During my academic career, I resisted distinguishing my professional activities into separate realms of teaching and research. Thus, my books generally reported my research concerns while being primarily targeted towards students and secondarily targeted to other political science professors.
Since my retirement, I have written another type of book. Rather than focusing on theoretical concerns about the meaning and importance of pluralism as the guiding ideal in American politics, I wanted to focus on a concrete and specific political institution – the Electoral College – and its ability to promote or suppress democratic pluralism. Rather than thinking of myself as an academic contributor to political theory, I wanted to be an activist, appealing to both political leaders and the broader public on behalf of reforms that might make our presidential elections better conform to the ideals of democratic pluralism. Rather than adhering to academic requirements when writing, I dispensed with detailed references and adopted the techniques of memoir to convey the evolution of my thinking about presidential elections. Rather than subjecting my work to confining reviews employed by academic presses, I relied on feedback from friends who resembled my target audience; while that audience included women, I relied on “guys” who were interested in politics and my project and had provided useful feedback on my earlier work; for the most part these guys were not political scientists but they were were well-educated, well-read, and capable of providing useful suggestions on both my politics and writing. Rather than seeking a contract with a commercial press having schedules that would long delay dissemination of my work, I decided to explore the world of self-publication, allowing Amazon and other on-line book sellers to quickly distribute the book and having “print-on-demand” features that allowed for revisions even after the book had been initially published
The Twenty-Eighth Amendment? was initially launched in early 2020, just as the first primaries and caucuses were being held to determine the Democratic nominee to run against Donald Trump in the November 2020 election. I regarded the election of Trump and his conduct during the first term of his presidency as the most serious threats to pluralist democracy that the U.S. has endured since World War II (or in my lifetime). Just as the Electoral College enabled Trump’s assent to the presidency, I worried that it could facilitate his reelection – as well as the election of future demagogues with weak commitments to political pluralism. I also worried that current efforts to replace the Electoral College with a popular-plurality system that awarded the presidency to the candidate getting the most popular votes would provide even worst inoculation against anti-pluralists than the existing system.
The Twenty–Eighth Amendment? was thus released just before Americans, including myself, regarded tbe coronavirus pandemic as a threat both to the health of millions of Americans and to American democracy. It became available at a time when the Democrats seemed highly divided about their nominee for the president, and when Joe Biden’s campaign seemed doomed. The coronavirus crisis and “the Joe Biden Miracle” – his arising from the ashes of a domed presidential bid to becoming the consensual front-runner led me to believe that the main features of his book were timely and useful. Just as the pandemic made the need for more qualified and trustworthy leadership than that provided by Trump, the Biden miracle suggested that many American had come to understand this need. I thought that most revisions to reflect these events could be confined to the last chapter. During the spring 2020, while in social isolation, I am thus preparing a slightly altered “revised edition” of this book. A few blogs that I have recently posted anticipate some of these changes.
The Twenty-Eighth Amendment? Beyond Abolishing the Electoral College. Gatekeeper Press, 2020.
Both paperback and electronic versions of this book are available online, but here is a brief description.
The Electoral College was adopted by the framers of our Constitution as a method of ensuring that our presidents would be well-qualified. But this goal has been thwarted by changes in our “unwritten constitution,” including the development of political parties and their processes for nominating candidates, adoption by the states of rules like “the winner-take-all” feature of casting electoral votes, and the evolution of democratic values giving ordinary citizens a greater role in presidential elections. While these extra-constitutional developments furthered laudable objectives, the overall result is a deeply flawed process that is far removed from Constitutional provisions.
Reformers have long sought to abolish the Electoral College and replace it with a “popular plurality system” that would award the presidency to the candidate winning the most popular votes nationally, but this reform has three major flaws. First, it would leave intact the current method for determining the nominees of the parties that compete in the general election. This process – now featuring state-level primaries (and a few caucuses) – has produced a “nomination mess” that thwarts many ideals that are widely held by American citizens. Second, awarding the presidency to the candidate getting the most votes in the general election would provide poor inoculation from charismatic demagogues who appeal to a committed but narrow base of supporters and who are little trusted by most citizens. Third, this reform would require a constitutional amendment, and getting Congress and enough states to ratify such an amendment seems highly unlikely.
