Politics and Current Events

Town Hall: Political Scientists Look Toward the Presidential Debates

September 25, 2020
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With the first presidential debate rapidly approaching, many questions are zipping through voters’ minds. What is the most important topic for them this election? How will they even manage to vote safely during a pandemic? And, if they could, what question would they ask at a town hall debate? We reached out to three of our political science authors to find out which question they would like to ask the candidates. Hahrie Han, coauthor of Prisms of the People: Power and Organizing in the Twenty-First Century One of the greatest challenges in contemporary politics is the broken link between people and government. Even though democracy is supposed to be “of, by, and for” the people, what we find is that government is often unresponsive both to public opinion and people’s activism. How do the candidates think about their own accountability to the public? I would ask, “Elected officials often seem to use people as props instead of being willing to enter into a true relationship of mutual accountability. At best, elected officials treat the public merely as data points for information and input. What mechanisms would you create to ensure that the people affected by the policies you proposed had . . .

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Four Questions with Joshua Gunn, author of “Political Perversion”

September 23, 2020
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As election season progresses, we spoke with Joshua Gunn, author of Political Perversion: Rhetorical Aberration in the Time of Trumpeteering. Below, he discusses political rhetoric, structural perversion, public affect, and what Trump (and his Twitter) reveals about American culture. First of all, what got you started on writing this book? Political Perversion originally started as an essay I was writing on the television series, American Horror Story. For a couple of years after the show debuted, I was trying to make sense of why horror television series were turning to perverse scenarios (explicit S&M), perverse villains (Hannibal), and perverse anti-heroes in prime time (Dexter). We have long been used to perversity in cinema—right down to the basic voyeurism of staring at actors in the dark. As a fan of horror, however, this newer prime-time perversity, intended for viewing in more intimate spaces, says something about cultural shifts.   So, after researching the way perversion was discussed in various fields and in popular parlance, I started writing about horror TV around the same time that Trump announced his candidacy. I was watching one of the Republican presidential candidate debates (the one that ultimately orbited around a penis-size repartee), and then it . . .

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Talking political science with Assistant Editorial Director Charles Myers

August 28, 2020
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Acquiring Editor Chuck Myers

Alas, as in so many other ways, these are not normal times. The APSA will be virtual, as will our booth. But we didn’t want you all to miss getting to hobnob with Chuck, so our Marketing Director, Levi Stahl, conducted the following brief interview with him. Enjoy the interview, and then click through to our Virtual APSA to get the latest, best books in the field for 40% off with free shipping. And we’ll look forward to seeing you in person at next year’s APSA! You’ve been acquiring books in political science for . . . let’s just say that a goodly number of presidential administrations have come and gone and you’ve still had your shoulder to the wheel. But that doesn’t mean that everybody knows your background. Can you give us a rundown of your publishing career and how you ended up here at Chicago? I’ve had a couple of different careers including time in Washington working in the Senate and in the Justice Department in what now seems like a different country. I’ve been interested in politics since I was a child and used to go with my mother, who was our local judge of elections, to . . .

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What Does Patriotism Mean in America Today?

July 2, 2020
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July 4th generally conjures images of barbeques, fireworks, and large, billowing flags. But due to large protests against police brutality, concerns of COVID, and an upcoming election that symbolizes both fear and hope for many, the holiday this year looks very different. This Independence Day, instead of a celebration of patriotism, we wanted to dedicate some time to reflecting on it. We invited three of our political science authors to answer the following questions: What does patriotism mean in America today? Given that definition, should Americans be patriotic today? Below are their thoughtful responses. LaFleur Stephens-Dougan author of Race to the Bottom: How Racial Appeals Work in American Politics Reflecting on what patriotism means to me so close to the celebration of our nation’s Independence Day is a weighty endeavor.  In my opinion, patriotism in the United States is fraught with contradiction, especially for Black Americans. Black Americans have made countless contributions to the United States, a country they love, but are still engaged in a centuries-old struggle for economic, political, and social equality.  As the child of Black immigrants, who came to this country voluntarily, I am acutely aware of the sacrifices that African Americans have made on behalf . . .

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Price V. Fishback on Werner Troesken’s “The Pox of Liberty” and Our Current Tradeoffs between Quarantines and Economic Freedom

April 21, 2020
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Economist and Press author Price V. Fishback shared with us recently his thoughts on a previous Press book that speaks to our current situation and looks at the political and economic history of how the US government has responded to other pandemics. The current crisis has brought into focus the tradeoffs between quarantines and economic freedom.  For an excellent book about the history of these tradeoffs in the United States, read Werner Troesken’s The Pox of Liberty:  How the Constitution Left Americans Rich, Free, and Prone to Infection (University of Chicago Press, 2015). Werner traces the history of how governments at all levels of the American federal system dealt with three deadly and recurring diseases:  smallpox, yellow fever, and typhoid. All of the issues the world is facing today to avoid horrid deaths are discussed in Werner’s book:  inadequate testing, the absence of vaccines, attempts to develop vaccines, tradeoffs between economic losses and quarantines, the uncertainties that the disease might return in the future, and inadequate medical facilities.  The situations developed in the nineteenth-century societies when there were much higher death rates, lower incomes, and at best rudimentary medical care.  In his preface, Werner says that he started out trying to . . .

