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SAGE Publications

Cover Image: Freshman Orientation: House Style and Home Style
  • Date: 12/20/2006
  • Format: Print Paperback
  • Price: $49.00
  • ISBN: 978-1-93311-665-5
  • Pages: 156
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Freshman Orientation: House Style and Home Style
Edward I. Sidlow, Eastern Michigan University

Upon their arrival in Washington D.C., every member of the “freshman class” received a tote bag sporting a picture of the capitol building that contained a three-hundred-plus page document called the 2004 House Manual: New Member Orientation, 109th Congress. This mind-numbing guide details the kinds of expenditures members can and can’t be reimbursed for, the kinds of mailings that can and can’t be paid for with taxpayer money, the use of various types of office equipment, a section on house rules, and even some rules for ethics. Mr. Schwarz goes to Washington. Enjoy orientation!

In this brief, engaging case study, Edward I. Sidlow tells the story of what it takes to make the challenging transition from candidate to newly minted member of Congress. Following the triumphs and trials of candidate and then freshman congressman Joe Schwarz, a moderate Republican from Michigan’s 7th district, Sidlow gives students an inside look at Schwarz as he sets up shop on the Hill, gets familiar with the political environment, becomes involved in various policy areas, jockeys for choice committee assignments, develops a “style” that allows him to communicate effectively with other members while staying in touch with constituents at home, and a host of other issues that are central to legislative life. Sidlow uses an appealing first-hand reportorial and narrative style to describe events, while effortlessly incorporating data and information on specific topics from the current literature so that students can see how Schwarz’s experience compares with others. With photos and other illustrations from the Schwarz team, Sidlow brings the congressional experience to life.

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Table of Contents

Prologue. Election Night, 2004

1. Michigan’s 7th Congressional District, 2004: The Primary Season and the Candidates

2.Open Seat Battle: Electing a New Member of Congress

3. Setting Up Shop

4. Learning the Ropes

5. Representation

6. Meanwhile, Back in the District …

7. Playing the Policy Making Game

8. Reelection Politics


Freshman Orientation personalizes and enlivens much of what students in legislative process and politics courses learn about how Congress operates. It also spans the two aspects of Congress always discussed in Congress textbooks: members as representatives, and Congress as a legislative body. The fact that the book also focuses on a new member of Congress, just learning the ropes, especially appeals to students who are also learning about Congress for the first time—they identify with the congressional freshman’s new discoveries and early frustrations. Sidlow tells a good story, perfectly pitched to undergraduates—I myself became absorbed by the story as if I were reading a good novel! That’s exactly the kind of writing that helps students learn by intriguing them and drawing them in.”

- Christine Day, University of New Orleans

Sidlow’s book provides a personal, human perspective on Congress, coming at the issue of socialization through the eyes of a brand new member. He conveys the newness of the experience in a way that resonates with undergraduates who are new to the study of Congress themselves.

- Stephen R. Routh, California State University, Stanislaus

Sidlow engages his readers with an enthusiasm for the material that is both contagious and enviable. Many congratulations for a job very well done!

- Alison Dagnes, Shippensburg University
Edward I. Sidlow, Eastern Michigan University

Edward Sidlow is a professor of political science at Eastern Michigan University. He received his Ph.D. from Ohio State University. He is author of Challenging the Incumbent: An Underdog’s Undertaking, an introduction to American government text, America at Odds, Fifth Edition (co-written with Beth Henschen). His articles have also appeared in such journals as Policy Studies Review, Journal of Law and Politics, Journal of General Education, Western Political Quarterly, News for Teachers of Political Science, and College Teaching. Sidlow is the recipient of numerous teaching awards.

Sample Pages