There is sufficient diversity in the state of property, in the genus, manners, and habits of the people of the different parts of the Union, to occasion a material diversity of disposition in their representatives towards the different ranks and conditions of society. And though an intimate intercourse under the same government will promote a gradual assimilation in some of these respects, yet there are causes, as well physical as moral, which may, in a greater or less degree, permanently nourish different propensities and inclinations in this respect.
Hamilton, The Federalist
THE OUTER WORLD of the congressional system limits and shapes Congress, but cannot govern it. The exception to this rule is the Executive Force. The outer world is otherwise composed of the people, the press, interest and the political parties. The judiciary may also be counted among the elements.
It is incorrect to speak of the public as if it were one and alone. There are many publics in the United States. Any distinct clusters of opinion around an idea, a movement, an interest or any grouping whatsoever are publics, including all constituencies that choose public officers.
Congressmen have their eyes on four constituencies in general-four publics they might be called--and any number of sub-constituencies. The first Constituency consists of their personal public to whom Congressmen owe their election. Then we have the constituency of the President that affects their relation with the presidency and reacts with their own constituency. Third, the individual constituencies of their fellow-congressmen are of importance because these shape the legislature to which they belong and affect the form of what they can and cannot do in the legislature as individuals. Finally, congressmen acquire special constituencies as a result of their committee assignments: these are usually functional groups such as the army, postal employees, or scientists. Only the first two publics, the personal and the presidential, are treated here.
Within their own districts may exist a number of sub-constituencies, depending upon the complexity of opinions and interest in the district. There also are of course interest groups. To a great extent, a congressman's dealings with his constituency amount to the sum of separate dealings with his sub-constituencies.
To be governed by one, is not safe . . . Yet to be distracted with many is worse . . . To take advice of some few friends is ever honorable.
"Of Followers and Friends" (1625)
The most important sub-constituency is the congressman's personal following. It is ordinarily a group of friends, associated party officers, and dependent office-holders, reinforced by acquaintances grateful for past favors and expectant of additional ones, and admirers who are individually alert and informed on congressional politics or leaders of favorably disposed groups. Their number may be quite small, perhaps only forty persons, or may mount into some hundreds. It is this nuclear constituency that sorts and screens stimuli, and reacts to the congressman's behavior in a fashion that is intelligible to him so that in the end its influence and ideas are the most important of any group in the district. If anyone can control him, the nuclear constituency can. It is in a sense a controlling alter ego.
The character of the nuclear constituency depends on the character of the congressman. Several types of relations are apparent. One kind of congressman uses his nuclear constituency as a public relations machine, principally in political campaigns. Another may use it as an administrative machine in and out of office. Another may use it as a council of co-managers. Still another may let himself be run by his nuclear constituency, secure in the knowledge that its members know best the constituency's wishes and have his interests at heart.
From the nuclear constituency there spread contacts with, on the one hand, a large number of interest groups and, on the other, a generalized public whose relations with politics are only incidental or sporadic. The groups generate demands and pressures whose impact upon the congressman depends upon his span of dependent interests, the strength of his nuclear constituency, and his popularity with the general public.
How stand we now? Confusion in government,
Bemused chaos up, and conscience down,
-thou are so drunk
and deep in nothing save it be merriment.
Duke Wu of Wei, 811-756 B.C.
The Confucian Odes
(Trans. By Ezra Pound)
Duke Wu of ancient China sounds like a typical denouncer of "the interests" and the "lobbyists" in modern America. Such extreme sentiments only endanger a correct attitude towards republican forms. The major interests of the United States are well known. Labor unions, the public works segment of industry and commerce, the major industries of the district, educators, Negro groups in a number of constituencies-these are perhaps the most common constellation of continuously active interests within the particular districts around the nation. Many others become active on occasion and have a well-beaten traditional access road-church groups, veteran, fraternal orders, and professional associations of doctors, social workers, and the like.
