Seniority System in Congress

Seniority System in Congress

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Product details

  • Hardback | 160 pages
  • 157.48 x 238.76 x 20.32mm | 476.27g
  • Indiana University Press
  • Bloomington, United Kingdom
  • 0253180252
  • 9780253180254

Review Text

Accused of distorting the representative process and giving undue power to a small Southern gerontocracy, the Congressional Seniority System is a favorite whipping-boy of political scientists, reform-minded liberals and frustrated freshman congressmen. Miss Hinckley sets out to prove that it is neither as unrepresentative nor as impacted as critics charge. Quantifying, computing, correlating, averaging and tabulating, she examines ages, voting records, constituencies and length of service of all House and Senate Committee chairmen from 1947-1966. But the virtuoso juggling of statistics demonstrates very little that is startling or even significant. The South and the West are overrepresented in committee chairmanships but don't blame the seniority system - the distribution of chairmanships reflects truly the geographic base of the two parties in Congress. Nor do chairmen reign indefinitely; median tenure is five to ten years. And if a Congressman aspires to lead the Post Office or Government Operations Committee rather than Rules or Ways and Means, the wait for power may be quite short. For those who persevere through the dense statistical underbrush there is the limp general conclusion that "The seniority system is a profoundly conservative system - not because it biases the kind of leaders selected, but because it reinforces the conservatism already present in Congress." Miss Hinckley's judgment of non-quantifiables is bizarre as when Henry Jackson (D - Washington), is classed as a "liberal" and there is no historic or ideological perspective to enliven this tedious, microcosmic exercise in behavioralism. (Kirkus Reviews)show more