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Books

 

Hijacking the Agenda: Economic Power and Political Influence. 2021. Russell Sage Foundation Press. (with Christopher Witko, Nathan J. Kelly and Peter K. Enns)

Winner, Gladys Kammerer Award from the American Political Science Association

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Why are the economic interests and priorities of lower- and middle-class Americans so often ignored by the U.S. Congress, while the economic interests of the wealthiest are prioritized, often resulting in policies favorable to their interests? Hijacking the Agenda examines why Congress privileges the concerns of businesses and the wealthy over those of average Americans. We go beyond demonstrating that such economic bias exists to illuminate precisely how and why economic policy is so often skewed in favor of the rich.
 
We analyze over 20 years of floor speeches by several hundred members of Congress to examine the influence of campaign contributions on how the national economic agenda is set in Congress. We find that legislators who received more money from business and professional associations were more likely to discuss the deficit and other upper-class priorities, while those who received more money from unions were more likely to discuss issues important to lower- and middle-class constituents, such as economic inequality and wages. While unions use campaign contributions to push back against wealthy interests, spending by the wealthy dwarfs that of unions.

Case studies analyzing financial regulation and the minimum wage demonstrate how the financial influence of the wealthy enables them to advance their economic agenda.  These analyzes show how big business uses its position in the economy and its resource advantage to accomplish its policy goals. Although groups representing lower- and middle-class interests, particularly unions, can sometimes shape the policy agenda if conditions are right, they suffer significant resource disadvantages. As a result, wealthy interests have the upper hand in shaping the policy process.
 

Bankrupt Representation and Party System Collapse. 2011. Pennsylvania State University Press.

Winner, Donna Lee Van Cott Award from the Political Institutions Section of the Latin American Studies Association

Honorable Mention, Fernando Coronil Award from the Venezuelan Studies Section of the Latin American Studies Association

In recent decades, Bolivia, Colombia, Italy, and Venezuela have all faced the turmoil and democratic crisis of party system collapse. This book analyzes the causes of such collapse through a detailed examination of Venezuela’s traumatic party system decay as well as comparative analysis of seven other countries. Collapse occurs when the party system as a whole is unable to provide adequate linkage between society and the state, failing to furnish programmatic representation, integration of major societal interests, or clientelist exchanges. Linkage decays when party systems face challenges that jeopardize their core strategies at the same time that they are constrained in their ability to adapt and to confront these threats. If this decay is unchecked and linkage of all sorts fails, then the bankrupt party system collapses.