Nevertheless, 15 states have signed a National Popular Vote Interstate Compact (NPVIC) and there is sufficient momentum for the NPVIC that presidential reform efforts have been largely focused on its adoption since the popular-electoral vote mismatches that occurred in 2000 and 2016. While the NPVIC proposal is a cleaver end-run around the need for a Constitutional amendment to attain a popular-plurality system in practice, its various problems are exposed.
This book proposes an alternative approach. The Twenty-Eighth Amendment? prescribes a constitutional amendment having three parts: (1) a preliminary election in which voters everywhere cast approval ballots to identify the five candidates who are most acceptable to voters, (2) a general election in which voters cast “rank-order ballots” to identify the most supported candidate, and (3) constitutional authorization for Congress to create legislation regarding all aspects of national elections (including voter registration, campaign financing, advertising, conducting debates, and voter identification) and for a new National Election Commission to be empowered to ensure full compliance with Constitutional provisions and Congressional laws.
In this book intended for the general public,I draw upon political theory, findings from various social sciences, history, and the techniques of memoir to convey the evolution of my thinking about this issue. Covering over 230 years of American history, weaving in aspects of the 2020 campaign, and speculating about the future, this book concisely informs the public about a current issue of enduring importance for American politics.
I now provide information about my other books, roughly in the chronological order in which they were written and published. The last book I mention here is about the original study of the Electoral College that I co-organized and discuss in Chapter 2 of The Twenty-First Amendment?
Policy Responsiveness and Fiscal Strain in 51 American Communities, with Russell Getter and Terry Clark. The American Political Science Association. 1983
This manual was written for an APSA “Setups” initiative seeking to give undergraduate political science students opportunities to conduct research using the statistical methods that had become prominent in the discipline. For this initiative, researchers developed dataset composed of measures of key variables used to study selected topics, make their datasets available through the Inter-University Consortium for Political and Social Research (ICPSR) at the University of Michigan, and writing a manual regarding the research questions their dataset was designed to address.
The data that accompanied our manual were drawn from the Permanent Community Sample (of 51 cities) that Clark had initiated and that Getter and I had further augmented with data regarding responsiveness and responsiveness bias, as described under the ARTICLES button. Collaborating with Clark on this project was in keeping with my pluralist perspective. While Getter and I had focused primarily on “liberal and political” concerns of having city officials be more attentive to (disadvantaged) citizens and groups, Clark had become increasingly focused on the more “conservative and economic” concerns of dealing with the fiscal stresses that could accompany extensive responsiveness to the preferences of all citizens for more amenities and of disadvantaged citizens for more social services. The manual invites students to consider the tradeoffs between more generous public policies and more fiscal responsibility.
This manual summarizes the theoretical issues involved in generating both equally responsive and fiscally responsible policies, introduces students to generating and testing hypotheses regarding these concerns, and even provides some basic findings. I have no idea if our dataset is still available through the ICPSR. This project was completed before students (and faculty) had access to micro-computers, and so the data was provided on IBM cards and made available to member institutions on data tapes that were deposited on mainframe computers. Professors simply gave students access to these data, while holding office hours at the “comp center” to help them analyze these data to learn and produce term papers about city politics and policymaking.
Critical Pluralism, Democratic Performance, and Community Power, University Press of Kansas, 1991.
