At AEI, Kevin Kosar talks to Stanford political scientist Andrew Hall:
So what, according to your research, is driving polarization in the House?
To explain polarization, we have to answer the question: Where have all the moderate candidates gone? My argument is that an important part of the issue is that moderate people look at what a job in Congress entails these days, and what campaigning for Congress requires these days, and say, “No thanks.” A legislator used to have more chances to work their way up through the committee system, write bills, and influence policy. They got paid quite well, and were equipped with considerable staff to do this. Today, legislation is largely driven by party leadership, the committee system has been gutted, congressional staff has been slashed, and salaries have declined steeply in real terms. Meanwhile, running for Congress is horrible. Candidates are expected to spend nearly all of their time cold-calling people to beg for money, along with a bunch of other indignities baked into the process. Who wants to go through that campaigning process to maybe win this job? We’re lucky to have some remarkable and dedicated public servants in Congress, but I would suggest that, by and large, we are not getting the most reasonable people to run for office in the current system.