University of Pennsylvania Press

American Governance: Politics, Policy, and Public Law

Series Editors: Richard Valelly, Pamela Brandwein, Marie Gottschalk, Christopher Howard

Published by: University of Pennsylvania Press

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American Governance: Politics, Policy, and Public Law

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American Marriage

A Political Institution

By Priscilla Yamin

As states across the country battle internally over same-sex marriage in the courts, in legislatures, and at the ballot box, activists and scholars grapple with its implications for the status of gays and lesbians and for the institution of marriage itself. Yet, the struggle over same-sex marriage is only the most recent political and public debate over marriage in the United States. What is at stake for those who want to restrict marriage and for those who seek to extend it? Why has the issue become such a national debate? These questions can be answered only by viewing marriage as a political institution as well as a religious and cultural one.

In its political dimension, marriage circumscribes both the meaning and the concrete terms of citizenship. Marriage represents communal duty, moral education, and social and civic status. Yet, at the same time, it represents individual choice, contract, liberty, and independence from the state. According to Priscilla Yamin, these opposing but interrelated sets of characteristics generate a tension between a politics of obligations on the one hand and a politics of rights on the other. To analyze this interplay, American Marriage examines the status of ex-slaves at the close of the Civil War, immigrants at the turn of the twentieth century, civil rights and women's rights in the 1960s, and welfare recipients and gays and lesbians in the contemporary period. Yamin argues that at moments when extant political and social hierarchies become unstable, political actors turn to marriage either to stave off or to promote political and social changes. Some marriages are pushed as obligatory and necessary for the good of society, while others are contested or presented as dangerous and harmful. Thus political struggles over race, gender, economic inequality, and sexuality have been articulated at key moments through the language of marital obligations and rights. Seen this way, marriage is not outside the political realm but interlocked with it in mutual evolution.

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Becoming Bureaucrats

Socialization at the Front Lines of Government Service

By Zachary W. Oberfield

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Changing Minds, If Not Hearts

Political Remedies for Racial Conflict

By James M. Glaser and Timothy J. Ryan

Americans preach egalitarianism, but democracy makes it hard for minorities to win. Changing Minds, If Not Hearts explores political strategies that counteract the impulse of racial majorities to think about racial issues as a zero-sum game, in which a win for one group means a loss for another. James M. Glaser and Timothy J. Ryan argue that, although political processes often inflame racial tensions, the tools of politics also can alleviate conflict.

Through randomized experiments conducted in South Carolina, California, Michigan, Mississippi, Oklahoma, and New Jersey, Glaser and Ryan uncover the racial underpinnings of disputes over affirmative action, public school funding initiatives, Confederate flag displays on government buildings, reparations, and racial profiling. The authors examine whether communities rife with conflict endorse different outcomes when issues are cast in different terms—for example, by calling attention to double standards, evoking alternate conceptions of fairness and justice, or restructuring electoral choices to offer voters greater control. Their studies identify a host of tools that can help overcome opposition to minority interests that are due to racial hostility. Even in communities averse to accommodation, even where antipathy and prejudice linger, minorities can win.

With clearly presented data and compelling prose, Changing Minds, If Not Hearts provides a vivid and practical illustration of how academic theory can help resolve conflicts on the ground.

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Civil Rights Advocacy on Behalf of the Poor

By Catherine M. Paden

Representation of the poor has never been the top priority for civil rights organizations, which exist to eradicate racially prejudiced and discriminatory practices and policy. Scholars have argued that the activities and ideologies of civil rights groups have functioned with a distinct middle-class bias since well before the 1960s civil rights movement. Additionally, all political organizations face disincentives to represent the poor—such advocacy is expensive and politically unpopular, and often involves trade-offs with other issues that are more central to organizations' missions.

