I shall post videos, graphs, news stories, and other material there. We shall use some of this material in class, and you may review the rest at your convenience. You will all receive invitations to post to the blog. (Please let me know if you do not get such an invitation.) I encourage you to use the blog in these ways:
To post questions or comments about the readings before we discuss them in class;
To follow up on class discussions with additional comments or questions.
To post relevant news items or videos.

There are only two major limitations: no coarse language, and no derogatory comments about people at the Claremont Colleges.

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Thursday, February 4, 2016

NH Senate

Thanks to Hannah:

Maggie Hassan is the Democratic governor of New Hampshire, running for the Senate against incumbent Kelly Ayotte.  What is she doing with this Instagram post?  To whom is she appealing?

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

"McCarthy Hearings"

 I was watching a few Late Show with Stephen Colbert reruns and came across a video that was relevant to Monday's lesson on Kevin McCarthy and his withdrawal for speaker of the house. The relevant segment begins at 5:00 and I think you guys will enjoy watching it! (if you haven't seen it before or even if u have)

Leadership II: Parties, Committees, Factions, Caucuses

Gingrich and Camscam

The current committee structure

Senate committee assignment process

House committee assignment process


Congressional Mitosis

Party campaign committees:

Republican... RNC NRCC NRSC 
Democratic.. DNC DCCC* DSCC*

*Chair appointed by party leader

Paying your dues ... literally  (No formal dues for Senate committees)

Monday, February 1, 2016

Leadership I

Followup to the writing lecture

Hill leadership
Again, the Four Strategic Postures Since 2000 (House, by election year)

                                                Majority                      Minority

            Pres Party                    Dem 08                      GOP 06
                                                GOP 00, 02, 04           Dem 10,12,14
            Out Party                    GOP 10,12,14             GOP 08
                                                Dem 06                       Dem 00, 02, 04

Note:  even majorities of the president's party may split with the administration agenda.  See Democrats on trade in 1993 and 2014.

Edmund Burke:
 In all bodies, those who will lead, must also, in a considerable degree, follow. They must conform their propositions to the taste, talent, and disposition, of those whom they wish to conduct: therefore, if an assembly is viciously or feebly composed in a very great part of it, nothing but such a supreme degree of virtue as very rarely appears in the world, and for that reason cannot enter into calculation, will prevent the men of talent disseminated through it from becoming only the expert instruments of absurd projects!
Speakership Elections

LBJ in Frank Underwood's office

LBJ and Charlie Halleck

The moment that made Newt

Gingrich on the difference between majority and minority:
In short, overnight I found myself in a job far bigger than most people, even Washingtonians, understand to this day. The Speaker is the third-ranking constitutional officer. That in itself might seem weighty enough. In addition, the day-to-day job requires him not only to preside over, but to attempt to lead, 435 strong-willed, competitive, and independent-minded people. (Some wag has likened this to an attempt to herd cats.) After all, if these people had not in the first place been heavily endowed with all three of these characteristics—will, competitiveness, and independence of mind—they would never have been able to get through the process of winning a primary, followed by a general election, followed by the requirement that they represent 600,000 of their fellow Americans in the nation's capital. So if they sometimes made difficulties for one another, and for me, that was one of the great strengths of the system.
All of this added up to the fact that, politically experienced as I was, everything seemed a little unfamiliar to me. I hadn't shifted from my old job to my new job fast enough. I hadn't shaken off some of the habits I had acquired being the minority whip. I'll give you an example. As the minority party, we were in the position of having to fight every day just to get some media attention. We tended to say and do things that were far more strident and dramatic than are prudent to do and say as the leaders of the majority who find themselves in front of the microphone every day. If you are seldom covered by the press, which was the case with House Republicans for forty years, you have a lot of leeway to make mistakes. But when you are in people's living rooms every evening, your mistakes are magnified.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Two Congresses, Two Branches, Two Chambers, Two Parties, Four Postures

