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The Shared Fortunes of Congress and Congressmen: Members May Run from Congress, but They Can't Hide

Born, Richard

The Journal of Politics, 1990, Vol.52(4), pp.1223-1241 [Periódico revisado por pares]

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  • Título:
    The Shared Fortunes of Congress and Congressmen: Members May Run from Congress, but They Can't Hide
  • Autor: Born, Richard
  • Assuntos: Political Science
  • É parte de: The Journal of Politics, 1990, Vol.52(4), pp.1223-1241
  • Descrição: Contrary to prevailing thought, evaluations of the congressional institution emerge as strong predictors of constituent feelings about their own House member and senators. Moreover, this holds true even during the pre-1984 period, when Congress's public reputation was a good deal more tarnished than afterward. Obviously, considerable disparity between the overall positivity of the two evaluations is no barrier to a sizable degree of individual-level relationship. By itself, this evidence might seem comforting to those scholars who believe that society must not permit legislators, regardless of their individual merits, to escape responsibility for the sins of their collective body. Any new-found solace, though, must be tempered by the ensuing revelation that it is precisely the less educated who better fit this putative model of “good citizenship.” That constituents with more simplistic modes of thought outwardly should adhere to such a rather demanding ideal is hardly what advocates of the model have in mind. Nevertheless, no matter how we might feel about the causes of this legislature-legislator linkage, the consequence is a form of accountability in the existing system. In a time of exceptionally well-entrenched incumbents, even an especially blunt instrument of popular retribution may be championed as one of only a handful of mechanisms allowing for any kind of membership fluidity. A torrent of disapprobation, to be sure, has the potential to drench deserving and undeserving incumbents alike, irrespective of their liability for Congress's infirmities. Indiscriminate as it may be, however, such behavior on the part of the less well-educated might yet prove preferable to that which rewards legislators for more aggressive constituency service but does not provide incentives to work toward remedying these infirmities.

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