Tyranny of the Minority: The Subconstituency Politics Theory of Representation
- Bridgewater State University
According to conventional democratic theories of government, public policy outcomes should reflect the will of the majority. According to the textbook view of democracy, policy decisions in the American political system tend to reflect this basic narrative. If most Americans favor or oppose a certain policy, then their elected representatives will comply with their wishes. For many observers of American politics, this understanding of representation grossly oversimplifies the way things really work. Whether it is through anecdotes or systematic studies examining the responsiveness of U.S. politicians, there is ample evidence to suggest that elected officials often support legislation favored by a minority of their constituents.
In his book Tyranny of the Minority: The Subconstituency Politics Theory of Representation, Benjamin Bishin offers a compelling theory to explain why politicians do not always live up the democratic ideal. According to his subconstituency theory of American politics, there are powerful incentives for members of Congress to cater to the concerns of specific minority interests in their constituencies, even if those concerns are contrary to what the majority wants. This theory holds that most citizens know very little and care even less about most political developments. Because of this apathy and ignorance, …