This book provides key findings from the “Power in Lawrence” project, which is discussed under the ARTICLES button, and presents my evaluative framework for moving beyond orthodox pluralism (Pluralism I) and deficient pluralism (Pluralism II) to critical pluralism (Pluralism III). It pursues the idea that pluralism is in part a normative theory that has evaluative standards for assessing the degree to which communities achieve three ideals, as elaborated in Chapter 2 of this book:
- Principle-Policy Congruence: This is the conservative ideal that policy be consistent with the broader, persistent values in local political cultures (sometimes expressed as public opinion on broad policy concepts and thought by conservative social theorists to be a superior way of attending to citizen concerns than by responding to popular opinion on specific policy issues, which they view as often little more than ill-informed mass prejudices).
- Responsible Representation: This is the liberal ideal that the ultimate policy makers should normally be elected officials who are authorized by winning elections to act on their independent judgements about what is best for the community, who are normally (but not always) responsive to citizen preferences, and who are open to the concerns of other political actors in the community.
- Complex Equality: This is the democratic socialist ideal that there be no persistent and unjustified inequalities of political influence among the various sectors of a community; for example, that the well-off do not dominate the poor, that whites do not dominate minorities, that men do not dominate women, and so forth.
The data and methods used to assess how well Lawrence fared in meeting these ideals are discussed in Chapter 3. Chapter 4 describes the political culture of Lawrence as a prelude for assessing principle-policy congruence. Chapters 5 through 10 describes the 29 issues that are analyzed. And Chapters 11, 12, and 13 summarize how well Lawrence performed in meeting these ideals. The ideal of principle-policy congruence is only weakly realized for several reasons, including that economic imperatives may sometimes seem more important than having policies that reflect dominant cultural values. The ideal of responsible representation was better realized, as no instances were found when private elites, municipal bureaucrats, or special-interests dominated the outcome. Moderate levels of responsible representation were found on 11 issues, as the independent judgments of elected officials and the preferences of citizens were at odds, and thus either responsiveness to citizens or the best judgments of officials had to be compromised. On a majority of issues, higher levels of responsible representation were found. The ideal of complex equality was largely but not completely realized. Many issues had social cleavages in which those participants that had more resources or pursued conservative objectives prevailed over less advantaged and more liberal participants. Sometimes such domination had “reasonable explanations,” but my analytical framework could provide no reasonable explanation for observed biases favoring the middle class.
Great Ideas/Grand Schemes: Political Ideologies in the 19th and 20th Centuries, with Dwight Kiel and Thomas Heilke. McGraw-Hill, 1996.
My teaching responsibilities changed during the late 1980s due to the retirement of our senior political theorists and the revision of our requirements for majors. Prior to then, majors simply had to take any theory course such as those in political ideologies, the history of political thought, American political thought, democratic theory, and theories of justice. Our new curriculum required all majors to take an “introduction to theory” as a prerequisite for taking more specialized theory courses. After some experimentation with the contents of that introductory course, we settled on “ideologies” as the best way of introducing students to theory, largely because such courses necessarily involved covering a wide variety of political beliefs, both those that were prominent within pluralist politics and those that were “frenemies” and enemies of pluralism. I regularly took my turn teaching that course. But I was not satisfied with existing ideology texts, as they provided little guidance for helping students evaluate the merits of the ideologies they encountered. I recruited Kiel and Heilke, our replacements for “the Old Guard,” to develop a more satisfactory text, which students came to call GIGS, the acronym for the book’s title.
All ideology texts cover a variety of ideologies (such as anarchism, Marxism, fascism, conservatism, and liberalism), though often they did not much differentiate between such distinct perspectives as Marxism and communism, classical liberalism and contemporary liberalism, and traditional conservatism and contemporary conservatism. Also, most texts ignored newer “quasi-ideologies” such as feminism, environmentalism, and fundamentalism. But most problematic was that they failed to deal with the ideologies that they covered using a consistent analytical framework that allowed students to readily compare ideologies for their contrasting (or similar) ideas on specific questions. We employed a framework for describing and analyzing ideologies that I had developed for discussing ideologies using other texts, and we applied that framework in describing the ideologies covered in GIGS. Students could thus easily see the differences in how, for example, contemporary liberals and contemporary conservatives have different principles of justice, and they could more easily engage in analyses and debates about which ideology had the best justice principles.
