How Congress Evolves: Social Bases of Institutional Change

How Congress Evolves: Social Bases of Institutional Change

How Congress Evolves: Social Bases of Institutional Change

How Congress Evolves: Social Bases of Institutional Change

Synopsis

In this greatly entertaining tale of of one of our most august institutions, Nelson Polsby argues that among other things, from the 50s to the 90s, Congress evolved. In short, Polsby argues that air conditioning altered the demography of the Southern States, which in turn changed the political parties of the South, which transformed the composition and in due course the performance of the US House of Representatives. This evolutionary process led to the House's liberalisation and later to its transformation into an arena of sharp partisanship, visible among both Democrats and Republicans. This book breathes new life into the dusty corners of institutional history, and offers a unique expanation for important transformations in the congressional environment.

Excerpt

Once upon a time, not so long ago, it was fairly common for political observers in the United States to complain that Congress never changed. Eighteenth-century machinery was found wanting as it confronted twentieth-century problems. Many of the complaints, to be sure, were politically motivated, based as they were upon quite accurate perceptions over long stretches of time that Congress could not be expected to enact proposals put forward by liberal presidents advocating public policies, which, arguably, majorities of Americans favored. the House of Representatives, in particular, was commonly identified as the great bottleneck.

Now Americans live in a different era, in which presidents are not necessarily liberal and the House of Representatives is not necessarily the graveyard of presidential proposals. What happened? Among other things, Congress changed. This essay describes the part of this story that involves the House of Representatives. Its central argument can be stated succinctly: changes that occurred in the political structure and functioning of the U.S. House of Representatives during the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s can be traced back to certain changes that affected the political parties out in the country. These were caused by changes in the demographic profiles of the several states during the 1950s and 1960s and before that by certain changes in technology that took place in the 1940s and 1950s. in an oversimplified sentence, I shall argue that air conditioning (plus other things) caused the population of the southern states to change; that change in the population of the South changed the political parties of the South; these changed the composition and in due course the performance of the U.S. House of Representatives leading first to its liberalization and . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.