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Strategic Party Government : Why Winning Trumps Ideology (Paperback) (Gregory Koger & Matthew J. Lebo)

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Why is Congress partisan and stalemated? The conventional answer is that members of Congress represent constituencies that are increasingly polarized from each other. Greg Koger and Matt Lebow point to a different explanation, one which is not rooted in increased ideological differences but in increased competitiveness between the two parties. As the Tea Party faction of the Republican Party demonstrates, even in our polarized era there is actually a significant amount of disagreement within each party on major policy questions. What, at bottom, is the reason to unite in a party? To win elections. And the authors contend that competition for electoral gain is a central and underappreciated force behind the partisanship we are currently experiencing. In order to avoid losing legislative battles, legislators will unite behind strong party leaders even when they may not totally agree with the policies their party is advocating. They do so in the belief that party leaders and voters will reward them for winning, or at least trying to win, these legislative contests. In other words, Koger and Lebo’s book explains the strategic behavior of political parties in the US Congress, both in the House and Senate, from the founding to the present. Taking parts of the political process that have previously been considered separately, their book deftly links the behavior of individual voters with Congressional elections, elections with legislative behavior, and behavior with a theory of party strategy that ties these different elements together. A distinctive and fresh reinterpretation of Congress grounded in imaginative research, Strategic Party Government” is certain to reset the agenda for legislative studies.

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