In recent years perhaps more than formerly, interest groups have been nationalized. This means that a pressure of a given interest will be spread among a large number of congressmen in both the Senate and House and in their districts. The conditions under which certain congressmen become the targets of or associated with certain pressure groups are rather complex. But they include the "accessibility" of a congressman, whether this results from personal conviction, need of support, persuasibility, presence of the interest in sharp form in his district, or other reasons. Naturally the place occupied by the congressman in the Senate or House hierarchy, which is discussed below, makes him more or less attractive as the potential supporter of a group's policies.
In recent years too, the executive branch of government has experienced an increased pressure from organized groups. This trend is directly connected with the larger and more intensive delegations of power from Congress to the bureaucracies. There is a wide variety among agencies as to their permeability by groups from the outside. Some agencies absorb their pressure groups and use them; other agencies treat with them at arm's length.
On the whole, however, Congress is more congenial to the lobbyist, that is, the spokesman for a pressure group of an interest, than are the agencies of the executive establishment. This is not, as some might think because Congress is corruptible or gullible, but because it is more sensitive to the power of the vote and public opinion. In addition, the attitudes of the Republican Force are more those of the lobbyists than are the attitudes of the Executive Force; we refer to beliefs in federalism, decentralization, business independence, and the ideas of economic minorities.
Again, in recent years, as the executive establishment has grown in functions and everyday powers, more lobbyists have turned towards federal administrators for help. And federal administrative forces have sought to influence pressure group policies. The more funds they have and maneuvers they can practice, the more the administrators can impress cooperativeness upon pressure groups.
In increasing numbers of cases, the line separating a government regulatory agency and the group being regulated is getting to be difficult to draw. Here is a crucial area where a double-pronged movement is developing-carrying pressure groups into the executive orbit and filling the need of the Executive Force, in its struggle with the Republican Force, to have types of allies or constituents traditionally associated with the opposition. In one agency after another-Commerce, Agriculture, and State, as examples-administrators are active in creating special publics resembling in most ways congressional constituencies, though they lack an independent elective vote.
These are the major developments of interest groups in relation to executive and Congress, not that expected or predicted by most observers of the past, namely that pressure groups would come to dominate congressmen. Almost to a man (and there is little reason to doubt their general accuracy) congressmen will deny the larger influence of any interest group in their district. They will not deny contact. They believe that it is essential-and certainly it is important to outside appraisers of the situation-to distinguish between close contact with lobbyists and being intimidated by lobbyists. They are often frank to say that lobbyists provide information that otherwise would be difficult to come by, for reasons going to the fact that Congress possesses rather limited intelligence facilities, that the executive hides information, and that the most subtle and critical truths often emerge from a clash of convinced partisans.
That the American people live under some laws framed by lobbyists is not debatable. That these laws are--certainly no less than and probably more than the average law--contributions to the republican ideals and Republican Force of the country, can be asserted with some confidence. The only major problem that arises in this respect is from laws favoring special interests, often emerging from lobbying, which tend to establish monopolies and other rigidities in the market place. Despite an almost congenital belief in laissez-faire, congressmen do not have enough overall strength to withstand such pressure. Apart from this situation, lobbying interests would not seem to threaten the paramountcy of congressional rule, nor would they seem to be contributing much to the advance of the Executive Force.
The fabric of American empire ought to rest on the solid basis of the CONSENT OF THE PEOPLE. The streams of national power ought to flow immediately from that pure, original fountain of all legitimate authority.
Hamilton, The Federalist (1787)
The people as a whole is another question. It has already been suggested that by the people is meant politically a number of publics. These publics range on the score of interest and involvement from the apathetic to the highly involved nuclear constituency. They range in the subject of their concern from publics that are tied up with neighborhood and private matters, to those that are tied up with national and international affairs.
But these later do not form one public. Rather there are regional publics, such as the Old South and the Pacific Coast, publics that attend only to international questions and are constituents of the United Nations as much as of the State Department and the president. There would be congressional constituencies, presidential constituencies, and agency constituencies, all in the informal sense of the term, that indicates those who look to particular officials of the government in their search for representation.
