Politics and Current Events

Free e-book for March: Lincoln’s Constitution

March 1, 2017
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Free e-book for March: Lincoln’s Constitution

Our free e-book for March is Lincoln’s Constitution by Daniel Farber. Download your copy here. In Lincoln’s Constitution, Daniel Farber leads the reader to understand exactly how Abraham Lincoln faced the inevitable constitutional issues brought on by the Civil War. Examining what arguments Lincoln made in defense of his actions and how his words and deeds fit into the context of the times, Farber illuminates Lincoln’s actions by placing them squarely within their historical moment. The answers here are crucial not only for a better understanding of the Civil War but also for shedding light on issues-state sovereignty, presidential power, and limitations on civil liberties in the name of national security-that continue to test the limits of constitutional law even today. To read more about Lincoln’s Constitution, click here. To download your free e-book edition, click here. . . .

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Dirty Waters in the Chicago Reader

January 9, 2017
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Dirty Waters in the Chicago Reader

Corruption might be just as Chicagoan as Mike Ditka’s chain of steakhouses (“We heard that the pork chops were the best in Chicago—not true. Overpriced for an adequate meal.”—Menupages)—the premise didn’t quite originate here, but the vibe is omnipresent, and its consequences are more or less our mise-en-scène. In Dirty Waters: Confessions of Chicago’s Last Harbor Boss, R. J. Nelson tells the tale of his rise and fall as the city’s last director of Harbors and Marine Services. A recent profile of Nelson at the Chicago Tribune delved into some juicy tidbits, which follow below. You can read the piece in full, here, too. *** Nelson recalled numerous, colorful bribery attempts — with boaters hoping to take advantage of the old way of doing things at Chicago’s harbors. One boater who wanted a slip in Belmont Harbor showed Nelson a glossy brochure with pictures of a penthouse condominium in Acapulco — saying Nelson could use it for a couple of weeks in exchange for his help. When Nelson responded “Absolutely not,” the boater added. “It’s fully equipped and includes a companion — gender of your choice!” Other boaters attempted leaving hundred-dollar bills on the counter, gift certificates to Marshall Field’s or sending boxes of Fannie May . . .

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Michael Tesler on the data behind racial resentment

December 21, 2016
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Michael Tesler on the data behind racial resentment

In a recent piece for the Huffington Post, Michael Tesler (author of Post-Racial or Most Racial?: Race and Politics in the Obama Era) analyzes public opinion data that corroborates an account of the 2016 election that looks beyond the white-working class neglect narrative and concentrates instead on the role played by racial prejudice. As he summarizes, “Racially resentful beliefs that African Americans are getting more than they deserve were so strongly linked to support for Trump, in fact, that their impact on both the 2016 Republican Primary and the general election were larger than they had ever been in before.” Read an excerpt from Tesler’s research below, which runs the numbers and frames the context in which they were generated. *** Such different portraits of white and non-white Americans’ grievances have their origins in what social psychologists call “ultimate attribution error.” This error means that when whites struggle, their troubles are generally attributed to situational forces (e.g., outsourcing); but when non-whites struggle, their plight is more often attributed to dispositional traits (i.e., poor work ethic). Consequently, whites are considered “more deserving” than blacks. To quantify this double standard in deservingness we embedded an experiment in a new HuffPost/YouGov survey. We asked half . . .

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Frances E. Lee on pro-rural bias in our electoral institutions

December 9, 2016
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Frances E. Lee on pro-rural bias in our electoral institutions

A recent piece for the Upshot blog at the New York Times on the pro-rural bias of American electoral institutions made good use of political scientist Frances E. Lee’s research on the history of congressional partisan conflict, the subject of her latest book Insecure Majorities: Congress and the Perpetual Campaign. In considering the ideological residue from “Thomas Jefferson’s agrarian America” and its “yeoman farmer” ideal, the NYT posits how the ongoing influence of the rural vote triggers our very notion of the kind of person who should be able to hold office. which ultimately shapes just the conflict Lee specializes in: Rural America, even as it laments its economic weakness, retains vastly disproportionate electoral strength. Rural voters were able to nudge Donald J. Trump to power despite Hillary Clinton’s large margins in cities like New York. In a House of Representatives that structurally disadvantages Democrats because of their tight urban clustering, rural voters helped Republicans hold their cushion. In the Senate, the least populous states are now more overrepresented than ever before. And the growing unity of rural Americans as a voting bloc has converted the rural bias in national politics into a potent Republican advantage. “If you’re talking about a political system that skews rural, that’s not . . .

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Excerpt: They Thought They Were Free

December 5, 2016
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Excerpt: They Thought They Were Free

Following the 2016 presidential election, a group of Redditors digging for context and historical parallel rediscovered an excerpt on our website from Milton Mayer’s 1955 book, They Thought They Were Free: The Germans, 1933–1945. There, Mayer interviews ten German citizens, all Nazi Party members, following the war about the course of their lives during that decade, in order to determine what, precisely, had made them Nazis. As Mayer put it: What happened here was the gradual habituation of the people, little by little, to being governed by surprise; to receiving decisions deliberated in secret; to believing that the situation was so complicated that the government had to act on information which the people could not understand, or so dangerous that, even if the people could not understand it, it could not be released because of national security. And their sense of identification with Hitler, their trust in him, made it easier to widen this gap and reassured those who would otherwise have worried about it. Below is the excerpt in full. *** But Then It Was Too Late “What no one seemed to notice,” said a colleague of mine, a philologist, “was the ever widening gap, after 1933, between the government and . . .

