Congress at the Grassroots

Topics: Newt Gingrich, Southern United States, United States House of Representatives Pages: 4 (1352 words) Published: February 4, 2014
Richard Fenno's work, Congress at the Grassroots, provides an in depth look at the decline of the old time politics of the South in the late twentieth century. Fenno's case study examines a more recent era but confronts some of the same problems faced by the fictional governor. With changing times and technologies, how do the politics and politicians of the past fare with the modern era? In an effort to examine the recent political shifts in the Deep South and its Congressional districts, the author selected a noteworthy area--the district held by former House Speaker Newt Gingrich. Instead of selecting the controversial Gingrich as an illustration of change, Fenno chose a long-time Democratic predecessor and the Republican heir to the Georgia district. The area south of Atlanta, for generations a rural, conservative Democratic area, quickly changed to a suburban, Republican-dominated one from the 1950s to the 1990s. Fenno's goal was to provide an in depth look at this dramatic change that impacted the South and the entire nation. He also sought to examine these relationships as a cause in the increasing "polarization, along party lines" of the House of Representatives which made Congress "less civil, less manageable, and, to many, a less satisfying process" (p. 151). In order to conduct this study, Fenno examined the careers and role of Democratic Congressman who served the district prior to Gingrich. Jack Flynt served for twenty years as the representative from the South Georgia district until his retirement in 1978. During that period he defeated two challenges from Gingrich in 1974 and 1976. He also selected Mac Collins, the former Democrat turned Republican, who succeeded Gingrich in the 1990s. In his analysis, Fenno explored what historian Dewey Grantham described as the "nationalization of southern politics" in The South in Modern America (pp. 281-310). The political realignment that began with the modern Civil Rights movement accelerated during the...
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