The Department of Government
The Department of Government

American Politics Speaker Series- Ruth Bloch Rubin (Univ of Chicago)

"Organizing at the Extreme: The Logic and Evolution of Hardline Intraparty Blocs in the House”

Wed, March 27, 2019 | BAT 5.108

12:00 PM - 1:30 PM

Under what conditions will hardline members of Congress successfully persuade their leadership to make procedural and policy decisions in their favor?  I argue that intraparty organizations — institutionalized alliances formed between co-partisans — empower hardliners to bargain more effectively with party leaders in two ways.  They can (1) validate hardline claims that the party median is further to the extreme than leaders initially supposed, or (2) make more credible threats to defect en masse.  To illustrate the logics underlying these two bargaining strategies and their structural consequences, I present three cases of hardline organization in the postwar period: the Democratic Study Group, Republican Study Committee, and House Freedom Caucus.  The first comprehensive framework to explain the nature and origin of hardline power in the House, this study demonstrates that hardliners regularly organize to influence party decision-making.  On this account, hardline unrest is not an exclusively contemporary phenomenon.  Rather, it is endemic to the legislative ecosystem—the result of enduring features of congressional organization. 

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