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Party & Policy in Congress. Party Unity. Definition Issues Explanations/Implications. Unity Definition. Congressional Quarterly has developed and publishes annually and sometimes semi-annually data on party unity in Congress

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Party & Policy in Congress

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Party policy in congress l.jpg

Party & Policy in Congress


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Party Unity

  • Definition

  • Issues

  • Explanations/Implications


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Unity Definition

  • Congressional Quarterly has developed and publishes annually and sometimes semi-annually data on party unity in Congress

  • Unity defined as any vote in which at least 50% of the Democrats vote against at least 50% of the Republicans


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Polarization

  • Another way is to view it as polarization. That is, differences in average position taken by members of either party

  • To what extent do member positions differ on some scale (ideological or otherwise)


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Issues

  • 2 Main types of issues account for increases in party unity:

    • Questions related to government’s role in the economy, eg:

      • Taxation

      • Tarrifs

      • Regulation

    • The polarization based on liberal/conservative continuum


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Issues

  • Geographic/Regional differences

    • Slavery (N/S; 1840s-civil war)

    • Bimetalism (E/W; Urban/Rural 1880s-1890s)

    • Civil Rights (N/W; 1950s-1970s)

  • As these issues recede, the main variable becomes government and redistribution, and on that we see heightened party polarization


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Issues

  • Polarization in Senate higher now than at any point since Reconstruction

  • Polarization in the House only superceded by 1895-1896 and 1905-1906.


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Explanations

  • Gerrymandering

  • Party realignment of 1980

  • Increased polarization in the electorate

    • Overall decline in party membership in the electorate

    • Those in the party though are more ideologically committed

    • Party in government mirrors the party in the electorate


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Explanations

  • Expanded power of northern Democratic party in the 1960s

  • Reaction by southern Democrats in realignment to Republican party

  • Reaction by Democrats to 1992 Republican takeover of Congress and Clinton impeachment

  • Reaction by Democrats to 2000 election


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