The two that are of most interest now are the congressional constituency and the presidential one. They are usually not separated in the mind. When most people discuss and even write about American politics, they tend to talk of a great undifferentiated public (which does not exist), and pressure groups (which in many cases are sub-constituencies). The Congressional constituency, culminating on the scale of involvement in the nuclear constituency, is a surprising and disconcerting presence to the true presidential constituent. The presidential constituent is the person whose primary and often sole interest in politics is the incumbent and potential competitors for the presidential office.
To define exactly the boundary and describe the behavior of the two constituencies is not easy. There is of course a good deal of overlapping: a citizen may attend to both congressional and presidential politics. The impact of these double-constituents holds together the national (and international) political process. For they are on the whole inclined to make the same demands on both congressmen and President. Many, probably most of them, are more presidentially inclined. A much smaller would be congressionally inclined.
When we consider the two purer constituencies, again the congressional one seems the smaller. In the end, the presidential constituency is much larger than the congressional; it is likely to be, however, less persistent and less inured to the hardships of politics.
Estimates of the size of these two constituencies and their overlapping or double form would vary from district to district around America and from time to time. National opinion surveys and district polls help ascertain them. Generally, over 90% of the adults of the country might be expected to know who is President at any given time. On the average, covering all congressional districts of the country, less than half of the adults would know the name of their congressman in the House of Representatives; even fewer can name both of their Senators. Knowledge of the name is one measure of the first big leap from apathy to involvement. In the present case, it indicates also that in the gross sense, the congressional constituency is much smaller than the presidential one.
From the minimum of participation in the constituency to the maximum there occurs the full range of civic activity. From mere awareness to voting, the drop in number of participants is in the millions, but proportionately small. In the range between mere voting and expressing oneself politically along with being fairly well informed about public affairs, most members of the constituencies drop out. They are inactive. Perhaps no more than 10% of the adult population remain in the calculation, and of these constituents, by far the larger number is presidential rather than congressional. The reasons for this bifurcation are many; the main historical reasons are that the schools and press of the nation are centered upon the White House, the President is personalized to the ultimate extent, and the powers of the presidency have grown. But the phenomenon is much more complicated than that. It becomes intensely psychological and then ideological. How else can it be explained that polls of presidential popularity show the President almost always to "be doing a good job" and much more chosen than all conceivable competitors? This phenomenon occurs even after a close presidential election. It occurs even when the President is under heavy criticism, as for instance, in June 1965, when President Johnson, presumably embarrassed by the bad turns of events in Santo Domingo and Viet Nam, was said to be doing a good job by some 70% of the citizenry.
That there is a primitive attractiveness to rule by a single man appears to be fairly well established anthropological principle. Max Weber, Sebastian de Grazia, A. M. Hocart and Fred Greenstein are several scholars who have set up the relevant materials. [Max Weber, The Theory of Social and Economic Organization (New York: The Free Press of Glencoe, 1964), pp. 358-392.
Sebastian de Grazia, The Political Community (chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1948). A. M. Hocart, Kingship (London: Oxford University Press, 1927). Fred Greenstein, Children and Politics (new Haven: Yale University Press, 1965). That the despotic principle is connected psychologically with the authoritarian father in the family is also well-grounded theory. Further more, the first stages of civilization-on the edge of which modern man hovers-accentuate rather than depress the monarchical idea.
People are usually taken aback when an ancient or psychic phenomenon is brought home to their own behavior for the first time; however, one must insist upon facing the likelihood that a good deal of the popular sentiment relating to the President is nothing more nor less than the proverbial attachment of a people to its ruler, and is precisely the same sentiment that the founders of the Constitution sought as a group to diminish and confine.
To this old type of attachment which the American revolutionary generation called "the monarchical sentiment," has been joined in more recent times a rationalistic, efficiency movement that purports to see in executive integration the "one right way to do things." That there is no "one right way" is the thesis of some later pages. That the belief in such is part of the ideology that energizes the Executive Force is the relevant point here. It is part of being a believing member of the presidential constituency.
