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The Relationship Between Congressional Elections and Representation

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Introduction

´╗┐Congressional representation and congressional elections have a very interwoven relationship. Representation affects the way congressional elections will turn out, and at the same time, elections determine the type of representation constituents receive. According to David R. Mayhew, the main goal of representatives is to always get reelected. There are three different styles of representatives. The fist is that of the Delegate. The Delegate does exactly what his or her constituents want him of her to do. The second style is that of the Trustee. The Trustee votes for what he or she thinks is best for everyone as a whole. The final style of representative is that of the Politico. The Politico does whatever it takes to stay in office. Within the three styles of representatives, there are two different focuses of representatives. In determining focus, the representatives ask themselves ?whom am I representing?? The first type of focus is a representative who represents the people of only his or her district. This person will vote with how his or her constituents feel. The second type of focus is a representative who believes he or she represents the people in his or her state as a whole. This representative is more likely to vote in a manner he or she thinks will be the best for the entire state even if it means affecting his or her district negatively. ...read more.

Middle

Congressional elections are not always about how much money a candidate spends to get their name out, or what he or she promises to do in office. It can be as easy as just putting his or her name on the ballot. This is sometimes the case for incumbents. Incumbents are usually the members who see themselves as representing the state as a whole instead of just their district. The percentage of incumbents who are reelected bears this out. Incumbents have had more time in office to achieve particularized benefits for their district. Incumbent reelection rates in the House have increased from 87% between 1946 and 1950, to an astonishing 99% in the 2002-2004 elections. (Jacobson 2012) For this reason, most constituents want to have a more senior member representing their district. More senior members have a higher chance of being the ranking member of some of the more prestigious committees or ?gaining turf,? such as Ways and Means, Rules, or Appropriations committees. Being a ranking member on one of these committees means that the representative has a higher chance of getting a bill passed that affects his or her district in a positive way, and also having a more powerful voice in matters that could affect his or her district in a negative way. ...read more.

Conclusion

It is much easier for constituents to blame one person (the President) than 535 members of the legislative branch. This will determine things such as a unified government, which is where one party controls the House, Senate, and the Presidency, or a divided government, which is any deviation away from unified. When the Presidents party is doing well, or a new President is elected, members of that same party tend to do better in congressional elections. This is called ?riding the President?s coattail.? (Jacobson 2012) Sometimes elected officials use symbolic policies in order to make constituents happy and gain reelection. An example of a symbolic policy would be the Civil Rights Acts that came before 1964. They really did not accomplish anything, because the southerners were being forced to accept them. These acts were in turn not being completely enforced in the South, with loopholes such as the Jim Crow Laws. Symbolic policies are part of what Mayhew says a representative needs to do to stay in office, and that is ?keep doing what you are doing,? and ?take a cautious approach to policy making.? (Mayhew 2004) Representatives do take into account their constituents? opinions, after all, the constituents have the power to take the representative out of office. Representatives will monitor their constituents? opinions through things such as opinion polls. Through these polls, a representative can see what his or her constituents? consider their highest priorities. ...read more.

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