Abstracts for the 1999 Western Political Science Association Meetings

Seattle, Washington, May 25-27, 1999


"The Median Voter: Fact or Fiction? The History of a Theoretical Concept"

Robert G. Boatright
Department of Political Science, University of Chicago

The median voter model has frequently been revised in order to make the model more applicable to empirical study of American mass elections. Rarely, however, have revisions to this model taken into account the theoretical debates which preceded the development of economic models and the ways in which revisions to the model reintroduce the normative debates which the median voter model addressed. In this paper I consider two such debates, the "responsible parties" debate of the early 1950s and the debate between pluralists and other theorists over measurement of political power. I discuss the means by which formal models effectively closed off these debates. I then outline the basic tenets of the median voter model, illustrate ways in which revisions to this model have drawn upon empirical evidence against propositions of the model, and note ways in which such revisions have significant effects on the overall coherence of the model. I then note how one relatively underexplored assumption of the model the assumption of simultaneous position-taking can and should be altered such that candidates take positions sequentially. This adjustment is not only more empirically suitable for the model it allows better explanation of elections featuring incumbents but it also reintroduces the normative debates which preceded the development of the model into the model itself.


The Constitutional Politics of Westward Expansion: Constitutional Development and
Inter-Branch Dialogue over Federal Internal Improvements during the Republican Era

Paul Chen, Department of Political Science, University of Southern California

By 1800 Americans recognized that commercial links between the coast and the interior were essential for national growth. Better systems of transportation were needed to integrate the nation's economy, promote commerce and communication, and facilitate the development of millions of acres of western land. These projects known as "internal improvements," mainly the building of roads and canals, inspired in Americans dreams of national greatness. Jefferson, Madison, and Monroe all strongly supported Westward expansion during their administrations, and proposals for a national system of internal improvements did not fail for lack of merit. Yet the federal government, despite having three Republican presidents and a Republican-controlled Congress from 1800-1824, was never able to enact legislation establishing a national network of roads and canals. Why?

I propose this hypothesis: Initially, the constitutional authority of federal involvement in this area was questionable up until Madison's second administration, by which time the dominant view among federal lawmakers was that Congress had authority to make appropriations for internal improvements. Madison's personal doubts on the subject, however, forestalled concerted federal effort on the matter. By the time Monroe and Congress had found a constitutional common ground for federal involvement in internal improvements, sectional politics, which had always exerted its influence in Congress, had gained a decisive victory in thwarting the implementation of any systematic federal policy on the matter. Once the Virginia Dynasty in the executive branch came to an end, Jackson let open the floodgates of sectionalism and local interest politics that had been swelling to burst, thus blocking any systematic development of roads and canals for decades to come.

My paper traces the interaction between the executive and the Congress on the issue of federal sponsorship of internal improvements, and discusses how the twenty-five year inter-branch dialogue brought about a change in the Republican executive's view about the constitutionality of such projects. In probing this issue I will also consider what we can learn from this event about the dynamics of constitutional politics at a time when the U.S. Supreme Court had not yet become a regular and active participant in such political-constitutional debates.


Race and the Representation of Blacks' Interests During Reconstruction

Michael D. Cobb
Department of Political Science, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Jeffery A. Jenkins
Department of Political Science, Michigan State University

Contemporary congressional studies find that black representatives are more supportive of black constituents' interests than are white representatives, even after controlling for district- level constituency characteristics. The general robustness of these findings has not been examined, however, as scholars have not studied how black representatives behaved during Reconstruction, the first era of blacks' descriptive representation. Although black representatives from this era typically are portrayed as having been responsive to blacks' interests, some recent studies suggest that they often supported whites' interests on issues important to their black constituents. Using descriptive statistics, OLS regression, and forecasting techniques to analyze black and white congressmen's voting behavior, we investigate the relationship between descriptive and substantive representation immediately after the Civil War. We find that black Republicans during Reconstruction were more ideologically liberal, both generally and racially, than their white Republican colleagues in the South. These results suggest that the linkage between descriptive and substantive representation for blacks is not merely a recent phenomenon, but rather has general applicability across time.


