Let’s Play Hardball

Congressional Partisanship in the Television Era
  • Douglas B. Harris


The Machiavellian aim of “gaining and holding power” by winning a majority of legislative seats is a key aim, arguably the primary purpose, of legislative parties (Kolodny 1998). To be sure, legislative parties also play important roles in building legislative coalitions, passing policy, and organizing the chamber, but each of these legislative roles hinges on gaining or maintaining majority control. In this respect, contemporary parties fit well Anthony Downs’ definition of a political party as “a team of men [and women] seeking to control the governing apparatus by gaining office in a duly constituted election” (1957, 25). Still, what it takes to win enough offices to control the legislature has changed significantly in the last half century, particularly as Congress became more polarized in the post-Reagan era.


Party Leadership Moderate Member Congressional Party Democratic Leadership Party Polarization 
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© Scott A. Frisch and Sean Q Kelly 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Douglas B. Harris

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