Congress: The Electoral Connection

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Congress: The Electoral Connection is a book by David Mayhew that applies rational choice theory to the actions of American Congressmen. Mayhew argues that Congressmen are motivated by re-election.[1]

Mayhew uses pieces from Anthony Downs's and Richard Fenno's works to build his own argument and present his own rational choice model for members of Congress.

Book[edit]

Opening Statements[edit]

Mayhew claims that the book is theoretical; it pursues an argument and considers the implications for exploratory purposes.[2]

Mayhew's model rests on the assumption that all members of congress are single-minded seekers of reelection. He references the decreasing turnover rate of congressmen as evidence for the transition to full-time politicians interested in advancing their careers. It is also the goal that must be reached in order for any other goals (legislation) to be achieved.

1: The Electoral Incentive[edit]

Whereas the British system (GB) is adept at producing candidates representative of their party, the American system(US) produces more individualized candidates, candidates who may or may not reflect local interests more than their parties' national stances.

  1. (GB) the system produces candidates "who will vote the party line if and when they reach Parliament" [3]
  2. (GB) candidates have to rely on their party's base for support; (US) candidates must find support independent of their party[4]
  3. (GB) Party cohesion is incentivized by cabinet positions[5]

Questions Introduced in Section 1: the Electoral Incentive

  • Do congressmen have any control in getting reelected?
  • Is there a connection between what they do in office and their need to be reelected? (37)
  • Do congressmen believe their activities have an electoral impact? (37)
  • Do congressmen's activities have an electoral impact? (37)

Other Points:

  • the need for money in primary elections (43)

2: Processes and Policies[edit]

Terminology[edit]

Single-Minded Seekers of Reelection[edit]

Congress is made up of single-minded seekers of reelection. This mindset affects how they gather support, interact with interest groups, make policy, virtually everything within Congress and on Capitol Hill.[6]

Credit Claiming[edit]

To claim credit for something that benefits constituents

Position Taking[edit]

Politicians get "reward for taking positions rather than achieving effects"[7]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Mckay, David (2009) American Politics and Society, Blackwell Publishing, P. 174
  2. ^ Mayhew, David (November 10, 2004). Congress: The Electoral Connection (2 ed.). Yale University Press. p. xv. 
  3. ^ Mayhew, David (November 10, 2004). Congress: The Electoral Connection (2 ed.). Yale University Press. p. 20. 
  4. ^ Mayhew, David (November 10, 2004). Congress: The Electoral Connection (2 ed.). Yale University Press. pp. 21, 26. 
  5. ^ Mayhew, David (November 10, 2004). Congress: The Electoral Connection (2 ed.). Yale University Press. p. 22. 
  6. ^ Mayhew, David (November 10, 2004). Congress: The Electoral Connection (2 ed.). Yale University Press. p. x. 
  7. ^ Mayhew, David (November 10, 2004). Congress: The Electoral Connection (2 ed.). Yale University Press. p. xv. 

See also: Richard Fenno (1973).

Misc Arguments[edit]

"What a congressman has to do is to insure that in primary and general elections the resource balance (with all other deployed resources finally translated into votes) favors himself rather than somebody else"[1]


  1. ^ Mayhew, David (November 10, 2004). Congress: The Electoral Connection (2 ed.). Yale University Press. p. 43.