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PSC 201: American Government

Serow (ed) Lanahan Readings in the American Polity, 3/e

Part 5: Congress.  Student Outlines

compiled from student contributions (thanks) by Jeremy Lewis
Last revised 12/3/17.

25: David Mayhew, "Congress: Electoral Connection."
26: Richard Fenno, "Homestyle".
31: David Price, "Congressional Experience".

25: David Mayhew, "Congress: Electoral Connection." 
by K. Alexis Johnson, Fall 2009
-David Mayhew is a Sterling Professor of Political Science at Yale University.  His research concerns U.S. legislative behavior, U.S. political parties, and U.S. policymaking.
-Mayhew describes American “congressmen as single-minded seekers of reelection.”
-He supports this idea because he finds that it fits political reality well, and it puts the spotlight on the men rather than the parties. He also believes that “politics is best described as a struggle among men to gain and maintain power.” Last, he upholds this theory with the principle that reelection pursuits create accountability with the voters.
-Mayhew says that congressmen are continually partaking in events connected to reelection. 
-However, the members take part in different types of activities.
 -One method of constantly campaigning for votes is “advertising.” Most congressmen do well  when they build a “brand name” for themselves. The fact that incumbents are better known  than their opponents is arguably their greatest advantage. 
  -House members are different from Senators, because they can send out advertisements in the mail.
  -Senators find it easier to simply appear on television to get their name out. 
 -The second way congressmen can reach their voters is called “credit claiming.” Basically, they  take credit for something that is considered beneficial to government. 
  -The emphasis lies on the actual member’s success, rather than the party. 
  -Usually, a congressman will participate in a favor for his constituents. 
 -The final activity that Mayhew lists is “position taking.” He defines this as the “public  enunciation of a judgmental statement on anything likely to be of interest to political actors.”
  -Two types are American governmental ends (strictly a vote for or against something) and governmental means (suggests the method).
  -Positions can be expressed through floor addresses, speeches, letters, press releases, Playboy articles, and interviews.
  -Roybal believed that diverse constituency calls for different means of expressing one’s convictions. 
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Serow 25: Mayhew, David, from Congress: The Electoral Connection
(Laura McCauley, 2000)

– United States Congressmen are single-minded seekers of reelection
– this fits political reality rather well
– it puts the spotlight on men rather than parties and pressure groups
– reelection quest establishes an accountability relationship with the people
– Congressmen use three activities to gain reelection
          1. advertising-any effort to make one’s name known among constituents so that it creates
     a favorable image with little or no issue content, create a brand name, should emphasize
     experience, knowledge, responsiveness, concern, sincerity, independence, etc..,
     incumbents are better known because they spend a lot of time, energy, and money on it,
     this congressional advertising is done at the public’s expense
          2. credit claiming-generating a belief among the public that the congressman is
     personally responsible for causing government to do something the people desire, if
     people think the congressman can make pleasing things happen, they’ll want to keep him
     in office so he can continue to do good things, the congressman focuses on
     “particularized benefits,” thousands of favors congressional offices perform for
     supplicants in ways that don’t normally require legislative action, he tries to fill the
     traditional role of supplier of goods to his home district
          3. position taking-the public enunciation of a judgmental statement on anything of
     interest to the people, most importantly statements prescribing American governmental
     ends or governmental means, done using floor addresses, speeches, television
     appearances, letters, newsletters, press releases, books, articles, interviews, etc..., diverse
     groups call for different methods of expressing one’s convictions

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Richard Fenno, "Home Style"
By Rob Gaiotti, 2001

· Richard Fenno, a renowned political scientist, derived the idea of finding out what political figures did when they were out of their element of Washington, and back at home.
· Asked the question “what takes place in the homes of Representatives?”

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31: David Price “From the Congressional Experience” 
Notes by:  Rebecca Worrell , 2001


Ideas on politics 

31: David Price “From the Congressional Experience” 
Notes by Sean Kent, Fall 2017


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