77 Prospect Street, Institution for Social and Policy Studies, Room A002, 12:00 p.m.
The Institution for Social and Policy Studies Center for the Study of American Politics Quantitative Research Methods Workshop presents:
Ruth Bloch Rubin, Assistant Professor of Political Science, University of Chicago: “Organizing at the Extreme: The Logic and Evolution of Hardline Intraparty Blocs in the House.”
Two decades after Newt Gingrich’s conservative insurgency, Republican hardliners have once again brought turmoil to their conference. Yet leading theories describing the allocation of congressional power have tended to cast hardline backbenchers in at best minor roles. Against this backdrop, this paper asks: under what conditions will hardliners succeed in persuading party leaders to make procedural and policy decisions in their favor? I argue that intraparty organizations — institutionalized alliances formed between co-partisans — empower hardliners by means of two distinct strategies. They can (1) validate hardline claims that the party median is further to the extreme than party leaders initially supposed, or (2) make more credible threats to defect en masse. To illustrate the logic underlying each strategy and the distinct structure each generates, I present three case studies of hardline organization in the postwar period, tracing the origins of the Democratic Study Group (DSG), Republican Study Committee (RSC), and House Freedom Caucus (HFC). This study offers the first comprehensive framework to explain the nature and origin of hardline power in the House, demonstrating that hardliners in both parties have used organization to exercise significant influence over their respective parties’ decision-making. I show that hardline unrest is not an exclusively contemporary phenomenon, but instead endemic to the legislative ecosystem, the result of enduring logics of congressional organization.
Ruth Bloch Rubin is an assistant professor in the Department of Political Science at the University of Chicago, where she studies how intraparty divisions drive patterns of lawmaking and leadership in Congress. Her first book, Building the Bloc: Intraparty Organization in the U.S. Congress (Cambridge University Press 2017) traced the strategic logic, organizational development, and policy consequences of intraparty factions in Congress over the past century. Her current book project examines the strategies congressional leaders adopt to navigate intraparty cleavages. She received her Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkeley in 2014 and was a Robert Wood Johnson Scholar in Health Policy Research at Harvard University from 2014-2016.