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Jungkun Seo, "Wedge-issue dynamics and party position shifts: Chinese exclusion debates in the post-Reconstruction US Congress, 1879-1882," Party Politics, 17 (November, 2011), 823-847 [Available at http://ppq.sagepub.com/content/vol17/issue6/ ]

First paragraph:
The making and breaking of parties' policy positions might come through diverse channels: campaign ads, platforms during conventions, presidential speeches, congressional leaders' messages and scandals. Among others, collective policy choices in Congress, such as roll-call votes, tend to create a brand name in the electoral market (Cox and McCubbins, 1993; Kiewiet and McCubbins, 1991; Snyder and Ting, 2002; Woon and Pope, 2008). Through this branding process, voters obtain low-cost information about how the party will perform in Congress. Knowing that promoting the informative value of a party position gives an electoral boost to its candidates, party members seek to keep their own troops together and represent unambiguous party positions in the law-making process. This process of securing a clear and credible party brand name is inherently dynamic, as the two-party system in America has historically found party members not always united. As a result, with cohesive party-building at stake, party members try to figure out how to resolve their own internal disagreements.

Figures and Tables:
Table 1. House votes on Chinese exclusion, 1879-82
Figure 1. Party positions on key Chinese immigrant legislation in the House
Figure 2. Party positions on key Chinese immigration legislation in the Senate
Figure 3. Electoral competition (vote margin) by regions in the 47th Congress (1881-83)
Table 2. The New England and the 'Chinese Question': 'Endorsing exclusion for one decade, but absolutely not two'
Figure 4. Average support level for Chinese exclusion by congressional delegations from various regions, 1879&emdash;82
Table 3. Multivariate analysis of the Fifteen Passenger bill in 1879
Table 4. Testing the Position Change Hypotheses in the House, 1882
Table 5. Testing the Position Change Hypotheses in the House, 1882
Table 6. Logistic regression of position change in 1882 (Republicans only)

Last Paragraph:
With party-building in a new electoral challenge at stake, the Republican ranks from different regions took different voting choices. As soon as their compromised proposal for a 10-year Chinese exclusion was defeated, the fear of being portrayed as 'pro- Chinese, anti-labour' led the Republicans from the Midwest to cross the aisle. They threw their support behind the Democrats to pass the 10-year exclusion bill. The New England GOP members, on the other hand, voted against the final passage of the 10-year measure, although they knew that they were on the losing side. In essence, the legislative politics of Chinese exclusion in the post-Reconstruction era drove a significant number of Republicans to reconsider their vote choices and changes. Not only one party's unity but also the rival party's split was a game-changer for partisan responses to potential wedge issues. This article signifies that rank-and-file members' responsiveness to electoral pressure offers a previously unnoticed predictor of, and source of explanation for, eventual party position changes.

Last updated December 2011