Ideas and State Capacity, or Class Dominance?
A Historical Analysis of Grazing on the Public Domain

George A. Gonzalez
Department of Political Science, University of Miami

State-centered theorists have forwarded the argument that the role of ideas and state capacity in the formulation of public policies is evidence of an autonomous polity. These theorists hold that state capacity and ideas have an autonomous and independent role in determining state behavior and public policy development. Reflective of this, statist Christopher Klyza posits ideas and state capacity as the primary factors in the development of the policy regime that manages grazing on the public grasslands. I contend, however, that the history of the federal grazing policy regime is indicative of economic elite theory. Specifically, economic elites and producer groups are the most powerful explanatory factors in the development of this regime, not ideas or state capacity. Furthermore, utilizing the cases of the grazing agencies (the U.S. Grazing Service and later the Bureau of Land Management [BLM], the U.S. Forest Service, and the National Park Service I assail the theoretical importance that state-centric theorists ascribe to the issue of state capacity.


Communists, Congressional Committees, and the Rise of the Administrative Welfare State

Daniel Levin
Department of Political Science, Boise State University

The United States has been less than entirely tolerant of dissidents; this was particularly true during the Cold War years, and especially during the early 1950s. While compared to the Stalinist or Maoist purges, McCarthyism was extraordinarily gentle in its treatment of political dissidents, the congressional harassment of both current and former members of the Communist Party that is one of the worst instances of the abuse of political institutions in recent American history. McCarthyism shared with the totalitarian movements it despised an unwillingness to treat individual persons individually, but to punish persons for their associations with others. In the modern administrative state under the rule of law, those punishments take many forms other than physical discipline or incarceration. Among the most common form of sanctions were congressional hearings which exposed individuals accused of subversive activities to the scrutiny of public opinion and various administrative sanctions. Individuals who appeared before congressional committees were often subjected to actions by multiple governmental actors because of their present or previous affiliations, including the termination of their employment in a state or local government, or loss of a state-issued professional license, because of their refusal to testify in front of a congressional committee investigating domestic communism or because they had testified before such a committee.

Most analysis of the Supreme Court cases involving the power of Congress to compel testimony has focused on either the Fifth Amendment guarantee of a right against self-incrimination or the limits on Congress' power under separation of powers doctrine. I argue that understanding the Supreme Court's decisions in this area during the 1950s requires a focus on the change in roles of congressional committees following the Legislative Reorganization Act of 1946, which provided committees with greater authority for overseeing agencies within their area of substantive concern. With the increased resources provided to the committees following the 1946 Act, the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) and others, such as the Senate Internal Security Subcommittee, began to investigate the presence of Communists and sympathizers in government agencies and in the larger public as well. As these committees began their investigations, they paid little heed to jurisdictional bounds and often neglected to justify their investigations and the filing of contempt citations according to their authority. Some members of Congress and interest groups, including the American Bar Association, attempted to provide discipline to the dueling committees' investigations and curtail their abuse of the subpoena power, but the major responsibility for policing committees' actions lay with the federal courts, and especially the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court's efforts in this area during this period are often misunderstood. Most constitutional law textbooks contain only two cases regarding Congress' power to investigate, and those two, U.S. v. Watkins and Barenblatt v. U.S., are used to demonstrate that after the Supreme Court attempted to restrict Congress' power to investigate in Watkins in 1957, it was forced to retreat only two years later, presumably by political pressure, in Barenblatt. In Watkins, the Court required that Congress follow its own rules, define HUAC's jurisdiction, and justify the relevance of its investigations to governmental oversight, but its major significance is that the Court actually found in favor of Watkins, who had challenged the relevance of his testimony to Congress' purposes. While the Court's decision in Barenblatt seemed to constitute a retreat from Watkins, a number of later cases reinstated many of the rules laid down in Watkins, generally finding in favor of the reluctant witnesses; this part of the story is absent from many accounts of the Court's role in this area and Congress' development of its powers. At its best, the history of the debate over the investigative powers of congressional committees during this period shows that the Court's major concern was Congress's ability to govern its own house, to act in a coherent fashion, and to delegate only those powers truly necessary to committees which, by crossing jurisdictional limits in an entrepreneurial fashion, had taken advantage of the new structures that Congress had erected to oversee the administrative state.



Roy Lujan, New Mexico Highlands University


Over the past 200 years, only three Mexican Americans (all from New Mexico) have ever served in the United States Senate. My presentation focused on one of these Senators, Dennis Chavez who served in the House of Representatives from 1930-1934 and in the Senate from 1935 until his death in 1962.

