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Beyond Ideology

Politics, Principles, and Partisanship in the U. S. Senate

Beyond Ideology

Politics, Principles, and Partisanship in the U. S. Senate

The congressional agenda, Frances Lee contends, includes many issues about which liberals and conservatives generally agree. Even over these matters, though, Democratic and Republican senators tend to fight with each other. What explains this discord? Beyond Ideology argues that many partisan battles are rooted in competition for power rather than disagreement over the rightful role of government.

The first book to systematically distinguish Senate disputes centering on ideological questions from the large proportion of them that do not, this volume foregrounds the role of power struggle in partisan conflict. Presidential leadership, for example, inherently polarizes legislators who can influence public opinion of the president and his party by how they handle his agenda. Senators also exploit good government measures and floor debate to embarrass opponents and burnish their own party’s image—even when the issues involved are broadly supported or low-stakes. Moreover, Lee contends, the congressional agenda itself amplifies conflict by increasingly focusing on issues that reliably differentiate the parties. With the new president pledging to stem the tide of partisan polarization, Beyond Ideology provides a timely taxonomy of exactly what stands in his way.

264 pages | 29 line drawings, 24 tables | 6 x 9 | © 2009

Political Science: American Government and Politics


"[Lee] forcefully and convincingly argues that most partisan battles, at least in the Senate, are rooted in competition for collective partisan institutional advantage as well as individual power within that institution. Thus, it is not surprising that senators often sponsor measures and/or engage in floor debates to embarrass their opponents and enhance their own party images. Here is strong evidence that certainly the Senate—and most likely the House as well—are failed institutions and out of control."


Table of Contents

List of Figures

List of Tables


Chapter 1. Ties That Bind: Untangling the Roots of Congressional Partisanship

Chapter 2. Before “Ideology”: A Conceptual History

Chapter 3. Sources of Party Conflict: Ideological Disagreement and Teamsmanship

Chapter 4. Dividers, Not Uniters: Presidential Leadership and Legislative Partisanship

Chapter 5. The Partisan Politics of Good Government

Chapter 6. Procedural Partisanship: Intra-Party Dealmaking and Partisan Bloc Voting

Chapter 7. Agreeing to Disagree, or Disagreeing to Agree: Agenda Content and Rising Partisanship

Chapter 8. Beyond Ideology: Returning to Politics

Appendix A. Coding the Presidential Agenda Status of Roll-Call Votes

Appendix B. Does Party Polarization on an Issue Topic Increase the Likelihood That Presidents Will Include the Issue on Their Agenda?

Appendix C. Estimates of Multinomial Logit Model of Partisan Voting Patterns on Senate Roll-Call Votes, 1981–2004




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