Sectionalism and Congressional Development

Richard Bensel

in The Oxford Handbook of the American Congress

Published in print March 2011 | ISBN: 9780199559947
Published online May 2011 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks of American Politics

 Sectionalism and Congressional Development

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This article discusses sectionalism in Congress and its impact on congressional development. Unlike the presidency which unites the nation into a single constituency, members of Congress represent geographically distinct districts and states. Due to the large and diverse political economy of the U.S., the way members of Congress and the Senate have represented their districts and states have produced conflicts between them. Attempts to connect conflict and diversity have in turn resulted in alternative relationships in the national party system, the organization of the legislative process, and the nature of sectional alignments in the federal policymaking. Sectionalism is the result of public policy disputes that become political contests between geographically defined communities. This contestation produces regional identities which becomes one of the frames through which members of Congress interpret the interests of their constituencies. In addition to defining regional identities, sectional competition has three important implications for congressional development. First sectionalism affects the evolution of the party system and the internal structure of national political parties. Second, sectionalism affects the content and outcome of congressional politics. And third, sectionalism shapes the development of legislative structure and parliamentary rules. The historical interpretation of sectionalism and its influence on congressional development forms the focus of this article. It discusses congressional and political development from during the civil war to the industrialization period, with focus on the political parties such as the Republican Party and New Deal Coalition.

Keywords: sectionalism; congressional development; sectional alignments; sectional competition; party system; national political parties; congressional politics; development of legislative; political development; New Deal Coalition

Article.  12890 words. 

Subjects: Politics ; US Politics ; Political Institutions

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