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Uncompromising Positions

God, Sex, and the U.S. House of Representatives

Cultural factions are an intrinsic part of the fabric of American politics. But does this mean that there is no room for compromise when groups hold radically different viewpoints on major issues? Not necessarily. For example, in a June 2003 Time/CNN poll, 49% of respondents identified themselves as pro-choice and 46% identified as pro-life. But in the same poll, 81% indicated that abortion should be "always legal" or "sometimes legal," suggesting that "pro-life" and "pro-choice" are not discrete positions but allow room for compromise.

How do legislators legislate policy conflicts that are defined in explicitly cultural terms such as abortion, gay marriage, and school prayer? American political institutions are frequently challenged by the significant conflict between those who embrace religious traditionalism and those who embrace progressive cultural norms. Uncompromising Positions: God, Sex, and the U.S. House of Representatives investigates the politics of that conflict as it is manifested in the proceedings of the U.S. House of Representatives. Oldmixon traces the development of these two distinct cultures in contemporary American politics and discusses the decision-making and leadership tactics used by legislators to respond to this division of values. She argues that cultural conflict produces an absolutist politics that draws on religious values not amenable to compromise politics. One possible strategy to address the problem is to build bipartisan coalitions. Yet, interviews with House staffers and House members, as well as roll calls, all demonstrate that ideologically driven politicians sacrifice compromise and stability to achieve short-term political gain. Noting polls that show Americans tend to support compromise positions, Oldmixon calls on House members to put aside short-term political gain, take their direction from the example of the American public, and focus on finding viable solutions to public policy—not zealous ideology.

About the Author

Elizabeth Anne Oldmixon is an assistant professor of political science at the University of North Texas.

Reviews

"[Oldmixon's] time on Capitol Hill working for members from both political parties gave her a window into the legislative process and access to members of Congress that made this insightful book possible. Uncompromising Positions is an important read for those seeking to integrate their religious values and worldviews with the political process."—Books & Culture

"What makes this book so rich . . . is the inclusion of personal interviews with House members and their staffOldmixon has authored an important book."—Perspectives on Politics

"[Oldmixon's] theoretical framework is useful to students and scholars of Congress as we try to make sense of that institution's work."—Political Science Quarterly

"Uncompromising Positions takes a step beyond the general approach to contemporary American politics . . . very highly recommended to all students of the political sciences and American debate."—Library Bookwatch

Endorsements

"Through the introduction of the idea of 'moral' or 'moralist' legislation and her examination of such legislation, Elizabeth Oldmixon offers new insight into how a legislature deals with moral issues year-in and year-out, over time and over several issues. Her book represents a signal contribution to the study of Congress and the legislative process that will be of interest to specialists as well as scholars with a special interest in the field."—Douglas Koopman, professor of political science, Calvin College

"Carefully researched and well-written, this book describes why and how the U.S. House of Representatives handles social policy. Oldmixon blends scholarship on cultural politics with empirical data and personal interviews to give us a broader understanding of legislative behavior."—Matthew C. Moen, professor of political science & Dean, College of Arts and Sciences, University of South Dakota

Georgetown University Press
Religion and Politics

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