More on the Two Congresses


Matt Vasilogambros writes at National Journal:
On a re­cent Fri­day af­ter­noon, as she was leav­ing the Hill for the week­end, a con­gres­sion­al aide sud­denly re­membered that her park­ing pass would ex­pire be­fore she came to work the next Monday. She had pro­cras­tin­ated about ask­ing her boss to sign for a new one, and now he’d flown home for the week­end. So, after only a mo­ment’s hes­it­a­tion, she signed his name to the form her­self. Or tried to.
”It ended up look­ing like ab­so­lute crap,” she says. “I used the wrong-colored pen. I used a red pen; we’re sup­posed to use a blue pen. So I had to do the whole thing over.”
You might think this would raise sus­pi­cions -- not only for­ging a mem­ber’s sig­na­ture on a fed­er­al doc­u­ment but also botch­ing the job so badly that you have to try again. But nobody on Cap­it­ol Hill bats an eye at staffers sign­ing for their bosses; it’s part of the daily routine, and, ac­cord­ing to the House and Sen­ate Eth­ics com­mit­tees, there are no rules pro­hib­it­ing it. Which comes in handy, for staffers and mem­bers alike, be­cause the elec­ted of­fi­cials’ sig­na­tures are re­quired on everything from “Dear Col­league” let­ters to tech-equip­ment re­quests. (The idea is that mem­bers are held ac­count­able for every ac­tion taken by their aides.) And with law­makers dash­ing from caucus meet­ings to com­mit­tee hear­ings to floor votes to fun­drais­ing call rooms, they’d be hard-pressed to af­fix their John Han­cocks to every doc­u­ment that hits their desks -- or their staffers’ desks.

Two Branches
Two Chambers

A second look at Federalist 51:
But it is not possible to give to each department an equal power of self-defense. In republican government, the legislative authority necessarily predominates. The remedy for this inconveniency is to divide the legislature into different branches; and to render them, by different modes of election and different principles of action, as little connected with each other as the nature of their common functions and their common dependence on the society will admit. It may even be necessary to guard against dangerous encroachments by still further precautions.


The average size of a congressional  district based on the 2010 Census  apportionment population will be  710,767, more than triple the average  district size of 210,328 based on the  1910 Census apportionment, and 63,815  more than the average size based on  Census 2000 (646,952). Based on the  2010 Census apportionment, the state  with the largest average district size will  be Montana (994,416), and the state with  the smallest average district size will be  Rhode Island (527,624).

Two Parties, Four Postures

Four Strategic Postures Since 2000 (House, by election year)

                                                Majority                      Minority

            Pres Party                    Dems 08                      GOP 06
                                                GOP 00, 02, 04           Dem 10,12,14
            Out Party                    GOP 10,12,14             GOP 08
                                                Dem 06                       Dem 00, 02,04

First Assignment, Spring 2016

Pick one:
  • Answer one of the "questions for discussion" on page 72-73 of Haskell.
  • Choose either Mitch McConnell or Harry Reid.  How well did he perform as a leader in 2015? Compare and contrast his political environment with that facing LBJ in the 1950s. 
  • Pick any nonincumbent candidate for the House or Senate in 2014 or 2015.  Applying Herrnson's analysis of "strategic politicians" (see chapter 2), explain why this candidate ran. Under the circumstances, was it a wise decision?
Essays should reflect an understanding of class readings and discussions. Many resources, including CQ Weekly and Politics in America are at Honnold Library/Databases/CQ Library. see The Almanac of American Politics either in hardcopy at Honnold or via the library website. Consult other sources as well. See: http://www.claremontmckenna.edu/pages/faculty/JPitney/congress.html

The specifications:
  • Essays should be typed (12-point), double-spaced, and no more than four pages long. I will not read past the fourth page. 
  • Cite your sources. Please use endnotes in the format of Chicago Manual of Style.  Endnotes do not count against the page limit. Please do not use footnotes, which take up too much page space.
  • Watch your spelling, grammar, diction, and punctuation. Errors will count against you. Return essays to the Sakai dropbox for this class by 11:59 PM, Friday, February 12. Papers will drop one gradepoint for one day’s lateness, a full letter grade after that.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Visions of matriarchy

Related to our conversation Monday on congressional demographics, here's a cool clip from Roll Call -- following the East Coast blizzard, only women showed up to work in the Senate one day!

"I might also note just for a little historical perspective that as we convene this morning, you look around the chamber, and the presiding officer is female. All of our parliamentarians are female. Our floor managers are female. All of our pages are female. Now, this was not orchestrated in any way, shape, or form; we came in this morning, looked around, and thought, something is different this morning. Different in a good way, I might add. But something is genuinely different, and I think it's genuinely fabulous." Same here, Sen. Murkowski!

"Women Take Over Senate After Blizzard"