Click the following links to see an overview of the Table of Contents and introductory material. The next three links will allow you to read our treatments of the three most prominent “friends of pluralism.”
Ideological Voices: An Anthology in Modern Political Ideas, with Dwight Kiel and Thomas Heilke, McGraw-Hill, 1997.
Relying on textbooks is not a very adequate way of teaching political theory, especially if the authors of the text are the instructors in the class, as such ideologies are always subject to interpretation and students should not rely too much on those of their professors. To address that problem, we developed this reader with classical and contemporary renderings of the ideological perspectives covered in GIGS. For our introductory classes, we would typically assign a chapter of GIGS (e.g., on classical liberalism) to be read before lectures on Monday, and then read some or all of the readings in the anthology regarding that ideology (e.g., by John Locke, Adam Smith, John Stuart Mill, and Robert Nozick) before class on Wednesday, with discussion sessions held later in the week reserved for consideration of these materials.
We hoped that students would gain some appreciation of the key theorists they encountered in the extracts in Ideological Voices, and have some basis for providing alternative interpretations of the key ideas of each ideology than the ones they encountered in GIGS. Our better and more committed students met that aspiration.
From Ideologies to Public Philosophies, with Will Delehanty, Dwight Kiel, and Thomas Heilke. Blackwell Publishing, 2008.
Kiel and Heilke eventually turned to other interests and/or left KU, leaving me (and sometimes my former teaching assistants, especially Will Delehanty) with the responsibility of teaching Introduction to Political Theory to all of our majors. Not much time passed before I became more aware of some of the limitations of GIGS. Of course, new political movements and developments and new scholarship in political theory needed to be included to update the presentations in GIGS. For example, questions of community (such as “what are and what should be the primary polities with which people identify and give their loyalty?”) had been ignored in GIGS, but had come to the forefront in both political practice and theory.
Additionally, feminism, environmentalism, and fundamentalism were no longer the only or even the most important “nascent” ideologies, as a whole host of perspectives had become increasingly visible since the publication of GIGS, and it wasn’t clear where they fit into pluralist politics. Did radical feminists, Deep Greens, global neoliberals, national protectionists, autonomists, post-structuralists, Black Nationalists, Islamic Fundamentalists and others hold views that were friendly to pluralism or did they threaten it? Chapter 6 of this new text introduces such perspectives that have challenged pluralism in two basic ways. Either they wanted to keep the essential diversity of pluralism but deeply reform it, or they wanted to abolish it. These radical and extremist voices are then included in subsequent chapters for the unique voices they contribute to the great conversations about perennial political questions that form the core of my new text.
Organizing the text to facilitate great conversations on perennial issues was my way of responding to the most pressing problem I had with GIGS. I found students used GIGS to find and defend the political ideas and ideological orientation they had before they entered the class; it did not succeed very well in getting them to discover those ideas that emerged from comparative analysis as most meriting their allegiance. I thought that “flipping the matrix” when revising my book might help. While GIGS was primarily organized by ideologies, the new book was organized by questions. Rather than having students think about how a classical liberal (and other ideologues) answered various perennial issues of politics, I wanted students to focus on the perennial issues and compare the answers to these issues provided by various ideologies. Thus, students could more readily discuss the differences in how various ideologies answered the perennial issue under consideration for the week, beginning with philosophical questions such as those regarding ultimate reality (ontology) and the bases of political knowledge (epistemology) and then moving on to consider political principles regarding communities, citizenship, social structures, rulers, authority, justice, and change. For example, they could initially consider whether ultimate reality was supernatural or natural, material or ideational; they could ask whether there was anything about ontological assumptions that different perspectives could agree upon (some underlying perhaps hidden consensus), the bases for different ontological beliefs, and the strengths and weaknesses of alternative answers. As the semester unfolded, they would be in a position to assess how such ontological assumptions affected the political principles held by various ideologues.
