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Summary of fenno: homestyle – from wikisummary, free summaries of academic books and articles

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Fenno seeks to answer one overriding question: How does an elected representative’s view of his/her constituency affect his or her political behavior? To answer this, he first identifies what an MC’s (Member of Congress) goals are; second, he explains the various ways that an MC might view his or her constituency; and third, he shows how these views affect the MC’s political behavior.

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MCs have three goals: Re-election, power in Congress, and good public policy (p 137; see also Fenno 1977). This book is about how members adopt a “home style” to help them secure the first goal (re-election), which in turn makes attainment of the other goals possible. If members have the trust of their constituencies–and such trust is central to Fenno’s story–then it will be easier for them to explain and justify the decisions that they make on Capitol Hill in pursuit of policy goals and power.

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In explaining how MCs cultivate trust among their constituents, Fenno focuses on what representatives do in their districts rather than in Washington. He tries to identify the “home styles” that each MC uses to get re-elected as well as their perceptions of their constituency. Fenno argues that Congressmen view their constituencies in four shrinking concentric circles:

The broadest circle is that of the geographic district, encompassing all potential voters and regions;

The next circle consists of the electoral supporters–“who is likely to vote for me?”;

The next circle is the primary supporters–“who is actually going to do work for me?”;

The smallest circle is the candidate’s intimates–family, close friends, and trusted advisers.

Fenno calls these the geographic, reelection, primary, and personal constituencies.

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