Tchaikovsky Sounds Funny: Book Review: "Bringing Representation Home"

Is this where I put in key words such as sex, lesbians, vampires, Christopher Lloyd and others things to which this blog do not pertain, but by putting them here, I may get hits from all the Christoper Lloyd lesbian vampire fans (and you know who you are)? This is the primarily humorous and occasionally rambling writings of Leon Tchaikovsky, humor writer. Enjoy.

Thursday, January 27, 2005

Book Review: "Bringing Representation Home"

Tchaikovsky Sounds Funny: January 2005

An effective state legislator is one who is aware of and reflects a district’s thinking and concerns and maintains good communications with organized groups representing that district, according to the author of “Bringing Representation Home”. While this may seem obvious to most legislative staff, the confirmation of this through research is useful. Besides, we know many Republican legislators believe they can act against their districts’ interests, and we know that can’t be effective representation. Michael A. Smith, the author of this book, followed 12 state legislators in search of what made them effective legislators and has produced this book as a result of his research.

While I don’t know if observing state legislators is akin to Jane Goodall’s field observations, state legislators certainly must make for an interesting sight. The book begins with discussing various theories and previous research regarding legislators. Richard Fenno has written about the “home style” representation of legislators who are aware of their need for support from their constituents. Malcolm Jewell has discussed how legislators maintain contact with their constituents and of their need to respond to constituents’ policy concerns and constituent services. Michael A. Smith concludes there is no universal definition of how to define representation, noting that even legislators are dynamically redefining how they consider their own styles of representation as circumstances change.

The author made numerous observations. Most groupings have fights for leadership with the winner, usually one with experience and ability, being able to beat his chest in support of his decisions and…sorry, that’s Jane Goodall. Legislators from lower or moderate income urban areas tend to be the strongest advocates for their districts and often take the lead in advancing causes that help their constituents. Legislators from wealthier districts who face tougher reelection elections tend to more passively wait for constituents to bring issues to them before advocating such issues. Legislators who wish to run for higher office tend to be outspoken advocates. Legislators with little or no ambition for higher office tend to try to come across as more level-headed.

While the author concludes there is no “grand theory” on describing how legislators behave, these observations and categorizations are useful. It is good to see academicians making field research into the behaviors of legislators. We can only hope research continues into this oft forgotten species.


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