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July 27, 2012

American Politics

American Politics

The article titled “Institutional Context and Leadership Style: The House from Cannon to Rayburn” written by Joseph Cooper talks about the transition in House leadership from Cannon to Rayburn. While analyzing the palpable transition, the author argues that the institutional context of the House determines leadership power and style.
The process of transition has changed the shift of emphasis from hierarchical to a bargaining pattern. The author concludes that the relationship between the leadership style and effectiveness cannot be summed up in simpler terms because the style and effectiveness are contingent or situational. Precisely put, the stronger the party, the more influence it will place on the House. There are always the parties that determine the leadership behaviors and styles.
With the presence of a powerful party, the power remains concentrated and centralized and this very phenomenon compels the leaders to be task or goal oriented. In cases when the party is not strong, power becomes dispersed. As a result, the leaders go down to bargaining and maintaining relationships because they do not have any other option.(Lindsay, 1994)
The Rayburn House
The Rayburn House initiated the transition which changed the character of House as a political institution. The Rayburn House diffused the power of the Speaker which led to the bargaining style. Subsequently, no the majority party leadership could command the organizational units due to the breakdown of party control mechanisms and the elimination of the Speaker's prerogatives over appointment and the Rules Committee.

The author makes a cogent argument supported by historical findings and evidence. For example, he cites the reduction in the formal powers of the Speaker between 1909 and 1911. According him, this led to the dispersion of power in the House. With the House under decentralized rule such as in the case of Ray-burn, the difference between their leadership style and that of House of Cannon or Reed was self-evident. The author aptly puts that the diffusion of power was an upshot of centralized power and hierarchal control. But the majority party leadership could no longer dictate their terms powerfully because the change in pattern also paved the way for the elimination of Speaker’s prerogatives over appointment and the Rules Committee.
The reason for this palpable shift lies in the leadership style and behavior of the House. One might argue that since the House of Reed and Cannon possessed a highly centralized power structure and the control rested in hands of the Speaker therefore the power of the Speaker did not merely imply prerogatives neither under rules nor in his position but the leverage he had given the leadership style. As a result, the transition of hierarchy to bargaining took place. The congressional nature of leadership has not, indeed, remained static.  

In the article “Transformational leader or faithful agent principle-agent theory and house majority party leadership” comes up with an exclusive argument. This is to say, the author draws our attention to the underlying reasons of Newt Gingrich’s phenomenal success in the 104th Congress that moved many political scientist to question the discipline’s prevalent conception of congressional leadership.  Unlike the previous article in the author argued that it was the institutional context of the House that determined the power, the author of this article contends that the example of Gingrich being a transformational leader accentuates the importance and influence than an individual can exert on the overall structure of the House. The power of the House need not necessarily be reduced to the expectations of the members because it was the Republican attitude and approach to leadership that earned Gingrich a phenomenal success. The ascendency of Gingrich to speakership is redolent of the changing context of the House.
There is a commonly held belief that congressional leaders serve as agents upon whom it is incumbent to come up with the expectations of members in order to get reelected. According to the author, the institutional and political context of the House increases the expectations and goals of the members to an extent that they seek different ways to advance them. The author argues that the leadership styles and behaviors in the House cannot be fully assessed overlooking the importance of Gingrich as the Speaker.
The author analyzes the contextual change that took place between the 104th and 105th congresses. The author contends that the change in leadership style took place largely due to the continuity and change in the rate and type of House majority party leadership activity and leadership strategies.
 The leadership style of Gingrich left an enormous impact on the House showing significant continuity and some distinctive features that other Speakers lacked. The continuity served to alter the expectations of members.
His leadership style was such that even political scientist began to question whether the discipline’s prevalent conception of congressional leadership was adequate to explain the Gingrich leadership. In author’s viewpoint, the principle-agent theory that conceptualizes leadership in legislatures having an ability to ameliorate the problems of collective action.
Gingrich saw compromise as a circuitous but necessary means to the party membership's common end; many of his members saw it as a betrayal of those ends. The context that had made possible persuading even cautious senior members to attempt a radical transformation of government's role also made it impossible to persuade the real revolutionaries to retreat and settle for half a loaf.

In the article “Who is Nancy Pelosi?” the author analyzes another significant change in the history of Congress that took place following the rise of the first women who assumed the position of Speaker.
This rise of woman in a hitherto male-dominated society was something of a challenge. The author highlights the dynamics of gender and its role in the political process of the country.
The Speaker Pelosi’s historic rise to power cannot be analyzed in isolation without its reference to the context of the gendered dynamics of House leadership elections. The author cites and compares the leadership elections between 1975 and 2007. Within that period, the participation of women in elections grew steadily. Before the rise of Pelosi, there lied a kind of self-imposed limitation on the part of women because they themselves never sought to ascend to higher positions. There were only a handful of women who challenged for higher positions.
The author analyzes the gradual change in women’s outlook towards politics and election as they began to expand their participation more actively after 1990s. He points out that the earlier lack of women activism in contests was rather due to the opportunity structure than discrimination or bias. (Davies, 1996)
            The male members have remained as the dominant gender group that has enjoyed the higher-level positions. As a result, the rise of male members became too established to be contested. The author opines that first entry into leadership may create more contested races than reselection in office or succession contests to move up the leadership ladder and the rise of Pelosi is a living example. However, her situation was not akin to that of Gingrich, because her every crucial decision, plan of action, and statement came under rigorous examination of her party members and media. Without the support of party, her speakership would have definitely been endangered. Her being a first woman speaker did not allow her to go beyond the questioning of party members, leadership and frenzied media. However, she still made a difference, that of being a first woman speaker.
In the article “The Price of Leadership: Campaign Money and the polarization of congressional parties” the authors argue that it is necessary to take into account the leadership selection and fundraising in order to understand the continual polarization of the congressional parties.(Pious, 1984)
The main argument in the article is that for the elected party leadership posts, the members generally tend to side with the extreme leaders instead of those who take “ideological middlemen.”  It happens when the extremists redistribute more money than their more centrist opponents.
According to the authors, the redistributing campaign money helps ideologues in winning posts in the extended party leadership, though appointment to such posts by the top leaders (rather than by the caucus) makes the role of money and ideology more complex.
The article highlights the fact that the top leaders reward the contributions of ideologically like-mined members. They ignore their ideologically dissimilar members. This results in the polarized leadership in Congress.(Kornberg, 1989)
The author aptly argues that now it is neither the institutional context of the House nor leadership style that matters most because this all has been replaced by fundraising and polarized leadership. Indeed, fundraising plays a pivotal role in determining the leadership and speakership of the House. Money and fundraising has significantly changed the structure of the Congress. 2004). These two factors have combined to change the incentive structure of leader- ship selection for the rank and file. When money was less important and majority status was secure, members could afford to value leaders who specialized in coalition building or legislative management. In today's Congress, however, the insatiable need for money to maintain or win majority control has made fundraising ability a critical attribute for leaders. The leaders who lack these attributes are most likely to remain powerless.
              Importantly, the ideological extremists who have won recent elected leadership races have also been the biggest redistributors. Between the 103rd and 108th Congresses, there were ten elections for the parties' respective whip and floor leader positions. In those ten elections, those in the most extreme third of their caucus won nine times.
  Unlike the preceding congresses, where institutional context, personal charisma and party leadership mattered, the priority is now given to the leaders who are financially stable enough to run the parties on their own money, if need be. They are no longer the ordinary citizens. They are older and wealthier than most American disproportionately white and male. Majority of them is also trained in professional occupations.



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