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At a moment when Congress is viewed by a skeptical public as hyper-partisan and dysfunctional, Richard Fenno provides a variegated picture of American representational politics. The Challenge of Congressional Representation offers an up-close-and-personal look at the complex relationship between members of Congress and their constituents back home.
However much politicians are demeaned and denounced in modern American society, our democracy could not work without them. For this reason, says Richard Fenno, their activities warrant our attention. In his pioneering book, Home Style, Fenno demonstrated that a close look at politicians at work in their districts can tell us a great deal about the process of representation. Here, Fenno employs a similarly revealing grassroots approach to explore how patterns of representation have changed in recent decades.Fenno focuses on two members of the U.S. House of Representatives who represented the same west-central Georgia district at different times: Jack Flynt, who served from the 1950s to the 1970s, and Mac Collins, who has held the seat in the 1990s. His on-the-scene observation of their differing representational styles--Flynt focuses on people, Collins on policy--reveals the ways in which social and demographic changes inspire shifts in representational strategies. More than a study of representational change in one district, Congress at the Grassroots also helps illuminate the larger subject of political change in the South and in the nation as a whole.
Thirty years ago there were nine African Americans in the U. S. House of Representatives. Today there are four times that number. In Going Home, the dean of congressional studies, Richard F. Fenno, explores what representation has meant--and means today--to black voters and to the politicians they have elected to office. Fenno follows the careers of four black representatives--Louis Stokes, Barbara Jordan, Chaka Fattah, and Stephanie Tubbs Jones--from their home districts to the halls of the Capitol. He finds that while these politicians had different visions of how they should represent their districts (in part based on their individual preferences, and in part based on the history of black politics in America), they shared crucial organizational and symbolic connections to their constituents. These connections, which draw on a sense of "linked fates," are ones that only black representatives can provide to black constituents. His detailed portraits and incisive analyses will be important for anyone interested in the workings of Congress or in black politics.
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