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Tweeting Towards Reelection Essay

1554 words - 6 pages

Humans, being the self-interested creatures that we are, require an incentive in order to produce some sort of action. For the American Congress, Mayhew proposes that reelection into position acts as a sufficient incentive to explain a congressman’s actions and behavior. Mayhew finds this an attractive explanation for many reasons, but one of which specifically being that it “puts the spotlight directly on men rather than on parties and pressure groups.” Congressmen are elected through direct primaries, thus not necessarily requiring party cohesiveness but rather just appealing to one’s constituency, and therefore a congressman’s reelection being more concerned with the individual than the party. According to Mayhew, it can be alleged then that the individual Congressmen engages in three primary behaviors in order to get reelected: advertising (making oneself seen), credit claiming (particularized benefits), and position taking (making political statements that will please the senator’s constituency.) In the latter half of this paper, we will look at the Senior Senator of Iowa’s, Charles "Chuck" Grassley (R), twitter and how it corresponds with Mayhew’s proposed electoral behaviors.
In this context, advertising is defined as any effort to publicize one’s name in a positive light among constituents (Mayhew 49). When doing so, there are certain things which the Congressman should try to emphasize, mainly experience, knowledge, responsiveness, and independence from the mainstream at Capitol Hill. If the Congressman’s name is successfully disseminated, he/she will create what Mayhew refers to as a “brand name.” A “brand name” can be created through visits to the congressman’s state and overall direct interaction with his/her constituency; such interaction can be seen at ribbon-cutting ceremonies, speeches, interviews, and showing up at anniversaries and events of similar type. If the Congressman is unable to make such frequent visits though, there is another way to advertise from the Capitol: the franking privilege. The franking privilege allows a congressman to send mail to his/her constituents at the government’s expense. This privilege is what tends to give incumbents over challengers when it comes to advertising. As President Eisenhower once said in a 1961 speech to the Naval War College, “there is nothing a Congressman likes better than to get his name in the headlines and for it to be published all over the United States.”
In the mid 1960’s, 158 members were questioned on methods of advertising, of those questioned, 121 claimed to have regularly sent out newsletters, 82 reported to their constituency regularly via radio or television, and 89 sent out mail questionnaires (Mayhew 50-51). However, there are also other forms advertising, some more extreme than others. For example, Congressman Charles Diggs, Jr. (D., MI) had disc jockeyed for a radio program for over twenty years (Mayhew 51). Congressman Daniel Flood (D., PA) was fond of...

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