The Whips

Building Party Coalitions in Congress
C. Lawrence Evans
Whither the whips, thither the vote


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The party whips are essential components of the U.S. legislative system, responsible for marshalling party votes and keeping House and Senate party members in line. In The Whips, C. Lawrence Evans offers a comprehensive exploration of coalition building and legislative strategy in the U.S. House and Senate, ranging from the relatively bipartisan, committee-dominated chambers of the 1950s to the highly polarized congresses of the 2000s. In addition to roll call votes and personal interviews with lawmakers and staff, Evans examines the personal papers of dozens of former leaders of the House and Senate, especially former whips. These records allowed Evans to create a database of nearly 1,500 internal leadership polls on hundreds of significant bills across five decades of recent congressional history.

The result is a rich and sweeping understanding of congressional party leaders at work. Since the whips provide valuable political intelligence, they are essential to understanding how coalitions are forged and deals are made on Capitol Hill.

“This is a superb treatment of an important subject. Every scholar of Congress, every practitioner of congressional politics, and every student, graduate and undergraduate, will learn important lessons about Congress from this book. The book is exceptionally well researched, written with flare, and remarkably comprehensive. The new data brought to bear on important issues is unparalleled in the field.”
—Steven Smith, Washington University in St. Louis
“Evans provides us with an engaging, well-written, and detailed study of the whip system that sheds new light on congressional coalition-building and intra-party politics. I highly recommend Evans's significant empirical and theoretical contribution to scholars' understanding of congressional party leadership, congressional procedure, members' voting decisions, and the legislative process more generally.”
—Kathryn Pearson, University of Minnesota
“Some noteworthy advances in the understanding of Congress stem from new theoretical contributions, while others are the result of gathering significant new data. This book scores on both counts. Larry Evans has thought deeply about the roles of party whips and he has also marshalled remarkable empirical evidence to support his contentions. Everyone interested in Congress will want to read this book.”
—David Rohde, Duke University

C. Lawrence Evans is the Newton Family Professor of Government at the College of William and Mary and author of Leadership in Committee:  A Comparative Analysis of Leadership Behavior in the U.S. Senate.

Praise / Awards

  • "Evans’s analysis is possible only because of the tremendous amount of labor he put into the project, including trips to multiple congressional archives around the country and painstaking coding of more than a thousand whip tallies dating back to the 1950s."
    --Washington Monthly
  • "A close read offers many fascinating and intriguing insights into Congress’s decision making. And, in the end, The Whips constitutes a worthy guide to anyone seeking to better explain congressional decisions."
    --Perspectives on Politics
  • "In The Whips, C. Lawrence Evans... turns in an impressive study that should challenge congressional scholars to think more assiduously about the mechanisms and challenges of party influence, even in the contemporary, highly-partisan Congress." —Congress & the Presidency
  • Winner, 2019 Richard F. Fenno, Jr. Prize from the legislative studies section of the American Political Science Association for the best book published in legislative studies.

Look Inside

Product Details

  • 384 pages.
  • 10 charts, 1 map, 54 tables.
Available for sale worldwide

  • Ebook
  • 2018
  • Available
  • 978-0-472-12387-2

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