The Different Policy Preferences of Members in Competitive Seats

Before this redistricting cycle began, I wrote a lengthy essay on the importance of competitive congressional districts as one means of limiting political extremism, as part of my more general focus on institutional reforms that might help mitigate extremism. Many political scientists, however, take the view that it doesn’t matter whether members are elected from safe or competitive seats. They base that view on analysis of floor votes in the House, which indeed show that members of the same party tend to vote the same way.

As I pointed out in that essay, journalists who cover Congress — and many members of Congress — have a different view than the political scientists. They regularly write stories, or provide internal accounts when its members of Congress speaking, highlighting just how different the policy preferences of members from competitive and safe seats frequently are. Of course, once all the conflicts are worked out within the party and it comes time to vote, most party members end up on the same side. But these conflicts have significant effects on what legislation gets to the floor, when, and with what substance. Here’s another story from the Washington Post today, titled Swing-district Democrats in need of a midterm reboot push leadership to break up BBB, that illustrates this point.

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