This paper specifically deals with a political feud involving Senator Chavez and Governor Clyde Tingley, who appointed Chavez to the United States Senate upon the death of Senator Bronson Cutting in 1935. Immediately after the appointment Chavez and Tingley worked closely with the Works Progress Administration (WPA) to assure that New Mexico received its share of federal funding from this federal program. Beginning in 1937, however, the Senator and the governor repeatedly locked political horns on a number of issues. The fact that Governor Tingley became too politically overzealous was the basis for the Chavez-Tingley feud that spanned the late 1930's. The political honeymoon these two public officials had once experienced turned into a bitter struggle for political power and control of the Democratic Party and the WPA in the state. As the feud spread from issue to issue, Tingley's political strength gradually diminished. Simultaneously, Chavez was able to consolidate his political power with WPA. Before Tingley capitulate, however, he attempted to destroy Chavez's political career by implicating him in the hottest WPA scandal in the United States. Senator Chavez overcame the scandal and remained in the Senate. By the end of his legislative career, he was outranked by only three Senators.

Madisonís Failure: The Virginia Plan and Opportunistic Federalism

Dave Robertson
Department of Political Science, University of Missouri - St. Louis

On the eve of the Constitutional Convention, state policy makers had nearly unlimited freedom to exploit their distinct comparative advantages, and the result was chaotic, fluid, and often self-defeating policy. As the most influential analyst of this policy turmoil, James Madison diagnosed state policy independence as the root threat to American republicanism and prosperity. His reforms aimed to create a national republican policy making process that would produce liberal policy outcomes. He planned to expand the sphere of national powers to instill in national policy makers an ambition for pursuing a distinctly national interest. He sought very broad national policy authority, a national veto over state laws, and a national legislature in which all representatives were apportioned by state size. As the Virginia plan, these proposals initially established the terms of the convention's deliberations. The convention's treatment of the Virginia plan shows that the new policy making process institutionalized the states' economic opportunism as much as it limited that opportunism. The convention accepted the least controversial elements of Madison's theory -- a republican national policy making process -- but defeated the three more original and far-reaching proposals because they threatened to result in policies excessively threatening to states' comparative advantages. Medium sized, commercially vulnerable states refused to surrender power over economic policy to a body in which they were outnumbered. These states opposed a national veto because a regional majority could use it to harm the interests of particular states.


"Political Repression in the Fragmented State"

Corey Robin
Department of Political Science, Yale University

Why do states engage in political repression? What particular attributes of states enable them to do so? This paper attempts to answer these two questions through an analysis of McCarthyism. Most theorists of the state, from Hobbes to Weber to Skocpol, have mistakenly argued that political repression is a product of the state's monopoly over the means of coercion, its centralization and unification of political power, and its quest for domestic political order. I challenge this view here in two ways. First, I argue that states conducting repression are often not driven by a desire to impose order or establish control over a given territory. Instead, they are inspired by a variety of different concerns, not least of which are the specific political interests and ideologies of different state actors. During the McCarthy era, state officials were motivated by many agendas, including: 1) a desire to subdue popular movements attempting to restructure relationships of power within the workplace and between blacks and whites; 2) anticommunist ideology, inspired either by a concern about the power of the Soviet Union or by a commitment to Christianity or liberalism; and 3) more mundane partisan calculations and interests. Second, states engaging in repression need not unify political power under a single aegis. This image of the Leviathan-like state has led us to focus on states that have concentrated political power within centralized, hierarchical institutions. That is not the only kind of state that engages or can engage in repression. States that are fragmented -- where institutions share power with other institutions, where power is divided between the core and the periphery, where power is constrained by competition between multiple interest groups -- can also act repressively. In fact, fragmentation can sometimes be a vehicle for repression.


Technological Exceptionalism:
Machines, History, and the Construction of Antebellum American Identity

Howard Schweber
Department of Government, Cornell University

In the decades following the American Revolution, both Federalists and Anti-Federalists embraced the idea that American history would represent a departure from the patterns established in European experience. For republican Anti-Federalists, the idea was the religiously inspired ideal of America as a purified version of European ideals, stripped of the corrupting effects of ancient tyrannies and modern class struggle. Liberal Federalists, on the other hand, saw the promise of America as the possibility of creating a benign version of industrial capitalism, the creation of an economy that would secure the economic benefits of European manufacturing without the creation of squalid industrial cities. For both Federalists and Anti-Federalists, the key element in America's exceptional future was the presence of free land.

