Critical Thinking Assignment #1: Descriptive Representation

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GOVT 2306 – Dr. Saurav

Critical Thinking Assignment #1: Descriptive Representation

OBJECTIVE: This assignment has two key purposes: 1) for the student to identify their congressional district and representative; 2) for the student to analyze how they compare/contrast with their district and representative (culturally and ideologically). Translation: you are demonstrating your capacity to understand your community (district) and how you fit into that community.

BACKGROUND: One of the most important facets of a representative democracy is—unsurprisingly—REPRESENTATION. This assignment builds on two ideas related to the idea of representation—who represents us and how are we represented. One of the concepts that we will be building on is “descriptive representation.” Here is a quick definition of descriptive representation:

Descriptive representation is the extent to which a representative resembles a constituent’s identity. In other words, the focus here is on shared identity traits. A Hispanic person being represented by a Hispanic representative is one example. Or a miner who represents a district whose main industry is mining (and thus whose workers are predominantly miners). The key idea is that common identities are an important part of representation (occupation, gender, race/ethnicity, age, educational attainment, etc.).

PROCEDURES: You are about to link the concept of descriptive representation with your house district and representative (i.e. analyzing the demographics of your district and the identity of your representative). You will conduct this analysis by doing the following:

Websites/Navigation:

1. Go to this interactive map to find your congressional district: http://gis1.tlc.state.tx.us/?PlanHeader=PLANc235

2. Once you have found it, go to Google and search for your congressional district. Terms like “Texas Congressional District ##” should work. Find the Wikipedia page for your district (yes, it’s okay this time). Keep this page handy, you will need the demographic into at the top-right part of the page.

3. Next, navigate to https://www.house.gov/representatives/ and scroll down to your district number to find the name of your representative. Click on your representative’s name (should be a hyperlink) to go to their congressional page (feel free to sign up for the email list). Keep this page handy also.

Now that you have the required sites up, you can start on the writing portion. IMPORTANT NOTE: You are largely being graded for how thorough you are in answering each part (each is worth 2 points). This means that every part should be answered in AT LEAST 7 complete sentences and IN YOUR OWN WORDS. Just like your previous assignments—don’t be lazy!

Your first set of questions asks you to compare/contrast your background with that of your congressional district (your community). [SR1]

1) How would you describe your personal/cultural background? Be sure to note any aspects of your identity that are important to political values (race/ethnicity, parents occupation, parents education, household income, gender). Has this produced conservative, liberal, or moderate values (and why do you think this is the case)?

2) Using the info from Wikipedia, compare/contrast the demographics of your district with your personal background. Be sure to include a comparison/contrast between the demographics and ideology of your district with your own (yours is what you described in Q1). Note: For ideology you will use the Cook PVI score to make a comparison. “R+” means it leans Republican, “D+” means that it leans Democrat. Anything above a +10 is very liberal/conservative.

3) Where do you see the greatest differences between you and your district? How might these differences produce contrasting political perspectives (If it’s helpful, feel free to use example issues like taxation, immigration, abortion, voter ID laws, etc.)?

Your next task is to compare/contrast your background and values with those of your congressional representative. [SR1]

4) Compare and contrast your background with that of your representative (you can learn about their background both from looking at them and also reading about them on their website). Where is your common ground? Where are you different? Would you say that this is a strong descriptive representative for you? Or are they not a very good reflection of you?

5) Go to the GovTrack page that lists the members of the House from the state of Texas (https://www.govtrack.us/congress/members/TX#representatives). Find your representative and click on them (you should now see a page that features a chart with an “ideology score”). According to the ideology score chart, how conservative/liberal is your representative? (You can measure this by how far right or left they are from center and by comparing them to other representatives.) How does this compare/contrast with your own ideology? According to your Political Compass quiz results, are you more liberal/conservative? Does your representative’s ideology link up well with the Cook PVI score for your district?

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