In Civil Rights Advocacy on Behalf of the Poor, Catherine M. Paden examines five civil rights organizations and explores why they chose to represent the poor—specifically low-income African Americans—during six legislative periods considering welfare reform. Paden's archival research into groups such as NAACP, the Congress of Racial Equality, and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, and her extensive interviews with movement leaders and activists reveal that national organizations advocate on behalf of the poor when they have incentives to do so. Organizational decisions to represent the poor are sometimes strategic, sometimes based on an ideological commitment, and sometimes both. However, Paden points out that decisions are never purely ideological—groups are always aware of strategy and of their positions within their issue niche when they fix their priorities.

Civil Rights Advocacy on Behalf of the Poor also points to the critical role that radical organizations play in increasing representation in the U.S. political system. Paden maintains that radical groups matter not because their representation affects long-term policy change or is particularly effective in representing the interest of marginal groups. Rather, she argues, it is because they compete with more mainstream or conservative organizations for their constituencies.

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Competitive Elections and the American Voter

By Keena Lipsitz

Tight political races with their emotionally charged debates, mud-slinging, and uncertain outcomes are stressful for voters and candidates alike, but that stress may be healthy for democracy. In Competitive Elections and the American Voter, Keena Lipsitz argues that highly contested electoral battles create an environment that allows citizens to make more enlightened decisions.

The first book to use democratic theory to evaluate the quality of campaign rhetoric, Competitive Elections and the American Voter offers a rare overview of political contests at different levels of government. Lipsitz draws on a range of contemporary democratic theories, including egalitarian and deliberative conceptions, to develop campaign communication standards. To promote the values of political competition, equality, and deliberation Lipsitz contends that voters must have access to abundant, balanced information, representing a range of voices and involving a high level of dialogue between the candidates. Using advertising data, the book examines whether competitive House, Senate, and presidential campaigns operating at the state level generate such facts and arguments. It also tests the connection between this knowledge and greater voter understanding and engagement. Because close elections can push candidates to attack their opponents, the book investigates how negative advertising affects voters as well. Given the link between electoral competitiveness and an informed electorate, the book includes reform proposals that enhance competition.

Competitive Elections and the American Voter reminds us that we avoid political controversy and conflict at our peril. This eye-opening analysis of political communication and campaign information environments encourages citizens, scholars, and campaign reformers to recognize the crucial role that well contested elections play in a democracy.

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Displacing Democracy

Economic Segregation in America

By Amy Widestrom

In recent decades, economically disadvantaged Americans have become more residentially segregated from other communities: they are increasingly likely to live in high-poverty neighborhoods that are spatially isolated with few civic resources. Low-income citizens are also less likely to be politically engaged, a trend that is most glaring in terms of voter turnout. Examining neighborhoods in Atlanta, Kansas City, Milwaukee, and Rochester, Amy Widestrom challenges the assumption that the "class gap" in political participation is largely the result of individual choices and dispositions. Displacing Democracy demonstrates that neighborhoods segregated along economic lines create conditions that encourage high levels of political activity, including political and civic mobilization and voting, among wealthier citizens while discouraging and impeding the poor from similar forms of civic engagement.

Drawing on quantitative research, case studies, and interviews, Widestrom shows that neighborhood-level resources and characteristics affect political engagement in distinct ways that are not sufficiently appreciated in the current understanding of American politics and political behavior. In addition to the roles played by individual traits and assets, increasing economic segregation in the United States denies low-income citizens the civic and social resources vital for political mobilization and participation. People living in poverty lack the time, money, and skills for active civic engagement, and this is compounded by the fact that residential segregation creates a barren civic environment incapable of supporting a vibrant civic community. Over time, this creates a balance of political power that is dramatically skewed not only toward individuals with greater incomes but toward entire neighborhoods with more economic resources.

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Pulse of the People

Political Rap Music and Black Politics

By Lakeyta M. Bonnette

Hip-Hop music encompasses an extraordinarily diverse range of approaches to politics. Some rap and Hip-Hop artists engage directly with elections and social justice organizations; others may use their platform to call out discrimination, poverty, sexism, racism, police brutality, and other social ills. In Pulse of the People, Lakeyta M. Bonnette illustrates the ways rap music serves as a vehicle for the expression and advancement of the political thoughts of the urban Black community, a population frequently marginalized within American society and alienated from electoral politics.

