Senators On The Campaign Trail

Senators On The Campaign Trail

by Jr. Richard F. Fenno
     
 

This is a book about the politics of representative democracy, written from the perspective of the politicians who make it work. Typically, political scientists study campaigns from the perspective of the voter and for the purpose of explaining election outcomes. But campaigns also need to be studied from the perspective of the candidate, for the purpose of

Overview

This is a book about the politics of representative democracy, written from the perspective of the politicians who make it work. Typically, political scientists study campaigns from the perspective of the voter and for the purpose of explaining election outcomes. But campaigns also need to be studied from the perspective of the candidate, for the purpose of understanding representation.

Richard F. Fenno, Jr., traveled with ten U.S. senators as they campaigned in their home states-using what he calls the "drop in/drop out, tag along/hang around" method of research-to present a developmental picture of their activities. His focus here is on three such activities—pursuing a career, campaigning for office, and building constituency connections. Taken together, the three constitute the political underpinnings of representative democracy.

Fenno describes the achievement, the testing, and the maintenance of representational relationships. He examines challengers and incumbents, winners and losers, and motivations, strategies, and behaviors; and he reports on differences, similarities, and patterns among them. In studying the candidates' varied careers, campaigns, and connections in stages and sequences and in depth—and in allowing us to hear them reflect on these experiences—Fenno has been able to offer rare insights into campaigns and elections, insights very different from conventional ones that concentrate on the behavior of voters.

In its focus on the process of representative democracy, Senators on the Campaign Trail offers a rich, rounded, developmental view of some high-level individuals who work at the business of representation. For scholars, the book suggests some qualitative confirmation and added stimulation in forging generalizations about politicians. For citizens, the book argues for replacing the conventional blanket condemnation of our politicians, so prevalent today, with more discriminating judgments about what they do, and why and to what purpose they do it.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
While most political scientists focus on polls, trends and statistics, Fenno's absorbing book compares the behavior of 10 Senatorial candidates on the campaign trail between 1976 and 1994, resulting in numerous unconventional insights into the how voters react to politicians. Fenno compares former Iowa Senator Dick Clark's 1972 election, based largely on the popularity of his energetic walk across Iowa to meet voters, to his complacent an unsuccessful second campaign. Former astronaut John Glenn didn't have to go to such lengths for name recognition, but it wasn't until he addressed a union of boilerplate workers in 1980 that he stumbled across the fact that the audience was more deeply responsive to his own personal past as a plumber's son than to his status as national hero. Fenno also makes an instructive comparison between Glenn's failure in one election to the success of the young Dan Quayle in another: "Quayle," he notes, "had no reputation... but he also had nothing to lose." There are many subtle distinctions between candidates' institutional ambitions in the Senate and their electoral ambitions in their home states, and there is the concept of personal representation versus policy representation, and Fenno clearly defines all these. Although he can be repetitively defensive about the academic validity of his approach, Fenno's focus on individual details restores a humanity to the Senate in an era of public cynicism about public institutions. (June)
Library Journal
At the core of American democracy is the election-the mechanism by which the people choose those who will govern them. Elected officials represent their constituents. Fenno, a highly respected political scientist, has written a book that examines the connection between elections and representation. For over 15 years, he observed 234 different individuals who sought to win seats in the Senate. Challengers and incumbents, both successful and unsuccessful, are included in this analysis. From this small but rich sample, Fenno dramatizes the significant role that a campaign plays in shaping the relationship between constituents and their elected officials. He shows the representational relationship to be a "continuous negotiation" that evolves over time with each successful election or that severs the relationship when an incumbent is defeated. Campaigns are "critical events and sequences in that negotiating process." This is an exceptionally well-written book from an exceptionally perceptive scholar that should be read by anyone who hopes to comprehend the beauty and complexity that is American democracy. For academic and larger public library political science collections.-Thomas J. Baldino, Wilkes Univ., Wilkes-Barre, Pa.
Booknews
Fenno (political science, U. of Rochester) looks at political campaigns from the perspective of the candidate, revealing insights gleaned from his travels with ten US senators as they campaigned in their home states. He examines their views on pursuing a career, campaigning for office, and building constituency connections, discussing their motivations and strategies. For students and general readers. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780806130620
Publisher:
University of Oklahoma Press
Publication date:
09/05/2000
Series:
Julian J. Rothbaum Distinguished Lecture Series
Pages:
388
Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.86(d)

Meet the Author

Richard F. Fenno, Jr., is Distinguished University Professor of Political Science at the University of Rochester. His twelve previous books on the Congress and other political subjects include the award-winning Home Style: House Members in Their Districts, for which this book is a long-awaited sequel.

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