Hostile Takeover: The House Republican Party, 1980-1995

By Douglas L. Koopman | Go to book overview

Chapter 3
Changes in Representation and Ideology
Within the House Republican Conference

Chapter two showed how the post-reform Democratic House grew in partisanship, and how it differed from earlier congresses in the structure of incentives influencing members, groups, and parties. Republicans felt these influences differently from Democrats and changed their behaviors and roles.

Generally, political scientists describe two roles that a representative plays on substantive issues—delegate or trustee. A delegate attempts to discover and follow the wishes of his or her constituents. A trustee attempts to serve the long-term interest of his or her constituents, with less regard to their immediate views. Members of Congress tend either to be delegates or trustees. Many combine these roles, and the same member may act as a delegate in one situation and a trustee in another. 1

These concepts are helpful tools in analysis. Either role, however, is problematic. Delegates face the difficulty of discovering the wishes of their constituents, encountering uncertainty, ignorance, and conflicting demands among voters. Trustees face problems of defining the precise constituency one is working in the best interest of, as well as knowing what constitutes the "best" interest on an issue.

In spite of these problems, the theoretical separation between delegate and trustee roles suggests helpful distinctions among House Republicans. This analysis connects these theoretical roles with measurable activities. It assumes that delegates are more oriented toward local concerns; spend more time consulting local constituencies; and are less ideologically, policy, and party oriented. The delegate orientation is exhibited in fewer memberships on policy committees, party committees, and intraparty groups. It may also be exhibited in more memberships in constituency-based caucuses and seats on constitu

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