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POLSC331: Congressional Politics

Unit 2: Becoming a Member of Congress   In this unit, you will explore the process of becoming a member of Congress and the responsibilities of members once they are elected.  The first subunit will focus on the recruitment of candidates and the role of political parties and other elected officials in grooming and persuading strong candidates to run.  In the second subunit, you will learn more about the actual election process, the critical importance of money, and how redistricting can play a major role in congressional electoral outcomes.  Finally, the unit will take a look at the actions of members both in their home congressional districts and in Washington.  You will learn that, once members are elected, most of their actions are designed to ensure their future re-election.  In this unit, you will also focus on the roles and duties of members of Congress.

Unit 2 Time Advisory
This unit should take you approximately 12 hours to complete.

☐    Subunit 2.1: 2.5 hours

☐    Subunit 2.2: 5.25 hours

☐    Subunit 2.2.1: 3.25 hours

☐    Subunit 2.2.2: 2 hours
 

☐    Subunit 2.3: 4.25 hours
☐    Sub-subunit 2.3.1: 1.5 hours
☐    Sub-subunit 2.3.2: 0.75 hour
☐    Sub-subunit 2.3.3: 2 hours

Unit2 Learning Outcomes
Upon successful completion of this unit, the student will be able to:

  • Explain how congressional candidates run for office.
  • Discuss the importance of political parties in the recruitment of congressional candidates.
  • Identify the advantages and disadvantages of incumbency.
  • Define reapportionment and redistricting.
  • Assess the role of money and fundraising in congressional elections.
  • Compare and contrast how members of Congress fulfill their duties in their home districts and in Washington D.C.

2.1 Getting Ready to Run   2.1.1 General Requirements   - Reading: The Center on Congress at Indiana University: Lee Hamilton’s “How to Run for Congress” Link: The Center on Congress at Indiana University: Lee Hamilton’s “How to Run for Congress” (HTML or Mp3)
 
Instructions: Read the above article in its entirety.  You can also listen to the Mp3 version by choosing the “Listen to the radio version of this article” link on the top of the page.
 
This reading should take approximately 15 minutes to complete.
 
Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • Reading: Federal Election Commission’s “Testing the Waters” Link: Federal Election Commission’s “Testing the Waters” (HTML)
     
    Instructions: Please click on the link above, and read the webpage in its entirety. 
     
    This reading should take you approximately 15 minutes to complete.
     
    Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.
     

  • Reading: Jodyb.net: Jody Baumgartner’s “American Politics: The Electoral Environment in the U.S.” Link: Jodyb.net:Jody Baumgartner’s “American Politics: The Electoral Environment in the U.S.” (PDF)
     
    Instructions: Go to the above link, and click on the first PDF file under “Study of Politics.”  Read this brief 2-page document.  What are some of the issues that an individual must consider before deciding to run for Congress?
     
    This reading should take approximately 15-20 minutes to complete.
     
    Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • Reading: CompleteCampaigns.com: Christopher Crotty’s “So You Want to Run for Office?” Link: CompleteCampaigns.com: Christopher Crotty’s “So You Want to Run for Office?” (HTML)

    IInstructions: Please click on the link above, and read the above article in its entirety. 
     
    This reading should take approximately 30 minutes to complete.
     
    Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

2.1.2 Candidate Recruitment   - Web Media: Annenberg Foundation: Democracy in America’s “Political Parties: Mobilizing Agents” Link: Annenberg Foundation: Democracy in America’s “Political Parties: Mobilizing Agents” (Adobe Flash)
 
Instructions: Scroll down to the 12th video on the list, and click on the “VoD” icon.  Please watch only the first 11 minutes of the video.  A major purpose of political parties is to recruit potential candidates who share their political agendas and can promote those agendas in elective office.  This video offers a case study of a political candidate and the role of the party. 

 This resource should take less than 15 minutes to complete.  
    
 Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use
displayed on the webpage above.  
  
  • Reading: New York Times: Raymond Hernandez’s “Short of Funds, GOP Recruits the Rich to Run” Link: New York Times: Raymond Hernandez’s “Short of Funds, GOP Recruits the Rich to Run” (HTML)
     
    Instructions: Please read the above article in its entirety (2 pages).  Remember to click on the “next” button at the bottom of the page to read the second page of the article.
     
    This reading should take approximately 15 minutes to complete.
     
    Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • Reading: Mother Jones: David Corn’s “The Hardest Job in Washington” Link: Mother Jones: David Corn’s “The Hardest Job in Washington” (HTML)
     
    Instructions: Please read the article linked above in its entirety.
     
    This reading should take approximately 15 minutes to complete.
     
    Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • Reading: Roll Call: Politics: Jessica Brady’s “Groups Seek 2012 Repeat of ‘Year of the Woman’” Link: Roll Call: Politics: Jessica Brady’s “Groups Seek 2012 Repeat of ‘Year of the Woman’” (HTML)
     
    Instructions: Please read the article linked above in its entirety.
     
    This reading should take approximately 15 minutes to complete.
     
    Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.
     

2.2 Congressional Elections   2.2.1 The Role of Money   - Web Media: C-SPAN Classroom’s “Role of Money in Politics” Link: C-SPAN Classroom’s “Role of Money in Politics” (Adobe Flash)
 
Instructions: Please watch the video in its entirety (approximately 1 hour and 17 minutes).
 
Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • Reading: MIT’s version of Paul S. Herrnson’s “The Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act and Congressional Elections” Link: MIT’s version of Paul S. Herrnson’s “The Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act and Congressional Elections” (PDF)
     
    Instructions: Go to the above website, scroll down to “Week 10,” and click on the first link, which will direct to a PDF file of the study.  Please read the entire document (28 pages).
     
    This reading should take approximately 1 hour and 30 minutes to complete.
     
    Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • Reading: OpenSecrets.org: Center for Responsive Politics’ “Election 2010 to Shatter Spending Records as Republicans Benefit from Late Cash Surge” Link: OpenSecrets.org: Center for Responsive Politics’ “Election 2010 to Shatter Spending Records as Republicans Benefit from Late Cash Surge” (HTML)
     
    Instructions: Please click on the link above, and read the entire text. After reading all of the articles in this subunit, think about why and how money has become such a critical component of a successful campaign.  What are the implications for a democracy in which, ideally, everyone should have a voice that represents them?
     
    Reading and answering these questions should take approximately 30 minutes to complete.
     
    Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.
     

2.2.2 The Incumbency Advantage   - Reading: Doc-txt: Jody Baumgartner’s “Competition in Congressional Elections: A Thing of the Past” Link: Doc-txt: Jody Baumgartner’s “Competition in Congressional Elections:  A Thing of the Past?” (PDF)
  
Instructions: Please click on the link above, and select the link to the title “Competition in Congressional Elections: A Thing of the Past.  Read the article in its entirety (5 pages).  How is the system set up so that challengers so often fail in unseating an incumbent?  Is incumbency a major disincentive for people wanting to run for office?
 
Reading and answer these questions should take approximately 30 minutes to complete.
 
Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

2.2.3 Reapportionment, Redistricting, and the Legacy of Gerrymandering   - Reading: The ACE Project: “The United States of America: Reapportionment and Redistricting” Link: The ACE Project: “The United States of America: Reapportionment and Redistricting” (HTML)
 
Instructions: Please read the webpage in its entirety.  What is the difference between reapportionment and redistricting?
 
Reading and answering this question should take approximately 30 minutes to complete.
 
Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • Web Media: National Public Radio: The Diane Rehm Show’s “The Constitution Today: Redistricting” Link: National Public Radio: The Diane Rehm Show’s “The Constitution Today: Redistricting” (Adobe Flash)
     
    Instructions: Click on the “Listen” link on the top left hand corner of the website, which will link directly to the audio of the above program, whichexamines what the Constitution says about drawing congressional and legislative districts and how court decisions have further shaped those guidelines. Please listen to the entire program (51:34 minutes).
     
    Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

2.3 Representation and Lawmaking   2.3.1 Congress and Re-Election   - Reading: The Brookings Institute: Sarah Binder’s “Can Congress Legislate for the Future?” Link: The Brookings Institute: Sarah Binder’s “Can Congress Legislate for the Future?” (PDF)
 
Instructions: Go to the website linked above, and click on the “Download PDF” below the title and by-lines for access to the report.  Please read the entire report (13 pages).
 
This reading should take approximately 45 minutes to complete.
 
Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • Reading: ThisNation.Com’s “Congressional Representation” Link: ThisNation.Com’s “Congressional Representation” (HTML)
     
    Instructions: Read the webpage in its entirety.  After reading the above two articles, think about how much of a congressperson’s work is dedicated to re-election as opposed to their defined congressional duties.  Can it be argued that they are often inseparable?
     
    Reading this text and answering this question should take approximately 45 minutes to complete.
     
    Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.
     

2.3.2 “Home Style” vs. “Hill Style”   - Reading: Congressional Research Service: R. Eric Petersen’s “Roles and Duties of a Member of Congress” Link: Congressional Research Service: R. Eric Petersen’s “Roles and Duties of a Member of Congress” (PDF)
 
Instructions: Click on the above link, scroll down to the PDF file of the report dated November 4, 2010, and click on the hyperlink titled “Roles and Duties of a Member of Congress.”  Please note that the links are listed chronologically by date.  Please read the entire document (13 pages).
 
This reading should take approximately 45 minutes to complete.
 
Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above

2.3.3 Life as a Member of Congress   - Assessment: The Saylor Foundation's "Congress: A Member Profile" Link: The Saylor Foundation's "Congress: A Member Profile" (PDF)
 
Instructions: Please complete the linked assessment in order to test your ability in researching a member of Congress’ background, district, committee assignments, political beliefs, and electoral strengths. This assessment will also help you to evaluate the influence of constituents, colleagues, and interest groups on congressional decision-making.
 
This assessment should take approximately 1 hour to complete.

 When you are done, please check your work against The Saylor
Foundation's "[Guide to Responding to the Congress: A Member Profile
Assessment.](http://www.saylor.org/site/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/POLSC331-Assessment-2-GTR-FINAL.pdf)"
  • Web Media: CNN’s “Freshman Year” Link: CNN’s “Freshman Year” (Adobe Flash)
     
    Instructions:  What is it really like to be a new member of the world’s most powerful legislature?  This video series tells the story of “freshman year” through a series of firsthand reports from two new (and very different) representatives. Please click on the link above, and view episodes 1-6 (about 60 minutes total).  To access these videos, use the arrow below the video screen to scroll over to these episodes.
     
    Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.