Why MCs Behave the Way They Do
The re-election motivation is empirical in that it explains why MCs behave the way they do. It does not make a normative claim about how MCs “should” behave. However, while it may seem at first glance to be somewhat offensive to our normative ideals (we distrust MCs who seem to only seek re-election), it may be worse for democracy if they did not. Elections are the institution that link politicians to the public.
It is not perfect, but without elections and the motivation for re-election, then MCs might behave very differently from their constituents’ preferences. That is, without worrying about re-election, they could simply ignore the citizens within their district. This aside, the key point of this assignment is to examine one MC and see how well their behavior (as reflected in the content of their website) fits with the re-election motivated MC explanation of behavior. Do MCs seem to behave as if they are motivated by re-election and does an MC’s website provide some evidence of this?
To examine the big question, you are to choose an incumbent Member of the House of Representatives (MC) or U.S. Senate and describe them, their constituency, and the messages and content they display on their website in light of the issues of how they represent their district/state, their background, how they go about communicating their record to their constituents, the casework in which they encourage, and generally, any evidence that they are helping their re-election bid via their website.
You can, of course, find evidence from the website that might undermine this re-election imperative. Whether the evidence supports or undermines the re-election motivation thesis should be discussed where appropriate. Your assignment must identify the following:
1) What district or state does the MC represent and what are the basic characteristics of the district/state (rural, urban, liberal, conservative, etc)? Most websites say something about the basic characteristics that reflect the district. The characteristics may be a bit more general for states if you are examining a U.S. Senator.
2) With which party does the MC affiliate?
3) Summarize the basic policy positions of the MC? Do these fit with the general characteristics of the district/state? Why might this help in re-election?
4) Do they provide a link for helping constituents with case work? How does this help with re-election?
5) What aspects of public policy and the MC’s position on those policies are highlighted on there website and do these fit with a general ideological orientation of their party? Is there a difference between their party, the district and their policy positions?
6) Is there evidence of credit-claiming or advertising? Are lists of federal funds coming to the district/state provided? Do they claim to have helped pass/defeat a particular piece of legislation that was favored/opposed by the district/state?
7) Overall, how does the website’s content fit with the idea that members represent their districts and are continually concerned about reelection—a general theme in terms of an explanation for why MCs do what they do?
To complete this assignment, use this link All of the information needed for this assignment should be available on their website (from party affiliation to a brief biography to statements about policy and how the members’ have helped their district/state).