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Voting by Mail? Read an Excerpt from “Democracy in America?: What Has Gone Wrong and What We Can Do About It”

March 31, 2020
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Voting by Mail? Read an Excerpt from “Democracy in America?: What Has Gone Wrong and What We Can Do About It”

With fears of COVID-19 keeping some away from in-person polling areas, is it time for all elections to be held by mail? Would this increase overall voter turnout even during times that aren’t faced with a pandemic? Could it make voter turnout more representative? In Democracy in America?: What Has Gone Wrong and What We Can Do About It Benjamin I. Page and Martin Gilens examine how, even though mail-in voting can increase turnout in currently registered voters, it is not enough on its own to handle low, and often unrepresentative, voter turnout. REFORMS TO FACILITATE VOTING. It is easy to come up with reforms that would lower individuals’ costs of voting and thereby increase voter turnout. The best single reform would be universal, government-administered registration, about which we will have more to say in a moment. Short of universal registration, we could at least allow same-day registration at polling places when people show up to vote. Online registration and registration updating were shown in the 2012 California election to increase the number of voters, especially among young people. After more (preferably all) Americans are registered, we could make it much easier to vote by holding elections on a holiday . . .

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A Political Playlist Just in Time for the Presidential Primaries

February 2, 2020
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We know that many of you will be turning your attention to the Iowa Caucus on February 3rd as the 2020 Presidental Primaries get underway. And if you’re like us, you’re going to need a distraction from the stress and uncertainty of it all–and we have just the ticket! Peter La Chapelle, author of I’d Fight the World: A Political History of Old-Time, Hillbilly, and Country Music, has put together the ultimate playlist, which captures the deep bonds between country music and American politics since the very beginning. Long before the United States had presidents from the world of movies and reality TV, we had scores of politicians with connections to country music from the nineteenth-century rise of fiddler-politicians to more recent figures like Pappy O’Daniel, Roy Acuff, and Rob Quist. These performers and politicians both rode and resisted cultural waves: some advocated for the poor and dispossessed, and others voiced religious and racial anger, but they all walked the line between exploiting their celebrity and righteously taking on the world. While putting together this playlist, Peter has tried to use songs by the original artists themselves, but in cases where those weren’t available, he first tried to find a . . .

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Lewis Raven Wallace: How to Speak Up and Speak Out

November 5, 2019
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It’s University Press Week! Today’s blog tour theme is ‘Speaking Up & Speaking Out’. Who better to reflect on the subject than activist and journalist Lewis Wallace, who was fired from his job in public radio for refusing to stay silent about the harmful and marginalizing myth of ‘objectivity’ perpetuated in the media world? Read on for his thoughts about today’s theme, and scroll for event info and a teaser trailer of Wallace’s new podcast, companion to his debut book, The View from Somewehere. “I was raised to believe that speaking out mattered, that we all had some responsibility to justice and fairness in the world. I remember lodging protests that only a child of privilege would: against the overly authoritarian school lunch supervisor; against a teacher who I believed insulted the sixth grade students’ intelligence. I circulated petitions and self-published newspapers about youth liberation and adult domination. But speaking out comes with consequences that are uneven and unfair, based on your position of power in the world. In my case, speaking out was easy until I came of age and came out as queer, and transgender in the late 1990s. Using my voice then became a necessity, rather than . . .

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What Atari and the “Worst Video Game of all Time” Can Teach Us About the Crisis in American Public Service

July 24, 2019
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What does American public service have in common with a hastily produced video game adaptation of Spielberg’s E.T.? If you’ve endured the DMV—or, really, any overworked government office—you might find it difficult to identify which was described as “a confusing mess that left frustrated and disoriented.” No, this isn’t a Yelp review of the USPS; it’s NPR’s take on the 1982 video game, published on the film’s thirty-fifth anniversary. Like the American government, Atari had to defend against a serious reputation crisis. E.T. would change how people saw Atari, and the company found it difficult to correct that perception despite the later success of Q*bert and Ms. Pac-Man. Today, the government faces the similar challenge of changing people’s minds about the quality of public services with serious consequences in some cases for its continued ability to provide them, including to those without access to private-sector alternatives. The following is an excerpt from Good Enough for Government Work: The Public Reputation Crisis in America (And What We Can Do to Fix It) by Amy E. Lerman, where she describes what happened at Atari and what the “worst video game of all time” can teach us about American public service today. . . .

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Women’s History Month: Let’s Talk about Sexual Division of Labor

March 13, 2019
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Feminist linguist Deborah Cameron's new book isn't out until May, but we're giving you a sneak peek in celebration of Women's History Month. . . .

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