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									    CONGRESS AS A
       Topic #19
       Congress: The First Branch of
• Congress is a representative and legislative assembly.
   – How (and how well) does Congress do its job of
   – How (and how well) does Congress (especially the
     House of Representatives) stack up as a represen-
     tative body?

• A more fundamental question is: What do we mean by
   – This is a major question in both traditional political theory and
     modern political science.
   – We need to distinguish among different types and styles of
 National vs. Local Representation
• National representation: how well does the House of
  Representatives (or Congress as a whole) represent the
  American people as a whole?
• Local representation: how well do individual Represen-
  tatives (or Senators) represent the people in their
  particular constituencies, i.e., their districts (or states)?

• Note: In some countries, the national parliament is
  elected by the people of the national as a whole (using a
  system of proportional representation).
   – This provides very good representation (of a particular type) at the
     national level
       • but may provide no local representation.
   – In contrast, English-speaking countries typically use of single-member
     districts [SMDs] to elect representatives.
           Descriptive Representation
• Representation as similarity:
   – ―X represents Y‖ means ―X looks like Y‖
   – President Clinton famously said he wanted a Cabinet
     that ―looks like the American people.‖
• Descriptive representation at the national level: is
  Congress (especially the House or Representatives) a
  ―representative cross-section‖ of the American people‖?
   – Demographic characteristics:
      •   Gender?
      •   Race?
      •   Religion?
      •   Age?
      •   Education?
      •   Occupation?
    Descriptive Representation (cont.)
• Representative cross-section (cont.)?
   – Personal characteristics and background:
       • Political interest?
       • Political background?
       • Personality types?
   – Experiential characteristics:
       • Leading typical work/home lives?
       • Experiencing life as most people experience it?
          – 19th century ―republican‖ ideal: rotation in office
          – 20th century approximation: term limits
   – Maybe none of the above really matters: rather preferential
      • Party affiliation?
      • Ideology (liberal—conservative)?
      • Policy preferences?
           – Maybe we don’t really want perfect representation even in this
             respect (Madison, Federalist 10).
    Descriptive Representation (cont.)

• Why is descriptive representation imperfect?
  – Members of Congress are to a great extent self-
      • Desire to hold office is a necessary, though certainly not
        sufficient, condition for gaining it.
   – Among those who desire office, the actual office
     holders are selected in competitive elections.
      • Voters may not want representative who are similar to
        themselves, though
      • they may want representatives with similar policy
   – Moreover, this competitive selection process is locally
       National vs. Local Descriptive
• At the local level, descriptive representation is best
  fulfilled when the representative shares the modal (most
  common) characteristics of his/her constituents.

• Suppose that, in the American population as a whole,
  60% of the people are Type A and 40% are Type B (with
  respect to some descriptive or preferential characteristic,
  e.g., an opinion on some issue).
• Suppose further that this 60% to 40% ratio holds over all
  states and districts.
• Then:
   – If we have perfect local representation, Congress must display
     highly imperfect national representation. (100% are Type A.)
   – If we have perfect national representation, Congress must display
     highly imperfect local representation. (At least 40% fail to be
     similar to their constituents.)
Perfect Descriptive Representation
      at the National Level?
• Study Guide Questions for discussion:

   – How could we select an assembly that would achieve
     nearly perfect descriptive representation (at the
     national level)?

   – For what governmental institution is a procedure like
     this actually used?
Perfect Descriptive Representation?
• How could we select an assembly that would achieve
  perfect descriptive representation (at the national level)?
   – By using election by lot to create a sample assembly,
       • in the manner of samples used by survey research and
         public opinion polls.
   – But service would have to be mandatory.
   – For all practical purposes, this system would imply a one-term
     limit on members.
   – Would such a body be an effective legislative assembly?

• Where is a procedure like this actually used?
   – In selecting juries, with service being (technically) mandatory.
        Representation as Agency
• Gideon v. Wainwright: every defendant is entitled to be
  ―represented‖ by a lawyer.
   – Gideon did not want a lawyer who was similar to (descriptively
     representative of) himself.
• Representation as Agency:
   – ―X represents Y‖ means ―X acts on behalf of Y,‖
      • or ―X is a representative agent of Y.‖
• National vs. local agency:
   – Congress as the representative agent of the American people,
   – an individual member of Congress as the representative agent of
     his/her constituents.
 Representation as Agency (cont.)
• A common complaint (among political scientists and
   – individual members of Congress are very good
     representative agents of their districts, but
   – Congress as a whole is not very effective as
     representative agent of the people as a whole.

• This may be due in large part because members devote
  so much time, attention, and effort to local representation
  as agency, by
   – visiting their districts almost every weekend;
   – devoting staff time and resources to casework; and
   – emphasizing pork barrel [distributive] politics (and
     earmarks), etc.
                   Delegate vs. Trustee
• Two types of representative agents:
   – The (instructed) delegate: the agent merely ―stands in‖ or
      ―speaks for‖ for the principal [the person or group being
   – The (uninstructed) trustee: the agent has special expertise that
      he/she uses to advance the best interests of the principal.
   – In diplomacy: 18th century plenipotentiaries vs. 20th century
      diplomacy with instant communications.
• Under the Articles of Confederation, members of Congress were
  (often instructed) delegates representing state governments that
  could recall them at any time.
• Under the Constitution,
    – Senators were appointed by state legislatures who sometimes tried to
      instruct them, but without much success because the Senators had
      fixed and long terms of office.
    – Today Senators, like Representatives, are elected by large electorates
      who cannot give literal instructions (but public opinion in their districts
      may be lopsided on some issues and hard to go against).
• In general, an agent representing a plural principal (e.g., an
  electorate) cannot be a pure instructed delegate, but elected agents
  can lean more or less in the delegate or trustee direction.
      Dilemmas of Representation
• Edmund Burke: an 18th century British politician and
  political thinker.
   – Burke’s ―Speech to the Electors of Bristol‖:
      • It ought to be the happiness and glory of a representative to
        live in the strictest union, the closest correspondence, and
        the most unreserved communication with his constituents.
        Their wishes ought to have great weight with him; their
        opinion, high respect; their business, unremitted attention.
        But your representative owes you, not his industry only, but
        his judgment; and he betrays, instead of serving you, if he
        sacrifices it to your opinion. . . . Parliament is not a congress
        of ambassadors from different and hostile interests; which
        interests each must maintain, as an agent and advocate,
        against other agents and advocates; but parliament is a
        deliberative assembly of one nation, with one interest, that of
        the whole; where, not local purposes, not local prejudices,
        ought to guide, but the general good, resulting from the
        general reason of the whole.
Dilemmas of Representation (cont.)
• Burke’ ideal representative is a trustee for the nation as
  a whole (vs. a local delegate).

• A Burkean dilemma occurs when an elected
  representative is faced with a conflict between the
  delegate and trustee roles.
   – Historical note: Burke was defeated for re-election.
   – JFK’s Profiles in Courage.

• A delegate’s dilemma occurs when a representative’s
  constituency is about equally divided on some divisive
  and salient issue that the representative must vote on.

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