior and operation by reference to factors outside the institution—chiefly political parties, interest groups, and constituents. Turner's (1951) detailed roll‐call analyses that described, ethnic, racial, regional, and urban–rural constituency cleavages in roll‐call voting epitomized the outside model.

Of course, some studies like Jones' (1961) analysis of agriculture policy in Congress did not fit neatly into one category or the other. Moreover, the object to be explained had much to do with whether a scholar took up an inside or outside model. If the goal was to account for the failure of an Appropriations Committee member to offer floor amendments to the Committee bill, inside factors obviously come first to mind. But if the goal was to explain why members from agricultural districts cast roll‐call votes differently from their colleagues from urban districts, then outside factors just as obviously come primarily to mind.

(p. 865) Still, I think that in addition to distinctions between the congressional dependent variables, a temporal trend was operating; namely, that the textbook Congress was increasingly subject to outside influences, so that over time the inside model came to explain less about congressional features of interest and the outside model more. The late 1960s and early 1970s was a time of great political upheaval. The surprising primary candidacy of George Wallace in 1964 showed the potency of the racial issue and its potential to split the New Deal Democratic Coalition. Bitter disagreement over the conduct of the Vietnam War and reaction to the rise of the counter‐culture reinforced the racial split, enabling Republicans to reorient their appeal and make inroads into significant groups heretofore in the Democratic coalition—especially southern whites and northern blue‐collar workers. The country saw the rise of new social movements and an “advocacy explosion” (Berry 1989). Journalists and political scientists described and decried the decomposition of the parties. Political scientists noticed the growth of an incumbency advantage (Erikson 1971; Mayhew 1974a), and more generally the rise of candidate‐centered politics. This new, more fragmented, more conflictual political environment soon found a reflection in Congress. My recollection is that congressional scholars first noted unusually harsh words spoken in floor debate in the late 1960s, as well as increasing examples of declining deference to committees and declining committee cohesion (even in Appropriations!), but soon more systematic evidence began to accrue. Asher (1973) reported the erosion of some congressional norms. Less senior Democrats representing constituencies and interest groups disadvantaged in the textbook Congress forced major changes in the rules and internal power structure of Congress, changes carefully tracked by scholars such as David Brady, Joseph Cooper, Roger Davidson, Thomas Mann, Walter Oleszek, Norman Ornstein, David Rohde, and others (Chapters 30, 33, 21, this volume). By 1980 the emerging post‐reform Congress looked quite different from the picture of the textbook Congress painted in the 1960s.

Shepsle argued that the textbook Congress reflected an equilibrium of geography, jurisdiction, and party. From the New Deal to the 1960s, the electoral landscape was fairly stable. With only short interruptions in 1946 and 1952, Democratic majorities controlled Congress, but the party was split between northern and southern wings, neither of which was strong enough to assert its will except to block legislation; southern Democrats and Republicans together could kill the more liberal initiatives of northern Democrats (Sundquist 1981). Most members came from safe districts. Internal processes reflected these electoral facts, and equilibrium prevailed. But this equilibrium began to give way in the 1970s, buffeted by demographic changes like the movement of African Americans from the South to the North; the growth of the Sunbelt (Polsby 2004); suburbanization (Fiorina and Abrams 2009); the reapportionment revolution (Ansolabehere and Snyder 2008); the rise of new interests (Berry 1989); and other factors, all of which changed the electoral environment. The result was a Congress whose members were less insulated from outside forces: internal processes were more open to the inspection of those forces, and internal operations were more susceptible to influence by those forces.

(p. 866) Thus, the increasing emphasis on the outside model was largely a reflection of the research agendas of congressional scholars, agendas that I have always felt follow what is actually transpiring in the real world to a greater degree than the agendas of many subfields of political science. When Congress appeared to be an elite men's (mostly) club whose members were, if not unworried, at least not terrified by constituents and interest groups, the language of the inside model—sociological and social‐ psychological concepts like role expectations, norms, and sanctions—seemed quite appropriate. But in the changed environment of the 1970s, when Congress appeared to have become an every man (still mostly) for himself collection of individual entrepreneurs, researchers soon reached for the language of economics.