The presidential constituency acquires a great many adherents through the activity and figure of the President in foreign affairs. To most of the world America is symbolized by the incumbent President and perhaps several potential or past competitors for the post. To them, psychologically, the United States is a monarchy. America's "king" and "the crown princes" are their royal family. When the American government operates as a federal republic, or as a government by legislature, or as a free enterprise pluralistic society, the world thinks in terms of a king meeting with bootless resistance which he manfully overpowers or which saps his strength. The inevitable "liberality" of the presidency, which owes much to domestic political causes, is the generator of great and consistent enthusiasm for the presidency abroad, and in turn the foreign feeling is transmitted back to America, there to kindle like emotions.
No doubt some of the rage of American "isolationists" is due to their sensing a process that they cannot define. The process which they cannot define is in part the subtle transformation of the world into a constituency "virtually represented" (to use an antique term) by the American President and to a lesser extent by the American government as a whole. In the return cycle of this process of "virtual representation" the feelings of foreign "constituents" penetrate the American press, public opinion, and especially the members of the executive establishment (particularly the State Department and its connections throughout the academic and social structure of the land).
Thus, the Presidential constituency is not only enlarged somewhat, and not only influenced by foreign ideas and desires, but it also sees its focal point, the President, as a much vaster figure, no mere man, a center for world emotional attachment.
Still the presidential constituency leaves much to be desired as a supportive group. Its members are more ideological than practical; it is concentrated, so far as its informed and active part is concerned, in the academic halls and among temporary office-holders. It is split up, most of all, into those who wish the incumbent to prosper and those who wish him ill and have one or more alternate "crown princes" in mind for an early succession.
It is not surprising, then, that the President cannot count on drawing from his constituency a cadre of professional politicians who can provide consistent practical political support. His followers in the academic community, for example, tend to be issue-oriented, participating in politics when a controversy stirs them, and abstaining when the issues do not engage their political beliefs. Such a volatile source of assistance is of little use to a President who needs day-to-day political support whether he is right or wrong. The type of professional political following which the President needs is located out of his reach, in the halls of Congress.
The lack of a natural source of professional aid leads a candidate for the presidency to assemble his own personal paid staff, whose competence he can be sure of, and whose loyalty he can depend on. (This abets the tendency for only the rich to apply for the presidency.) He also resorts to the executive establishment especially a larger White House staff, for more support, and seeks further to nationalize and integrate the political party. He appoints more often from the bureaucracy; 48% of President Johnson's first 280 major non-judicial appointments were already in government service.
The president's tactics, moreover, usually involve the rallying of mass opinion to solve problems of public affairs: Instead of operating through layer upon layer of political and governmental leaders, the President uses his professional political staff, working through the mass media, to deal with his public. Too vast to be in personal contact with its leader, the presidential constituency interacts with him through television, magazines, and newspaper columns. It responds to him by viewing television screens and buying newspapers, by some variation of their voting behavior, and by pushing a little against the leaders of their interest groups or congressmen.
By contrast, the congressional constituency is of smaller gross dimensions in the nation as a whole and in each state and district. But it contains the larger nuclear constituency. It numbers more persons to whom politics is a way of life and more persons with tangible local interest that are best pursued by the congressional route. It is more of a working group as it is found throughout the country. It is not so easy to excite but has a tenacious grip on the realities and techniques of politics. Its liaisons with state and local politics (except to some degree in the large metropolises) are more varied and extensive.
Small businessmen and autonomous managers of branch factories are prominent in the group, more so now that the welfare state has reduced the number of those subsisting upon the good-will of the politicians. To a considerable degree the most direct beneficiaries of national welfare policies have joined the constituency of the President.
Congressional constituencies of course are far from uniform in social composition and outlook. In a great many districts and states, the republican outlook is dominant and supplies the Congressman or Senator with heavy backing; they become independent of the executive. In other districts, the situation varies from time to time; there the representative is now a part of the congressional system, then again a part of the presidential one. Some of the districts are more or less permanent parts of the presidential system.
