Friday, September 21, 2007

The Clinton theory of partisan polarization

There are plenty of theories floating around to explain why Congress is so much more partisan today than it was a few decades ago. In this Daily Show interview, Bill Clinton offers his own: the burdens of 24-hour fundraising have caused an epidemic of sleep deprivation among members of Congress, which makes them more irritable and less likely to compromise. Seriously.


Anonymous said...

I saw this interview. Part of Clinton's argument was that members of Congress are too busy flying to and from their districts and holding fundraisers. Other commentators deduce from this behavior that members don't hang out together as much as they used to--ah, the old days, when the Senate never held a vote until its members had a good buzz going.

Well, I guess the way to test Clinton's story would be for members to get more sleep but leave everything else--the constituents, interest groups, donors, campaigns, and rules--the same. I have applied for an NSF grant to fund a team of tranquilizer-gun wielding sharpshooters to stake out Capitol Hill and pick off MCs as they walk to and from their votes. One way or another, they will get their eight hours of sleep, causing a dramatic shift in their NOMINATE scores.

Seth Masket said...

One might surmise that members of Congress in the 1890s got plenty of sleep. But they were still incredibly partisan. Maybe it was all those fatty steak dinners provided by the railroad barons. Dyspepsia can cause partisanship, too.