Ambition, competition, and electoral reform: The politics of congressional elections

Carson and Jason’s book Ambition, Competition, and Electoral Reform

Carson and Jason’s book Ambition, Competition, and Electoral Reform examines how politics are carried out during congressional elections as well as electoral institutions between 1872 and 1944 through the lens of contemporary political science. The authors use electoral data from the early nineteenth and twentieth centuries to analyze how historical and modern political science characteristics might be merged with existing theories to identify institutional modifications and major factors that affect election competitiveness in the United States. The book presents key fundamental findings such as the strategic application of theories in political science in a specific era by not considering the candidate-centered captains. The authors also present incredible insight on the incumbency advantage before the launch of the candidate-based campaigns.

Institutional Reforms and Electoral Competition

However, the book does not leave out the institutional reforms which have been key drivers of the credible and fair elections. Carson and Jason emphasize that there is a close correlation between the degree of electoral competition and the elected candidates who act as representatives of the citizens. The book succeeds in bringing modern insights about the congressional candidates through evaluation of strategic politician concept as the primary historical contenders that use the 20th-century political mechanisms. In Chapter 4, the authors acknowledge the findings by modern researchers regarding the benefits of experienced candidates over the outsiders (Carson and Jason 5). The idea was achieved by presenting illuminating candidacies in the early 20th century through presenting the aspect of “progressive Era Reforms” that result in significant contributions to the history of American elections and politics.

Implications for Modern Politics

Regardless of the interesting and informative segments presented by Carson and Jason, the book only indicates that the quality of the congressional candidate is the only aspects that matter in the modern era of politics. In Chapter 2, the authors utilize the previous US elections’ data to present and prove to the reader how congressional candidates who act as a strategic politician may run according to the possibility of winning as well as gaining support that he/she did not have from the party (Carson and Jason 10). The book is also crucial to the political observers since it can be used to catalyze the ideas to suggest elements that should be considered when conducting elections in the future.

Applying Political Theories to Congressional Politics

The use theories in political science help in institutionalizing historical politics whereby the quality of the candidate strongly influences congressional politics in the era of provocative and compelling party-centered elections. The ideas presented in this book are fundamental in enabling the election scholars to figure out how political theories can be applied to the broader view of general elections over a specific period. At the beginning of the book, Carson and Jason evaluate the studies on congressional elections after the World War II where they claim that district-level examination brings nuances (Carson and Jason 26). However, this is because the literature is based on anecdotal evidence concluding both national and partisan concepts to explore the underlying on the variation of congressional candidates’ fortune during early political encounters.

The Gangs of New York: Film as an Example of Strong Parties

The authors used the example of the film the Gangs of New York to show how strong parties used to dominate nomination of candidates as well as the entire election process. The book presents a clear concept on how congressional elections attract empirical analysis that reveals the forces the electoral control process before the emergence of modern era politics. Chapter 4 acts as a supportive bridge to the ancient and modern strategic politician frameworks. The book is also informative to the congressional elections learners since they are able to understand the facts behind the old theories in political science as well as how they have changed by reading the pre-World War II era that presents the strategic politician framework and its applicability to the elections. The concept of candidate quality is used to support the theoretical bridge on the framework.

The Competitiveness of Pre-World War II Congressional Elections

The important concept of the book that the reader should focus on is how the competitiveness of pre-World War II congressional elections is presented based on the findings on the party machines that push a quality candidate to run regardless of challenges before winning. The agreement is achieved by ensuring that there are special incentives for the quality candidate that is not available if they fail to run (Carson and Jason 31). The author shows how party machines considered the nature of quality candidate and how the competition among part member came to be, which resulted in candidate-centered campaigns.

The Effects of Progressive-Era Reforms

The trends of Progressive-era reforms, as well as the effects they have on political parties, are other aspects examined by Carson and Jason in their book. In Chapter 3, the reforms are considered to have more influence on how the political period is treated, especially in Australian ballot. The section enables readers to learn new concepts on the party controlled voting process before reforms, whereby part machines did not heavily rely on the supporters when selecting their candidates and voter were not assisted in identifying ballots (Carson and Jason 69). Again, the book presents fundamental aspects based on the effect of congressional era reforms on parties’ tactics, which play a critical role in showing how parties champion ballot as a way of maintaining advantage measure during the reform period.

Empirical Tests and Conclusions

Subsequently, authors use different empirical tests to assess the over-time effect of reforms on the occurrence of quality challenger reforms and how they influenced congressional elections during the pre-WWII era. The authors support this by examining the effects of ballot and nomination reforms on the voting process. The study outcome reveals strong support for the application of candidate quality as one of the fundamental aspects to show how the party-column ballot and parties’ options can be used as primary detectors for compressive era reforms (Carson and Jason 85). Authors in this part add literature by generating more conclusions on the concept of the electoral reforms.

The Role of Incumbency

The elements of American politics presented before the final empirical tests on page 117 provide important information regarding incumbency advantage. The incumbency in Chapter 6 is seen as a key element of the congressional elections’ study (Carson and Jason 117). The argument is supported by a dataset based on the incumbency to show how electoral reforms such as ballot reform as well as candidate quality influence the fortune of the incumbent.

Significance and Conclusions

The book presents significant conclusions that are helpful to the congressional elections learners. Carson and Jason capture the attention of the readers by presenting close inspection of politics during pre-World War II by use of the data that is not unique to the modern political era. The authors also use the rules of the game of politics that has contributed in shaping the political outcomes as well as the conduct of politician before and during the campaign period (Carson and Jason 125). The book also shows how electoral reforms can result in unexpected as well as negative consequences to the politicians and nation. The authors employ ironic stylistic device “you can’t beat somebody with nobody” that acts as an electoral law in reforming voting outcomes behind the scope of current studies in congressional elections.

Review of the Book

The review of the book conducted by Wrighton (120) indicates that modern congressional elections’ theories play a critical role in enhancing the studies by political scientists. According to the review, these theories are designed to explain the nature of politics in the modern era. Contrary, Carson, and Jason on their book focused mainly on pre-modern which is basically a party-centered era. In Chapter 6, the authors posted normative questions regarding the safety of incumbent as well as district gerrymandered form competency. The questions target public trust in the legislative process of the incumbents as well as their contributions to the election reform, which shows the problems experienced by the electoral body are not unique, or even mistakes made by wicked party leaders, making it complex to resolve electoral issues.

Summary and Future Research

In summary, Ambition, Competition, and Electoral Reform are crucial in comparing pre-modern politics and modern politics. The book is worth readers’ time since it presents fundamental congressional reforms as well as the ideas of quality candidate and incumbency, which are key elements influencing electoral process in the current worlds of politics. The book also acts as a foundation for further research on congressional elections in the future. However, from the theoretical framework presented by Carson and Jason, the readers are able to understand the sturdy bridge to the ancient congressional elections. The work inspires the reader about the elements that should be considered when carrying out future studies in congressional elections.

Works Cited

Carson, Jamie L., and Jason M. Roberts. Ambition, competition, and electoral reform: The politics of congressional elections across time. University of Michigan Press, 2013.

Wrighton, J. Mark. “Review of Ambition, Competition, and Electoral Reform: The Politics of Congressional Elections Over Time.” American Review of Politics 35.1 (2016): 120-121.

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