From sociology to economics

Near the end of our seminar Fenno distributed draft chapters of what was to become Congressmen in Committees (1973), assigning us to read and come prepared to critically discuss the work next session. We eagerly took up the task. In forty years in the profession I have never since encountered anything approaching the level of arrogance that prevailed among Rochester graduate students of that era. After digesting the chapters the participants in our seminar collectively decided that they simply would not do. Heart‐wrenching though it might be, it was our duty to save Fenno from the embarrassment of publishing the manuscript with its then‐existing framework of member goals, committee goals, and policy outcomes.

On the appointed day we filed into the classroom and took our seats around the table, our mood somber in light of what must be done. Dave Rohde, one of our more senior members, took the lead. He patiently explained to Fenno that from social choice theory we knew that collectivities did not have goals, only individuals had goals.7 Thus, the whole concept of committee goals must be excised from the manuscript. Others followed Rohde. I helpfully suggested that perhaps Fenno could reformulate committee goals as decision rules that the committee believed would maximize achievement of their individual goals in the legislative context. Someone else (Richard McKelvey?) suggested that committee goals could be viewed as coalition strategies that the committee members believed were optimal, given their environments. Showing his characteristic good humor Fenno absorbed our pious pronouncements with a bemused look on his face.

By the time Congressmen in Committees appeared several years later we had all left the scene, but we were elated on reading its now classic formulation (p. 867) of member goals/environmental constraints/strategic premises/decision‐making processes/policy decisions. If the author of “The House Appropriations Committee as a Political System” could be turned to the rational choice side, the future looked bright; far brighter than we could imagine, as it turned out. A year later Mayhew (1974b) published his classic Congress: The Electoral Connection and the field has not been the same since. Mayhew's sweeping reformulation of the ever‐accumulating literature under an informal rational choice framework, based on the single motivational assumption of reelection, took the congressional field by storm.

The behavioral movement that invaded the study of Congress in the 1950s and 1960s drew primarily on sociology and social‐psychology for its core concepts. Scholars examined roles (e.g. Huitt 1961), norms and sanctions (e.g. Huitt 1957; Matthews 1960), and integration, conflict management, and socialization (e.g. Fenno 1962, 1965; Manley 1965, 1970). The explanatory frameworks in the background were those of small group and systems theories. By the late 1960s congressional scholars were beginning to find those frameworks inadequate, as illustrated by Fenno's move from an approach rooted in structural‐functionalism and systems theory in his study of the House Appropriations Committee, to a more purposive goal‐oriented framework in his comparative committee study.8 Fenno's move was symptomatic of a more general move within the study of Congress. In the late 1960s rational choice ideas were virtually absent from the field; by the late 1970s a kind of informal “soft” rational choice approach had become a common, if not the most common, approach.9

As Polsby and Schickler note, the movement of rational choice ideas into the study of Congress reflected more general currents in political science, but it seems to me that there were two features of the move into congressional studies that were distinct. The first was the speed with which rational choice ideas took hold. The second was the peacefulness with which the intellectual transition occurred.

Anthony Downs published An Economic Theory of Democracy in 1957. This rational choice account of democratic politics and policymaking certainly had an impact, and was generally regarded as a provocative new take on the subject, but it did not become the most common approach to any of the subjects it addressed for nearly two decades. In contrast, within a few years Mayhew's mode of analyzing Congress had become the dominant mode. No doubt part of the explanation is simply that Downs proposed a theory of democracy, whereas Mayhew offered only a theory of Congress. Moreover, in addition to greater generality, some parts of Downs' subject, principally mass political behavior, have proved less amenable to rational choice analysis than Mayhew's subject of an institution containing a small number of professional politicians whose political lives were periodically at stake. But I think a larger part of the explanation was that the Congress that scholars were observing was clearly changing. During the “reform era” (Chapters 30 and 21, this volume) members transformed the textbook Congress in reaction to events and developments in their environment, and (p. 868) the Congress that emerged in the post‐reform era differed in significant ways from the pre‐reform Congresses.

As is generally recognized, systems and related theories are not of much help in accounting for change. They offer mechanisms for system maintenance— socialization into patterns of norms and sanctions for those who violate them, for example. But they offer no explicit predictions for when individuals cease to follow the norms even under threat of sanction, or when individuals choose not to sanction violators and the norms change or disappear. In an era of ongoing change the frameworks used to describe the stable Congresses of the mid‐century seemed less useful.