Pulse of the People lays a foundation for the study of political rap music and public opinion research and demonstrates ways in which political attitudes asserted in the music have been transformed into direct action and behavior of constituents. Bonnette examines the history of rap music and its relationship to and extension from other cultural and political vehicles within Black America, presenting criteria for identifying the specific subgenre of music that is political rap. She complements the statistics of rap music exposure with lyrical analysis of rap songs that espouse Black Nationalist and Black Feminist attitudes. Touching on a number of critical moments in American racial politics—including the 2008 and 2012 elections and the cases of the Jena 6, Troy Davis, and Trayvon Martin—Pulse of the People makes a compelling case for the influence of rap music in the political arena and greatly expands our understanding of the ways political ideologies and public opinion are formed.

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Sex Work Politics

From Protest to Service Provision

By Samantha Majic

In San Francisco, the St. James Infirmary (SJI) and the California Prostitutes Education Project (CAL-PEP) provide free, nonjudgmental medical care, counseling, and other health and social services by and for sex workers—a radical political commitment at odds with government policies that criminalize prostitution. To maintain and expand these much-needed services and to qualify for funding from state, federal, and local authorities, such organizations must comply with federal and state regulations for nonprofits. In Sex Work Politics, Samantha Majic investigates the way nonprofit organizations negotiate their governmental obligations while maintaining their commitment to outreach and advocacy for sex workers' rights as well as broader sociopolitical change.

Drawing on multimethod qualitative research, Majic outlines the strategies that CAL-PEP and SJI employ to balance the conflicting demands of service and advocacy, which include treating sex work as labor with legitimate occupational health and safety concerns, empowering their clients with civic skills to advance their political commitments outside the nonprofit organization, and conducting and publishing research and analysis to inform the public and policymakers of their constituents' needs. Challenging the assumption that activists must "sell out" and abandon radical politics to manage formal organizations, Majic comes to the surprising conclusion that it is indeed possible to maintain effective advocacy and key social movement values, beliefs, and practices, even while partnering with government agencies. Sex Work Politics significantly contributes to studies of transformational politics with its nuanced portrait of nonprofits as centers capable of sustaining political and social change.

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Statebuilding from the Margins

Between Reconstruction and the New Deal

Edited by Carol Nackenoff and Julie Novkov

The period between the Civil War and the New Deal was particularly rich and formative for political development. Beyond the sweeping changes and national reforms for which the era is known, Statebuilding from the Margins examines often-overlooked cases of political engagement that expanded the capacities and agendas of the developing American state. With particular attention to gendered, classed, and racialized dimensions of civic action, the chapters explore points in history where the boundaries between public and private spheres shifted, including the legal formulation of black citizenship and monogamy in the postbellum years; the racial politics of Georgia's adoption of prohibition; the rise of public waste management; the incorporations of domestic animal and wildlife management into the welfare state; the creation of public juvenile courts; and the involvement of women's groups in the creation of U.S. housing policy. In many of these cases, private citizens or organizations initiated political action by framing their concerns as problems in which the state should take direct interest to benefit and improve society.

Statebuilding from the Margins depicts a republic in progress, accruing policy agendas and the institutional ability to carry them out in a nonlinear fashion, often prompted and powered by the creative techniques of policy entrepreneurs and organizations that worked with, alongside, and outside formal boundaries to get results. These Progressive Era initiatives established models for the way states could create, intervene in, and regulate new policy areas—innovations that remain relevant for growth and change in contemporary American governance.

Contributors: James Greer, Carol Nackenoff, Julie Novkov, Susan Pearson, Kimberly Smith, Marek D. Steedman, Patricia Strach, Kathleen Sullivan, Ann-Marie Szymanski.

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The Workfare State

Public Assistance Politics from the New Deal to the New Democrats

By Eva Bertram

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