restricted access 5 Candidates and Representation
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CHAPTER 5 Candidates and Representation The requisites in actual representation are that the Representatives should sympathize with their constituents; should think as they think and feel as they feel. . . . -George Mason, Remarks at the Constitutional Convention Wherever there is representative democracy, there is potential for distorting the popular will. Bias comes not just from the delegation of authority or the process of collective deliberation, but also from the means of designating lawmakers. This was why early republics chose legislators by lot and why even today the principle of random selection is thought to produce the purest form of democratic assembly. Modem legislatures, by drawing their members from a relatively small and homogeneous political elite, I have strayed far from the ideal of serving as microcosms of the general pUblic. Consequently, lawmakers' social and political origins and their effect on representation are questions of long-standing interest. Particularly in the contemporary Congress, members' individual attributes are connected to two different aspects of the institution's representativeness: its failure to reflect the political mobilization of women and various ethnic minorities and its seeming imperviousness to the partisan realignment in the South. Given the rapid changes in the past two decades in the status of women, in the enfranchisement of African-Americans, and in the growing ranks of citizens of non-European origin, the demography of the Congress ought to look quite different-more female, more racially heterogeneous, and more culturally diverse. But the entry of women to Congress has not kept pace with the expansion of female participation either in politics generally or in the professions and public offices that have been the traditional stepping-stones to Capitol Hill. Nor has the presence of major ethnic groups in Congress, African-Americans and Hispanics in particular, increased proporI . For an excellent overview of how recruitment affects the representativeness of legislative bodies, see Aberbach, Putnam, and Rockman 1981 and Eldersveld 1989. 121 122 Candidates. Congress. and the American Democracy tionately relative to their numbers in society. Moreover, the general underrepresentation of African-American voters is compounded because the majority of African-American citizens in the United States live in the South while most African-American representatives come from the North. Yet it is not simply the demography of Congress that has proved resistent to change; the partisan balance, too, should look quite different in light of the economic and social transformation of the South in recent years. Many of these changes have worked their way into the political arena and are now manifest both in the liberalization of the Democratic Party and the revival of the GOP. The presence of intensely loyal southern African-Americans in the Democratic coalition has moved the region's officeholders into the national mainstream of the party. At the same time, the migration of northern Republicans and the shift of the region's conservatives away from the Democrats have made southern Republican candidates viable enough to dominate presidential contests and to win statewide offices. But Republicans have been unable to capitalize on their strength at the top of their party's ticket to get more Republicans elected to the House and, to a lesser extent, the Senate. Thus, the partisan realignment long predicted for the South is only partially reflected in the region's congressional delegation. Each of these developments has a different implication for the nature of representation practiced inside Congress. The most obvious, of course, is the relationship between the demography of the institution and its capacity for descriptive representation. But such trends have an effect on the policy aspects of representation as well. By descriptive representation, I mean the extent to which lawmakers are like the people they serve. In this view, according to Pitkin (1967, 60-61 ), true representation occurs when the legislature's composition '"corresponds accurately to that of the whole nation" and when individual legislators mirror their constituencies. Thus. representation is judged not as "acting for" the citizenry but as "standing for" its salient characteristics, although, of course, action presumably reflects this correspondence between representatives and constituents. Eulau and Karps (1977) use the term "symbolic responsiveness," and Fenno (1978) refers to the "identification" between legislators and constituents in discussing the empathetic dimensions of representation . Unlike Pitkin, however, these scholars suggest that legislators can create a sense of similarity through gestures and attitudes even though they do not mirror the citizens they serve. By policy representation, I mean the extent to which legislators Candidates and Representation 123 reflect the basic political orientations of the...


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Subject Headings

  • Political participation -- United States.
  • Politics, Practical -- United States.
  • Political campaigns -- United States.
  • Political culture -- United States.
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