An Overview of the War on Terror by Marrs

By Marrs

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Parties, in this view, are “institutional solutions to the instability of majority rule” (Aldrich 1995: 72). Deliberative chambers are inherently chaotic—to get a bill passed, one must cobble together a majority and hold it together over numerous votes, any one of which could doom the bill. The easiest outcome in such a chamber is for nothing to get done. Parties, however, provide a solution. As standing coalitions that don’t have to be constantly reassembled, parties make it possible for individual legislators to pass bills while providing a path for career advancement.

Why didn’t members of Congress press a party agenda? Apparently, it was a matter of choice, and they chose not to. “American congressmen,” Mayhew wrote, “could immediately and permanently array themselves in disciplined legions for the purpose of programmatic combat. They do not” (98). Any party battles that occurred were, for the most part, theater; members of Congress maintained strong friendships across party lines and hewed closely to the median voters in their districts. Reelection was far more important than the advancement of any ideological agenda.

That is, by virtual consensus, the party machines in the model of Daley’s Chicago or Tammany Hall’s New York don’t exist anymore. Why would partisanship among elected of‹cials increase as the machines go extinct? We gain some purchase on this question from a strain of literature known as conditional party government (CPG) theory, which has the virtue of focusing both on events within the legislature as well as on forces outside it. As this theory describes, legislative party leaders have an array of tools available to foster party discipline.

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