chapter  3
28 Pages

The Reelection Goal and Ambition Theory: Mayhew and Fenno Revisited

In 1974 David Mayhew offered what he called “a simple abstract assumption about human motivation” in which he constructed “a vision of United States congressmen as single-minded seekers of reelection” (1974, 5). In this abstraction-used for the purpose of theory building-congressmen are interested in getting reelected and nothing else (13). The theory’s defenders contend that this reelection goal is not a problem for democracy. Some look to James Madison and argue that legislators’ ambitions for office should motivate them to be sensitive to their constituents. From this viewpoint, the theory

is seen as a pragmatic explanation of the motivations that undergird republican government (Schlesinger 1966; Loomis 1988).