The individualistic rational choice model advanced by Mayhew filled the explanatory gap. The method fit the time. Above all, individual members desired to be reelected; hence, they would design the institution so as to maximize attainment of the reelection goal. When electoral conditions dramatically changed, as they had, one would expect members to remodel the institution. The outside world—Fenno's environmental constraints—was the engine of change. The equilibrium represented by the textbook Congress was upset and replaced by a new one when members found the old equilibrium no longer optimal for attaining their goals in a changed world.10

I don't have one simple hypothesis for how the transition from a sociological and social‐psychological approach could happen with less intellectual conflict than in many other subfields, but there are several factors that probably contributed. One is the highly empirical orientation of those who study Congress. It has often been noted that the density of scholarly arguments about theories and approaches in a subfield is inversely related to the amount of data available (some subfields of International Relations, until recently, for example). When shown an approach that seemed to shed more explanatory light on an empirical question that intrigued them, congressional scholars did not hesitate to adopt it. Again, the method fit the time. Had Mayhew published in 1960, acceptance likely would have been slower.

A second contributing factor might be that adopting a rational choice framework did not require anyone to renounce their previous work or pull down the statues of earlier scholarly heroes. Most of the empirical findings in the subfield were susceptible to reinterpretation in rational choice terms. Shepsle's general portrayal of the textbook Congress as an equilibrium is an obvious example, but there are numerous much more specific reinterpretations as well. Weingast (1979) reformulated congressional norms like universalism and reciprocity as coalition strategies that overcame the instability of the distributive politics game. Krehbiel (1991) showed how specialization in committees could make perfect (rational) sense. Steve Smith (1989), and Gary Cox and Mat McCubbins (1993), offered a rich portrait of the role played by congressional rules and procedures.

(p. 869) Still a third contributing factor is the most impressionistic and subjective, but I believe that it did play a role, and that is the stance of the senior leadership in the subfield. These senior scholars were generally open‐minded to the newer approach, emphasizing that the goal was greater understanding of the Congress, not scoring academic points, and they set an example of professionalism for younger scholars. In the summer of 1974 I was fortunate to attend a large conference on Congress in Aspen, Colorado. For several days modelers, roll‐call analysts, and soakers and pokers peacefully interacted with one another.11 A lot of us left that conference with generally positive views of our fellow congressional scholars, whatever their methodological persuasions, and feeling that we would try to maintain the relationships established there. To a considerable degree I believe the research community succeeded. If one looks at the work of important senior congressional scholars today, and the students they have trained, one sees scholars who confidently use basic rational choice ideas in detailed empirical analysis of questions, some of which first arose during a more sociological era.12

One final point is especially important to those not familiar with the congressional literature of the past generation. The rapid spread of the rational choice approach in the study of Congress by no means came at the expense of intellectual homogeniza‐ tion. On the contrary, some of the most active debates in the contemporary literature have been conducted by scholars trained in the rational choice tradition. Do committees serve a distributive or informational function (Chapter 18, this, volume)? What is the nature of party influence and what is its source (Chapters 17 and 23, this volume)? Debates surrounding these and other questions do not pit rational choice scholars against scholars from other traditions; rather, they pit rational choice scholars against each other (e.g. Shepsle and Weingast 1995). The approach is sufficiently general that a variety of different, and at times conflicting, theories can be developed within it.

The normative question

Polsby and Schickler observe that pre‐behavioral work on Congress was often critical of the institution. In particular, scholars bemoaned the absence of responsible parties in Congress, contrasting congressional operations unfavorably with the operation of the British House of Commons, the Mother of Parliaments. From Woodrow Wilson's Congressional Government (1885) to Burns' The Deadlock of Democracy (1963), scholars (p. 870) decried the lack of congressional party discipline in general, and the failure of the congressional parties to follow presidential leadership in particular.

With few exceptions the behavioral generation was not critical of Congress. I think there were at least two reasons for this. One is that the first generation of behavioral scholars was very sensitive about their scientific bona fides. Scope and methods courses of the era discussed the fact‐value dichotomy and how a genuinely scientific political science must be empirical, not normative.13 Congressional scholars of the 1960s took pains to differentiate their enterprise from what had occupied most scholars of earlier generations. Accurate description and scientific explanation was the goal, not evaluation and prescription.

