Some scholars of Congress argue that congressional members are mainly concerned with their own re-election.Do you think this is a fair statement to make?
I have to agree that many Congress members spend a great deal of their time, money and energy in getting re-elected. I believe the prospect of re-election is a shadow over every choice and vote that they make while in office. It is a valid point that was made above that this might not be a bad thing, as the way to get re-elected is to make your constituents happy. However I think the reality for many Congress members is that they are working to get re-elected as their main job, instead of focusing on doing their job. I don't think that they are focused on what is happening here and now, I think the focus is always on the polls and the campaign. The constant media coverage only fuels this. I believe it is rare to find a politician who is simply doing the best job they can, and relying on making their constituency happy with their work to get themselves re-elected. Unfortunately I also think too many Congress members are more concerned with what will make their party members happy than the people they represent. Most Americans are more middle of the road than the party leaders. You can't please both. But politicians work to please their party so as to keep their support and money for re-election.
That argument is cynical at best. Obviously, one in Congress who feels the work is rewarding and that he has met the needs of his constituents wishes to continue his work there. Our political system is so structured now that tremendous amounts of money are needed to conduct a political campaign; and one cannot assume the entire burden unless one is tremendously wealthy. The pay of members of Congress is not that great when one considers the hours, the expense of maintaining an office staff and two residences and the opportunities that would await one in the private sector.
Regrettably, a certain amount of time and money must be spent in working towards one's re-election; however no more time and money I would think than one's purported opponent would spend. Also, the stigma of being rejected by one's constituents would imply that one was not responsive to the needs of one's constituents. So, my opinion would be: Although members of Congress are obviously concerned about re-election, I think it unfair to say that this is their main concern. Anyone with that position has never asked for help from a Congressman, as I have, and received positive results.
I believe this is true. From the time a politician is elected, getting re-elected becomes a top priority; for some it becomes the top priority, often leading to less-than-ethical deal making. These kinds of deals are often justified with the argument that this isn't a good thing, but if I'm not re-elected, I can't do any good at all. Members of Congress do not rise or fall alone. When they lose an election, their staffs go down with them, prompting lots of people to scramble for new jobs. Consequently, a politician's re-election is of primary importance to many secondary players. In recent years with the 24-hour news cycle via cable TV, campaigning has become a continuous activity. As soon as one election is over, politicians begin campaigning for the next one. This is not good for the country; continuous campaigning leaves less time for governing and makes every decision subject to the latest political polls.
I would argue that this is probably true. However, I would also argue that this is not necessarily a bad thing.
If members of Congress were not worried about getting reelected, they would presumably do whatever they thought was right without any regard to what their constituents wanted them to do. Would this be a good thing? By the delegate theory of representation, it would not. This theory holds that representatives ought to be doing what the people who voted for them want them to do. After all, they are supposed to be representing those people's views.
So, I would argue that members of Congress do act in this way. The research seems to back this up as does anecdotal evidence (the way in which members try to bring home the pork or the ways in which they avoid voting against strong interest groups). However, I do not necessarily think this is a bad thing.
In response to #2, the statement for discussion is anything but cynical. Time and time again, the politico that a member of Congress is has been evinced through his/her speech and actions. For example, during broadcasts of investigations and hearings on the egregious acts of BP in the Gulf of Mexico, a congressman from Texas said before all present that he felt that the committees were being "too hard on BP." Now, what was this statement but evidence that he is in the proverbial pocket of BP and wants to be re-elected? This man was not concerned about the horrific disaster and the effect on the environment, nor the consequences for the residents of that area; he was merely concerned with his political position.
To start with, who isn't concerned with keeping their own job? There's some human nature element in that mindset that is likely found in all of us. With members of Congress, I think there's an added layer though, because along with good compensation, perks, and great health insurance (ironic) comes a measure of power and influence which is probably a bit intoxicating and addictive.
There are also those elected officials who want to ensure they are there long enough to get something done, to achieve things they set out to do in the beginning before they hang it up. For others, it is the most important job they will ever have.
I would also argue that this is completely true. I would also agree that it isn't necessarily a bad thing but in practice is a terrible thing because of the way elections work. Most people do not take the time to make decisions in an election based on voting records, etc., they go on their guts. And so the concern with re-election is not with voting a certain way, etc., it is with raising money because money almost always wins elections. And courting money isn't the same as courting your consitutuents so I would argue that this is a bad thing.
Extending the discussion from the US Congress to Politics around the world in general, the fact that politicians are only concerned with getting re-elected is an unfortunate reality.
And this is worsened by the fact that in many countries whether a politician is elected or not is dependent on his/her work for the electorate to a very small extent.
Where politics is only associated with power and money and elections are easily influenced if the right tactics are used at the appropriate time, things truly become very sad.
I agree with #3 in focussing on the desires and wishes of congress for reelection. They should always consider the needs and desires of the people that they are supposedly serving in this important public role. If they forget this, then they are free to support changes in legislation that are against the wishes of the people they are supposedly serving.