Joe Cannon and the Minority Party: Tyranny or Bipartisanship?

Joe Cannon and the Minority Party: Tyranny or Bipartisanship?

By Keith Krehbiel, Alan Wiseman
2004Working Paper No. 1858

The minority party is rarely featured in empirical research on parties in legislatures, and recent theories of parties in legislatures are rarely neutral and balanced in their treatment of the two parties. This paper makes a case for redressing this imbalance. We identify four characteristics of bipartisanship and evaluate their descriptive merits in a purposely hostile testing ground: during the rise and fall of Speaker Joseph G. Cannon, a.k.a., the Tyrant from Illinois. Drawing on century-old recently discovered records now available in the National Archives, we find that Cannon was anything but a majority-party tyrant during the important committee assignment phase of legislative organization. The findings underscore the need for future, more explicitly theoretical research on parties-in-legislatures.

Keywords
Politics, legislation, leadership, political parties, regulation