A second reason for the uncritical approach to the study of Congress is that congressional scholars of the 1960s seemed to have a genuine affection for Congress and its members. Fenno (1998) writes about “the Boys of Congress,” a group of eight congressional scholars who had a grant to get together in Washington and (among other things) take Congressmen to dinner! In those days the pace of congressional life was slower and staffs were small (Clapp 1963). It was relatively easy to get an interview with a member, and my sense is that more scholars had personal acquaintances serving in Congress than is the case today. Congressional scholars of the time noted the benefits of incremental, as opposed to comprehensive, policymaking (Lindblom 1959). They viewed the willingness of members to “take half a loaf rather than none” as a positive orientation that contributed to incremental progress. And, in truth, it is arguable that with the glaring exception of racial issues, the behavioralists' stance was not unreasonable. As noted above, a post‐war consensus reigned in foreign affairs, and Congressional Republicans had come to accept the fundamentals of New Deal social and economic policy. Incrementalism fit the time.

If the pre‐behavioral generation of scholars criticized the failure of Congress to act decisively on major policy initiatives (developed by the president, of course), the behavioral generation noted that Congress did some things well—namely represent and respond to the diversity of interests in American democracy. An early example was Turner's (1951) critical response to the 1950 APSA report that advocated more responsible parties. Among other things Turner contended that the heterogeneity of interests in the country would lead to the demise of party competition in many areas where the national views of one party or the other were unacceptable.

But once again as times changed, scholarly views followed. The conflicts of the 1960s brought the long‐suppressed racial issue to the fore and reignited socio‐ cultural issues that had been dormant for a generation. The environmental movement erupted. The post‐war consensus on foreign and defense policy shattered in the aftermath of the Vietnam War. Stagflation and energy crises staggered the economy. And to many of us the Congress did not seem to respond well to these various challenges. Party cohesion had fallen to a level not seen since before the Civil War, and (p. 871) congressional politics seemed to have degenerated into a free‐for‐all of unprincipled bargaining in which participants blithely sacrificed general interests in their advocacy of particularistic constituency interests. President Jimmy Carter enjoyed large congressional majorities, but failed to deal effectively with the aforementioned problems, contributing to the view that national politics was in a sorry state.

True, the 1970s Congress was responsive, but to whom? Responsiveness to all the particularistic interests in the country did not guarantee responsiveness to the general interest; quite the contrary.14 In many respects the congresses of the 1970s seemed to illustrate the collective action problem, an idea that rational choice scholars had imported into congressional studies. Each member doing what was individually in his or her interest produced a congressional product that did not serve the country's collective interest.

The result was a renewal of scholarly criticism of Congress. Larry Dodd (1977) propounded a cyclical theory in which congressional operations periodically deteriorated into the kind of unconstrained individual maximization that Mayhew posited, which resulted in bad public policy, popular disapproval, and finally a new majority party that would rejuvenate the institution—for a time.15 I (Fiorina 1977) attacked the New Deal model of policymaking in which Congress would (should) pass general laws and delegate to an expert agency the task of implementing the specific policies. It seemed to me that the model had deteriorated to the point that its whole purpose had become the reelection of members who would claim credit for adopting policies while avoiding responsibility for their negative consequences, then intervene and claim credit again when the latter became apparent. The result was incoherent policy and electoral unaccountability. Even Fenno (1978, 168) struck a critical note when he concluded: “Members of Congress run for Congress by running against Congress. The strategy is ubiquitous, addictive, cost‐free and foolproof. …In the short run everybody plays and nearly everybody wins. Yet the institution bleeds from 435 separate cuts.”

Evaluation and criticism of congressional procedures and policies became more common in the literature as scholars increasingly became willing to draw out the implications of their findings for representation, responsiveness, accountability, governance, efficiency, and other long‐standing concerns in democratic theory. On balance, my view is that this is a good thing. In one way or another American society supports our research, so if that research has implications for improving the way society is governed, are we not professionally obligated to communicate it? In addition, there is the more practical question: if not us, whom? There are plenty of people with partisan and ideological axes to grind who do not hesitate to evaluate the Congress and prescribe “reforms.” If more disinterested professionals who have (p. 872) specialized expertise refrain from joining the debate, whatever change occurs may be for the worse.16

I continue to believe, however, that it is critical to clearly separate partisan and ideological criticism from professional criticism that evaluates Congress against more abstract standards that transcend the partisan and ideological divisions of the time. Political theorists have been pondering the operation of representative institutions for centuries. Questions of governance v. responsiveness, distributive justice v. allocative efficiency, tradeoffs between particular and general and short and long term—these and others are fair game, and the study of Congress should include them as legitimate parts of the enterprise. In an era when even the mainstream media increasingly display identifiable partisan and ideological slants, there is a critical need for honest brokers. Given the partisan and ideological inclinations of most political scientists, it has undoubtedly been especially challenging to separate such perspectives from more general critical commentary on the operations of the Republican Congresses of the 1995–2006 years, but I believe that for the most part (but not entirely) congressional scholars have managed to maintain the separation. At the very least it should be a goal at which we aim.

