I'm working through Polsby's How Congress Evolves, which details how liberal Democrats overcame the conservative coalition in the House. In the course of doing so, the House reforms seem to have aided in the sharp polarization of the parties and tighter Leadership control of the House. Question is a two-parter: In your view, (1) would decentralization of power in the House reduce partisanship, and (2) would that be a good thing?I'm certainly an easy mark for anyone who plugs NWP and that book.
I think I'd say that partisanship drives centralization, not the other way around. So it's not like anyone could impose less centralized rules on the House and therefore get less polarized results. That said, there are presumably a lot of ways that a polarized, partisan House could be run. I do think that a House in which committees and subcommittees do as much meaningful, substantive work as possible and really develop and take advantage of substantive expertise is a good thing. I hadn't realized until yesterday that committee staff numbers have been dropping while leadership staff goes up; I don't believe that's a good trade-off (although I'd probably be happy with the leadership keeping it's staff and making the House more expensive to run, rather than trading back). It's possible that if the majority party allowed the minority party more substantive input at the committee and subcommittee level, at least beyond the most highly charged items, that the minority might have more of a stake in the operations of the House in general. That's how it was pre-reform; it's not clear whether that's a plausible outcome for today's parties.
Generally, I don't think that partisanship is a bad thing at all: I think strong parties contribute to democracy. On the other hand, the kind of strong parties that I like are less ideological, and less hierarchical, than the ones that have evolved over the last fifty years. For the House, that would mean, I think, both strong majority-party leadership and strong committees. No reason you can't have both; that kind of thing isn't zero-sum.