Guided Questions over Chapter 11 (Congress)
What is the difference between descriptive and substantive representation? In your opinion, can Congress claim that it does either? Explain.
Based on what you know about congressional elections, what do you think are three primary reasons for the incumbency advantage? Generally speaking, do you think the incumbency advantage is good or bad for American democracy? Explain.
Although legislators are often overwhelmed with responsibilities, they have a staff to assist them. What role do personal and committee staffs play in the legislative process? In your opinion, is greater reliance on legislative staff good or bad for representative democracy? Explain your answer.
As majority leader of the Senate, Robert Dole once dubbed himself the "Majority Pleader." Based on what you have learned, what supports Senator Dole's assessment, and what contradicts it? How important do you think strong leadership is in the House and in the Senate? Which aspects of leaders' powers would you change, and why?
Constituency opinion is not always the dominant factor that influences a legislator's decision making. Under what circumstances are legislators more likely to respond to constituency opinion and when are they less likely to do so? In your opinion, is it undemocratic when legislators do not respond to constituency opinion in their decision making? Why or why not?
In Congress a representative institution? Are there any ways to make Congress more representative of the American people?
Does congressional responsiveness to constituents predispose Congress to increase the scope of government? If so, what can be done to counterbalance this predisposition?