All in all, the study of Congress has shown impressive progress during the past half‐century. The research enterprise has adapted to significant change in political conditions by making significant changes in methodological approach. The result is a significant advance in our understanding of Congress, and an improved capacity to evaluate it. Those who have been part of this enterprise can take deserved satisfaction in a job well done. And I am optimistic that rising cohorts of scholars will continue the progress that previous generations have made.


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(*) I wish to thank Keith Krehbiel and Ken Shepsle for helpful comments and suggestions.

(1) Quasi‐annual because Fenno seemed to spend a lot of time on leave, so the word among the graduate students was that whenever he offered the seminar, take it.

(2) See Chapter's 17, 18, 30, and 31, this volume. The usual qualification about the portrait applying primarily to the House and somewhat less to the Senate applies, of course.

(3) Like the oft‐cited “traditional family,” the textbook Congress was clearly an idealization; moreover, it may have held sway for a shorter period than we presume today. Schickler and Pearson (2009) report that in the late New Deal period intense ideological and partisan conflict and floor rejection of committee proposals were not uncommon. In retrospect the textbook Congress may have been an idealization of the Congress as it operated from the early 1950s to the late 1960s, another instance of Mayhew's (Chapter 38, this volume) “time localism.”

(4) And some of today's major topics were altogether missing from our reading list. For example, I don't recall that we spent any time on campaign finance.

(5) “As institutions grow, our expectations about the displacement of resources inward do give us warrant to predict that they will resist decay, but …institutions are also continuously subject to environmental influence and their power to modify and channel that influence is bound to be less than all‐encompassing.” (Polsby 1968: 168).

(6) In a personal conversation decades later Eulau told me that this distinction originated with Polsby, but that a footnote crediting Polsby was edited out of the Eulau–Hinckley article during the publication process.

(7) Of course, under Arrow's (1951) theorem, a collectivity that was a dictatorship could have a well‐defined preference ordering. But even in the era of strong full committees, no one believed that the chairs could be treated as dictators. As Krehbiel argued later, there is always a majoritarian “club behind the door.”

(8) See the lengthy note 1 in his Introduction (1973, xvii).

(9) Formal rational choice models came somewhat later. Volden and Wiseman (Chapter 3, this volume) provide an excellent survey. I believe that the earliest attempt to bring some of the formal apparatus of rational choice theory to the study of Congress was Ferejohn (1974: Conclusion and Appendix 3).

(10) Brady and Epstein (1997) present an analogous explanation for the transition from the partisan Congress of the late nineteenth century to what became the textbook Congress, arguing that the revolt against central party leadership and the rise of seniority reflected rising electoral heterogeneity among members.

(11) I can still remember overhearing a casual conversation between two of my senior colleagues during a break in the proceedings. They were pondering whether members of Congress were more concerned with maximizing their numerical vote or their probability of reelection. It made my head spin—the pages of Mayhew's book had barely cooled off by this time.

(12) I won't begin to try to name them all, but the corpus of Steve Smith and his students certainly deserves special mention, particularly since Smith himself was not trained in one of the original rational choice outposts.

(13) Many of us were taught what my colleague John Ferejohn called the “Joe Friday” approach to political science. Detective Friday was the principal character in the popular 1950s police show Dragnet. His mantra was “All we want are the facts, ma'am.”

(14) The behavioral generation had read the concept of the public interest out of political science, of course, but however difficult it might be to define in principle, some of us in the next generation of scholars felt that it was often clear which interests were general and which were not.

(15) Arguably Dodd's prediction came true in 1994 and again in 2006.

(16) A case in point is the term limits movement of the 1990s. Many congressional and other legislative scholars wrote and spoke about the likely negative consequences of such a move.