The competitiveness of a district contributes to a district's moving by means of its representative from congressional to presidential party and back. Ordinarily safe districts are congressional or presidential, but not both in a short period of time. In presidential election years and during national crises, the presidential force exerts its strongest psychological pull upon the public; in less excited times, the congressional force dominates the field. The long-term trend, manifesting itself in both critical and routine periods, leads towards the domination of a larger number of congressional seats by the Executive Force.
Within the individual district, this large-scale phenomenon is noticeable in the changing character of the congressman's constituency. As one or another force waxes and wanes, the constituency alters. In the majority of districts, the congressman maintains his ruling role within the constituency system. He is not forced by the executive, or interests representing the Executive Force, or by the political party, to behave contrary to his own or his nuclear constituency's ideas.
Since people as a whole are so inactive politically, and their information is inexact and scanty, the congressman typically derives a commanding position from his personal nuclear constituency-his machine, as some might in exactly call it, and his ability to make an impression, "create an image," as the advertising professionals say, on his district's votes. This image, plus the nuclear constituency, plus the general vote favorable to his party and presidential candidate, are usually sufficient to bring reelection. The images can exist in variety because, unlike situations where candidates are picked by party machinery, as in England, the candidates in the United States can appear in whatever form may be calculated successfully to appeal to the voters in a given election campaign. Over 90% of all members of the House of Representatives who seek reelection do, in fact, succeed.
To a far greater extent than in practically any other system in the world, the American legislator creates his own constituency and shapes and amends it over time. This fact, so important in determining the character of congressmen and Congress as a whole, is often not understood. But the end product, the independent congressman, is a result of a constituency that is founded upon apathy and that is rather shapeless to begin with.
Given the same apathy and the active role of the congressional candidates in creating their own creators, the constituents, it does not appear likely that the "people" would be able to determine the policies of the congressmen as individuals or as the Congress. Rather the representatives are fairly free to put together their own winning combinations from one election time to the next.
There are still plenty of reasons why the life of senators and congressmen may be short and not so sweet; recessions, tactical errors, a fresh image on another man, reapportionment, a movement of people into or out of the district, and so forth! None of these threaten to wreck the old constituency system. The public is not becoming better informed or more active, either, so that there is no danger of politics becoming rationalized in the business sense, with the constituents becoming a great board of directors watching every move.
There could be imagined some changes in the congressional constituency that would make it function better as an instrument of the Republican Force. The public is not large or varied enough in the typical constituency to supply workers, critics, and intelligent claques. Only several millions of Americans regularly are active in politics. These politists, who must supply the motive force for the huge engines of American democracy, can scarcely be increased in number and are readily reducible. The myth of the active mass of citizens lulls many a potential defender of the republic who should otherwise be keen on the preservation of the species. As it is, they think it does not matter to cut out a few thousands of active citizens here and there on any plausible excuse-to prevent conflicts of interest, to pursue the merit system, by invading privacy, by character assassination, by seeking dis-qualifications of a legal or informal kind, by the elimination of the training grounds-often grim, to be sure-of the politically active people, and so on to successive decimations of the ranks of politists.
The Executive Force does not need an active public. It requires only a passive public. As John Stuart Mill once wrote:
A good despotism means a government in which, so far as depends on the despot, there is no positive oppression by officers of state, but in which all the collective interest of the people are managed for them, all the thinking that has relation to collective interests done for them, and in which their minds are formed by, and consenting to, this abdication of their own energies. [Representative Government (Every Man's Edition, 1861), pp. 204-205.]
It is thus representative government, the republic, that needs the politists. The congressional force needs new instruments to develop its theory and support in the electorate. These will have to be put forward later on in these pages.
For the past and the present offer too few resources to preserve republican government as it works by way of the constituencies. There is a continuously growing threat from the presidential constituency, as has been shown, through the more grandiose image of the President, amplified by foreign masses, and by the American press. And a sharply thrusting element of the presidential force, the integrated political party, stand as a potential threat too.
The important question, as this chapter has shown, is not whether congressional rule will succumb to the populism of the constituency. That will not happen. Rather the populist constituency is in danger of being converted into the instrument of the Executive Force and therefore the important question: Will the congressman fall under the rule of the presidential constituency?