Fenno's Congress and the Grassroots Essay

Fenno’s Congress and the Grassroots Jack Flynt’s reelection and primary constituencies between his transitional and new districts are both similar and different in certain aspects. The transitional district was around from 1966 to 1970. Flynt’s transitional district represented about sixteen counties which added up to a population of about 323,000. The traditional district was not too different from his original district. “The district’s dominant economic interest was textiles, farming, and some light metal and food-processing industries” (Fenno, 2000, 16).

The district was a one-party Democratic district which meant that the only “serious primary contest Flynt ever had in this district was his initial 1954 victory” (Fenno, 2000, 17). After the redistricting Flynt was given his first city, Macon, as well as his “first taste of two-party politics” (Fenno, 2000, 17). Flynt’s person-to-person representation strategy won over many of the counties especially the smaller counties. “Jack Flynt’s transitional district occupied a pivotal location in the path of that shift.

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The burgeoning Atlanta metropolitan area was exploding into the near suburbs and gradually pushing southward toward the small rural counties that formed the core of Flynt’s political support”(Fenno, 2000, 51). ”For Flynt, the county seat elites made up the core of his primary constituency- the people whose support he most needed, most wanted, and most assiduously cultivated. They were the essential cue givers of constituency politics, the individuals who provided the ‘elite certification’ of a candidate’s qualifications that is so essential to early political success” (Fenno, 2000, 21).

Jack Flynt’s primary constituency also lied with county store proprietors and their customers would make up a large part of his reelection constituency (Fenno, 2000, 22). Flynt’s primary constituency during his transitional district was made of the county seat elites, white voters, voters with agricultural and textile businesses, and store proprietors. The small counties would continue to be a part of Jack Flynt’s primary constituencies in the new district because the smaller counties were easiest to establish the person-to-person relationship with.

Flynt’s reelection constituencies included the black voters and the larger counties such as Clayton and Douglas County. In his transitional district Clayton County made up about 8 percent of his constituency, so ignoring Clayton was not hurting his campaign any. In his new district Clayton County now represented 22 percent of his new constituency and could no longer be ignored (Fenno, 2000, 55). “These suburbanites presented a different demographic profile and a different ‘active electorate’ than the one that had dominated in Flynt’s original and transitional districts.

In his ‘one of us’ formula, the ‘us’ was changing” (Fenno, 2000, 53). The new district was compromised of younger middle-class entrepreneurs who took more of an interest in the issues at hand than the personal contact. These young entrepreneurs “attacked courthouse elites and advocated two party competition” (Fenno, 2000, 52) which was not good for Flynt seeing as how he had gone years running unopposed. In Flynt’s transitional district the larger counties and population of black voters was so insignificant to his reelection that their support wasn’t needed but in the new district this became a problem.

In the transitional district the personal contact strategy worked because Flynt had a personal connection with these people and the older districts were primarily Democratic. The tables turned in his new district. In the new district one found that the support of the larger counties was not being given to Flynt, and now a big chunk of the population was Republican which would be a problem in his 1974 and 1976 reelection. Not only were the larger counties becoming more suburbanized but Flynt’s primary constituents were shifting to the Republican Party.

Flynt had a decision to make. Should he change his representational strategy? or not? The new district proved to be a bigger problem than Flynt had thought, the redistricting would be the cause of the closeness of his 1974 and 1976 reelection contest. Jack Flynt was a Southern Conservative Democrat who believed in a “personal-to-person” representational strategy, in other words he viewed himself as a representative of the people. Flynt preferred working with the people rather than discussing the policies which hurt his chances for reelection in 1974 and 1976.

The closeness of Jack Flynt’s 1974 and 1976 reelection contests is due to his new district and the failure of his person-to-person strategy. The new district was “pushed northward into the near suburbs of Atlanta and up to the city line” (Fenno, 2000, 51). In this redistricting Flynt would be “picking up 120,000 unwanted and unfamiliar suburbanites on the southern rim of Atlanta’s own Fulton County, along with 30,000 more in suburban Doulgas County” (Fenno, 2000, 52). The new district “brought former Democrats as well as people moving from the cities to the suburbs which would institutionalize Republicanism in Georgia” (Fenno, 2000, 62).

This was not good news for Flynt since the majority of his previous districts were Democratic. Jack Fenno Jr. suggests that the problem in Flynt’s 1974 reelection was due to “the absence of a strenuous personal effort in the new part of the district and his interpretive bewilderment in suburbia” (Fenno, 2000, 63). Flynt won 51 percent of the vote which calculated to 2,774 votes out of 95,204 casted. Jack Flynt managed to survive the 1974 election because he was able to “carry the other eleven counties by 57 percent to 43 percent” (Fenno, 2000, 63).

After the 1974 reelection it was clear to Flynt that he would have to reach out to the counties that he had not attempted to reach out to before if he wanted to win the 1976 reelection. Flynt was able to establish some personal contact but he was unable to reach out to the younger constituents and the larger counties such as Clayton, Butts, and Henry. “Once again, we found a substantial contrast between his electorally strong counties and his electorally weak ones-between counties in which his representational strategy worked and those where it did not” (Fenno, 2000, 83).

As Fenno stated “Person to person campaigning cannot survive a great reshuffling of people” (Fenno, 2000, 74) While Jack Flynt’s person-to-person campaign worked in his older districts it would no longer work in counties that were interested more in the policies rather than the personal contact. “Jack Flynt’s choice of a person-intensive representational strategy ‘came early and stayed late’” (Fenno, 2000, 80). Jack Flynt was involved in politics all his life which is referred to as a “career politician. ” Mac Collins on the other hand was a businessman who “worked his way into politics” (Fenno, 2000, 90).

Jack Flynt and Mac Collins have different representational strategies and goals which is the reason for their difference in reelection and primary constituencies (Fenno, 2000, 117). Flynt’s representational strategy was all about developing person-to-person relationships while Mac Collins was centered on policy. Three-quarters of Mac Collins constituents lived within Flynt’s 1976 district, and after the 1996 redistricting reduced it to two-thirds (Fenno, 2000, 89). Although Flynt and Collins shared a rather similar district their primary and reelection constituents differed.

While Flynt received most of his support from the rural counties, Collins received majority of his support from the suburban counties due to the “declining impact of rural Georgia” (Fenno, 2000, 100). Collins representational strategy was shaped by his prepolitical identity (Fenno, 200, 92). Collins was a small businessman and therefore took interest in small businesses, which explains his decision to represent himself on a “policy-intensive strategy”. Jack Flynt was all about gaining personal contacts and the trust of his constituents and Mac Collins on the other hand “did not think that way” (Fenno, 2000, 93).

Collins was facing a “Republican growth, suburban expansion, economic development, and population growth, and technological innovations which would create a different district and a different set of representational possibilities than those that existed in the 1970s” (Fenno, 2000, 96). Between the 1970s to the 1990s the Republican Party grew significantly and Collins was part of the white southern voters who switched to the Republican Party. The black voters whose population had grown significantly became a part of the Democratic Party and therefore remained a part of the reelection constituency for both Flynt and Collins.

His strongest supporters were the small businessmen and professionals due to the “entrepreneurial individualism” that had been espoused by the Republican Party (Fenno 99). This change was major in the suburban areas and so the “suburbanites of the northern end of the district became Collin’s primary constituency” (Fenno, 2000, 97). Collins felt at home in counties such as Clayton unlike Flynt. The main cause for the difference of Flynt’s and Collin’s reelection and primary constituencies is because of the growth of the Republican Party and “entrepreneurial individualism” over the years.


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