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Katherine J. Cramer on politicizing rural consciousness

November 23, 2016
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Katherine J. Cramer on politicizing rural consciousness

In a recent piece for Vox, Katherine J. Cramer outlined some of the arguments she makes in The Politics of Resentment: Rural Consciousness in Wisconsin and the Rise of Scott Walker, which draws upon years of research on Wisconsin’s shifting electorate to analyze the role played by rural consciousness, and the ongoing influence of place-based identities in politics. Here’s part of Cramer’s takeaway: Once I passed out my business cards, handed out tokens of appreciation like Badger football schedules, and turned on my recorder, I asked them, “What are the big concerns of people in this community?” Regardless of geography, people in most of these communities talked about their concerns about health care, jobs, and taxation. But in the rural places and small towns, people expressed a deeply felt sense of not getting their “fair share” — defined in different ways. They felt that they didn’t get a reasonable proportion of decision-making power, believing that the key decisions were made in the major metro areas of Madison and Milwaukee, then decreed out to the rest of the state, with little listening being done to people like them. They also thought that they didn’t get their fair share of tax money. To them, too . . .

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Excerpt: The Politics of Resentment

November 18, 2016
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Excerpt: The Politics of Resentment

An excerpt from Katherine J. Cramer’s The Politics of Resentment: Rural Consciousness in Wisconsin and the Rise of Scott Walker *** My Window Is Wisconsin My window to the way the politics of resentment works is Wisconsin. This is a state in which the debate over the appropriate role of government has played out prominently and over a sustained period. It has been central to the conservative response to the disarray of the Republican Party after the George W. Bush presidency and Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential victory. Wisconsin was a predominantly Republican state until the 1950s, but Democratic presidential candidates have repeatedly carried the state since 1988. Since 2000, however, it has been a partisan battleground, or swing state. You can see the push-and-pull of partisan fights here in multiple ways. Wisconsin scored highest on the number of “Bush-Obama counties”; no other state had as many counties that went for George W. Bush in the 2004 presidential election and then for Barack Obama in 2008 (Achenbach 2012). Wisconsin went from having a Democratically controlled state legislature with a Democratic governor and two Democratic senators in 2009 to having a narrowly Republican-controlled state legislature, Republican governor, and a split U.S. senate . . .

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Doodling for Academics: A Neutral Election Day Post

November 8, 2016
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Doodling for Academics: A Neutral Election Day Post

You will probably want to color in the Therapy Dog, regardless. Also here’s another neutral election day plug: this time for George Lakoff’s Moral Politics: How Liberals and Conservatives Think (Third Edition; updated to include some of the concerns taking you to the polls today, from climate change and the 2008 financial crisis to the war(s) in Afghanistan and the Affordable Care Act) And finally, to read more about Doodling for Academics, click here. . . .

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Michael Tesler: #11 on the 2016 Politico 50

September 16, 2016
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Michael Tesler: #11 on the 2016 Politico 50

It’s our second congrats this week to a University of Chicago Press author for making the Politico 50, a “guide to the thinkers, doers and visionaries transforming American politics in 2016.” This time it’s Michael Tesler, author of Post-Racial or Most-Racial?: Race and Politics in the Obama Era, at #11, for his contribution to our understanding of “how white racism has long shaped American politics.” As Politico writes: There may be no single symbol of black progress more powerful than an African-American in the White House, and Tesler, author of this year’s Post-Racial or Most-Racial?: Race and Politics in the Obama Era, argues that Barack Obama’s 2008 election triggered a new racialized backlash. Tesler draws a distinction between “racial conservatives,” who are more likely to agree with stereotypes like the notion that black people are poorer than white people because of lack of effort, and “racial liberals.” Racial conservatism, Tesler’s work shows, has become a stronger predictor for identifying as Republican, and it spiked with Obama’s election. Over the past year, a steady stream of studies, polls and analyses—including Tesler’s own findings—appear to bear out that theory and show how it’s shaping the 2016 campaign; they chart a correlation between racial resentment and . . .

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Forrest Stuart: Down, Out, and Under Arrest on Skid Row

September 2, 2016
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Forrest Stuart: Down, Out, and Under Arrest on Skid Row

Forrest Stuart’s Down, Out, and Under Arrest: Policing and Everyday Life in Skid Row puts to use the author’s five years of ethnographic research on LA’s Skid Row, home to one of the most stable (and sizable) homeless populations in the nation, and demonstrates what it looks like to police poverty in the US today. (Hint: Stuart was stopped by police 14 times during his first year working in the neighborhood.) From an interview with Stuart at Mother Jones:   Mother Jones: What struck you during your time on the streets that might be useful to policymakers? Forrest Stuart: Right away I started seeing how the police, in part just because of their numbers in Skid Row, were creating a situation I’d never seen before. Just as a guy was starting to get on his feet—for example, he had finally secured a bed at a shelter—some small infraction would cut him back. “The places that people need most—like a soup kitchen or homeless shelter—become really risky, because that’s where the police are.” It could be as little as getting a single ticket for loitering. For people living on dollars at day, to suddenly have to pay $150 for a sidewalk ticket is huge! . . .

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