By the end of this section, you will be able to:
- Explain the basics of representation
- Describe the extent to which Congress as a body represents the U.S. population
- Explain the concept of collective representation
- Describe the forces that influence congressional approval ratings
The tension between local and national politics described in the previous section is essentially a struggle between interpretations of representation. Representation is a complex concept. It can mean paying careful attention to the concerns of constituents, understanding that representatives must act as they see fit based on what they feel best for the constituency, or relying on the particular ethnic, racial, or gender diversity of those in office. In this section, we will explore three different models of representation and the concept of descriptive representation. We will look at the way members of Congress navigate the challenging terrain of representation as they serve, and all the many predictable and unpredictable consequences of the decisions they make.