Date of Thesis

2010

Thesis Type

Honors Thesis

Department

Political Science

First Advisor

Scott Richard Meinke

Abstract

The Blue Dog Coalition is an informal organization of legislators within the House of Representatives that strives to influence policy on fiscal responsibility, attract the attention of the electorate, They are a group that elicits wide range of reactions covering the length of the political spectrum, but despite this, their claims of special defense of fiscal conservatism within the Democratic Party have gone relatively undocumented by the academic community.This project has integrated a party literature with a caucus literature, in the attempt of building a novel framework for research. Work on polarization, the significance of parties, the purpose and history of caucuses all have been fused in such away that the Blue Dogs have created an opportunity to test broad congressional questions on a caucus-microcosm scale. Three important questions have emerged from the many possible avenues of exploration on the topic: How does admission into the Blue Dog Coalition effect voting behavior - measured by interest, ideology, and party unityscores? How does party leadership delegate prestigious committee assignments, a traditional indicator of partisan favor and influence, towards Blue Dogs? Can we use the Blue Dog Coalition as an indicator of fiscal conservatism? To each of these questions, a number of interesting results emerged. Blue Dogs, in the 104th scored higher in conservative interest group scores, more towards the center in ideological methods, and lower in party unity Dogs began to behave closer to their Democratic counterparts. In addition, membership on these select committees rose from a very small number to greater proportional parity within the Democratic Party. Perhaps most interesting, the Blue Dog Coalition does behave as a significant, independent predictor effect on NTU scores, a variable used to demonstrate fiscal conservatism. This research has shown, first and foremost, that it is useful and practical to applyold arguments within the party literature to a smaller, caucus level of analysis that is relatively untouched by the political science field. For the Blue Dogs, specifically, we have tested the validity of their claims in an attempt to reach broader questions ofdemocratic responsibility and electoral clarity. This work, and other work I have drawn upon, has barely scratched the surface on Blue Dog Democrats and other caucuses of comparable influence and popularity, and there remains a wealth of research material onthis caucus alone to be explored by scholars in the field of congressional politics.

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