The Partisan Politics of Good Government

in Beyond Ideology

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print December 2009 | ISBN: 9780226470740
Published online March 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226470771 | DOI:
The Partisan Politics of Good Government

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This chapter considers how U.S. senators strategically deploy “good government” causes not only to enhance their own party's reputation but also to undermine that of the opposition. Measures of good government — such as policies to streamline government, encourage fiscal responsibility, fight corruption, or guarantee electoral integrity — are not issues on which liberals and conservatives have had to do battle. Neither do they relate to differences in ideology in party politics. Nevertheless, these issues are exploited by congressional partisans using the resources at their disposal — from agenda-setting to floor debate and roll-call votes — to maximize their identification with positive values and their opponents with negative ones. This gives rise to some of the most highly partisan conflicts in Congress over precisely these issues. Despite the level of party conflict, however, Republicans and Democrats are often not consistent in their positions over time. Instead, their positions on these issues are fluid and strategic. In other words, good-government causes result in high levels of partisanship as each party attempts to undercut its opposition's reputation for efficiency, competence, fiscal responsibility, and integrity.

Keywords: senators; good government; Democrats; Republicans; party conflict; partisanship; Congress; roll-call votes; liberals; conservatives

Chapter.  10000 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: US Politics

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