Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Does Turnover Ameliorate or Exacerbate Gridlock?

I found this article in today's New York Times interesting. It describes the expected effects of redistricting and retirement on California's Congressional delegation; it's expected that as many as a quarter of the state's representatives will be newcomers, come 2012.

After the 2010 census, California adopted an independent non-partisan redistricting commission. This was hailed positively as taking the politics out of the process. On the other hand, the commission didn't take incumbency into consideration: now, senior members of the House with plum committee assignments are facing tough re-election battles or have chosen retirement. Some consider this loss of power relative to other states as a giant drawback to independent redistricting.

Regardless of how the process affects California internally, the article made me think about how turnover affects Gridlock. Are incumbents more likely to seek bipartisanship?

The counter-answer is that Congressional freshmen are less likely to work across the aisle. The 2010-midterms Tea Party wave produced an eager new crop of Representatives hoping to block President Obama's legislative agenda; they've managed to push the House right-ward. A quick electoral cycle which emphasizes political victories and fundraising makes party-line adherence attractive. Or at least that's the New York Times' narrative, in my links.

1 comment:

  1. I think it would make sense that incumbents seek bipartisanship more often. At least traditionally, they have developed relationships with other Congressmen, having spent more time on the Hill. Freshmen office holders, however, come to the Hill without a network of contacts and therefore seek refuge in party-line adherence. They haven't earned enough respect and political clout to have the liberty of thinking for themselves.