In the Jacksonian Era, a second element was added to free land as the basis for America's claim to an exceptional future. This was the argument that Americans as a people were possessed of a special relationship to things mechanical. Not only the fact of free land, but a special gift for using machinery to make use of that land were the elements that were said to signal the dawn of an entirely new kind of history. In 1829, the word "technology" was coined to capture the special kind of American useful knowledge. This was technological exceptionalism.

Technological exceptionalism made it possible to reconcile both republican and liberal politics with industrial expansion. For republican and liberal politics with industrial expansion. For republican Whigs, technology promised to connect the expanses of the Western territories into a single national community, thus defeating the dire warnings of Montesquieu and Jefferson that size was the enemy of national virtue. For liberals, technology was the means for all men to compete equally in an economic public realm. Both Whigs and Democrats were required to surrender a crucial element of their thinking in order to embrace the promise of technology. Whigs had to abandoned their opposition to growth, their nostalgia, and their conception of virtue as a quality inherent in a leisure class. Democrats had to overcome their suspicions of corporate enterprise, large-scale improvement, centralized control and government funding. In the years of Civil War and after, both liberal and republican strains of American political thought gave way to a constructed national identity built around the promise of technologically driven progress. While this new political conception was developed in response to new forms of political economy and industrialization, the condition of possibility for the embrace of the new model of citizenship and progress was the political vocabulary of technological exceptionalism.


The Push Westward: American Government and National Expansion, 1776-1848

Bartholomew Sparrow
Department of Government, University of Texas - Austin

Research by political scientists, political historians, and political sociologists on the United States of the nineteenth century focuses overwhelmingly on the weakness of the national government, given the divided government established at the founding, the small size of public administration, and the divisions between political parties and among regions. This focus on the frailties of U.S. national government neglects a crucial part of national politics: the proactive role of the national government in the expansion of the United States from the thirteen original states to spanning the entire North American continent. In this paper I examine the administration and politics of the national government from the Declaration up to the Mexican-American War--i.e., including the Continental Congress under the Articles of Confederation, as well as the U.S. government after the adoption of the Constitution in 1789--with respect to the American territories up to the Mississippi River, where scholars slight the significance of governmental activity in the territories as a precursor to the eventual incorporation of new lands, new wealth, and new peoples into the United States.

I look at three policy areas in particular: the military; the post office; and public works (i.e., road and canal building). The paper presents quantitative and other historical evidence that document how the officials and resources of the U.S. government provided an extensive and extendible presence in the territories through which settlement, economic growth, and eventual political incorporation could occur. Specifically, I note the presence of forts and troops in the territories, the number of post offices and miles of post roads in the territories, and the building and subsidy of roads and canals in areas before they became states. I suggest that the investment by government officials in these lands (lands whose residents could not vote) is a result of two factors. One was the patriotism and nationalism of individual presidents (e.g., Jefferson, Polk) and other political elites (e.g., the Army Topographical Corps), where national security, economic growth, and political development were inextricably intertwined. Another was the ambition of party leaders who sought to gain more support for their parties in areas that would in the near or not-too-distant future would become members of the several states.


"Partisan Regimes, Judicial Review and Constitutional Change"

Keith E. Whittington, Department of Politics, Princeton University,

This paper examines the political incentives leading elected officials to either support or undermine the judicial authority to determine constitutional meaning, a key bulwark of judicial independence. Assuming a system of partisan regimes, the paper focuses on the relationship between the president and the Supreme Court in three basic strategic situations depending on the presidential relationship to the regime. The paper concludes that in most circumstances presidents have ample incentives to support judicial authority by deferring to judicial rulings and encouraging judicial intervention in political disputes. Moreover, the paper argues, it is not clear that normative values are in conflict with positive incentives in those few instances in which the strategic environment favors undermining the Court. The paper identifies the conditions under which presidents will adopt a departmentalist position, challenging the exclusive authority of the judiciary to determine constitutional meaning in favor of an equal authority of each of the three branches to interpret the Constitution. The paper links normative concerns with judicial review with positive and historical analysis of political institutions and identifies the conditions supporting an active and independent judiciary. The paper questions the standard normative and empirical assumptions of both the "countermajoritarian difficulty" and theories of judicial supremacy.