Southern Parties and Elections: Studies in Regional Political Change

By Robert P. Steed; Laurence W. Moreland et al. | Go to book overview

8
Increasing Liberalism Among Southern Members of Congress, 1970-1990, with an Analysis of the 1994 Congressional Elections

Layne Hoppe

From 1970 until 1990 and beyond, during a period in which a mainly conservative Republican Party has flourished in presidential elections and a competitive two-party system has emerged in the American South, Congress as a body has become more liberal. The largest contribution to this increasing liberalism has been made by southern Democrats, who have moved closer to the mainstream of their party. Using interest group ratings, this chapter portrays these regional patterns and contrasts the mean scores of the members of each party. A possible, partial explanation of increased liberalism of southern members during this period may be related to the fact that the Democratic Party in Congress held all the committee and sub- committee chairperson positions during most of this period. Some data relating to this speculation are presented.

Some data are also presented that bear on the changes in Congress that have followed in the wake of the 1994 congressional elections. It appears possible that the seeds of change that bore fruit in these elections were sown in the years preceding, as a reaction to the increasing liberalism of Congress, including that of its southern Democratic members.


Survey of the Literature

Ideology

Early studies of Congress did not focus on ideology, probably because ideological divisions in the United States were not important.1 Party and regional differences were among the first to be studied,2 and these are still important.3 More recent studies have examined ideological patterns,4 and Congressional Quarterly's Conservative Coalition (CC) scores have been used often.5 The primary focus has been on the ideological orientation of each

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