Of course, “flipping the matrix” turned out to be a much more complicated process than I had originally foreseen, as it turned out that our treatments of various ideologies on particular subjects in GIGS frequently failed to address common concerns, and thus new research and writing was required to achieve the comparability I sought. The result was that this book is not just a revised edition of GIGS, but a new book entitled From Ideologies to Public Philosophies (FIPP). Though I authored the entire book, I did draw on some materials from GIGS and Kiel, Heilke, and Delehanty offered valuable suggestions and comments.
Flipping the matrix had a significant scholarly payoff: I could conclude each chapter by proposing areas of agreement and disagreement among ideologies, and encourage students to consider and challenge these suggestions. This allowed identification of various areas of agreement on particular perennial questions among “the friends of pluralism.” In short, this enabled me to suggest a fuller articulation of “the overlapping consensus” than Rawls had proposed, and these findings often were included in my efforts to provide scholars – as well as students – an expression of “political pluralism” as the broad consensual public philosophy of pluralist societies. I wanted my students to appreciate political pluralism as our common most basic political beliefs, even if they needed a second partisan philosophy to help them navigate the political conflicts that inevitably occur in pluralist societies.
It is perhaps noteworthy that an update regarding Rawls’s “overlapping consensus” became prominent in political philosophy just as FIPP was being published. Rawls clarified that the overlapping consensus was to be found not so much in the common or “overlapping” ideas among worldviews that otherwise had conflicting “comprehensive moral doctrines,” as it could be found in political culture or the ideas held by most people in a polity. In other words, the “overlapping consensus” could best be identified by social and anthropological research into dominant ideas in a society, rather than by textual analysis of the common ideas among competing ideologies. If so, perhaps political pluralism is more of an underlying consensus than an overlapping consensus. Perhaps those elements of consensus identified in FIPP should be regarded as only suggestions for what the actual consensus might be in existing pluralist societies. In any event, I began to use the term “underlying consensus” rather than “overlapping consensus,” to designate the “common sense” that societies require for pluralist politics to be effective.
The Table of Contents, some introductory materials, and a pre-publication draft of one chapter – that on questions of structure – can be seen here.
The disciplines of political philosophy, political theory, and political science contain concepts and terms having distinct and precise meanings that often depart from ordinary language. Public philosophies draw upon these concepts and terms, but attempt to convey meanings in a way that is accessible to non-specialists. Click Glossary for short definitions that can serve as references for how these terms are used throughout this text.
From Ideologies to Public Philosophies identifies eight ideologies and 20 quasi-ideologies as perspectives that provide various answers to the perennial questions of politics covered in Chapters 5 to 15. To generate our characterization of an “ideal type” of each such ideology, I identified and interpreted the writings of key contributors to each ideological tradition. Click Primary Sources for a document that lists some of their works. Short biographies and the major writings of about 150 such contributors are provided. Some of these contributors – Locke, Burke, Marx, etc. – are canonical figures in the history of political thought and intellectual history. Other contributors are mere semi-canonical figures, as their writings are less well known but still regarded as important, especially by adherents to particular perspectives. The writings of such canonical and semi-canonical figures have usually been edited, translated, and reissued by many publishers in recent years; in such cases, only the original date of publication is provided.
Libraries are filled with books and articles – often called “secondary sources” – providing overviews, extensions, commentaries, and analyzes on the themes discussed in From Ideologies to Public Philosophies. Click Secondary Sources for a document providing some of the better of these works (at least before I wrote FIPP) – arranged first according to the chapters of our text and then according to various concerns within these chapters.
The Political Theory Reader. Wiley-Blackwell, 2010.
Just as GIGS needed a reader, so did FIPP need a reader. I originally proposed a comprehensive one – something for political theory that was analogous to those Norton Readers in English Lit. While my editor at Blackwell was supportive of that project, some things happened to change what I had initially proposed. The great recession of 2008 occurred and Wiley bought out Blackwell (prompting my editor to start looking for another job). Anyway, what began as a project with almost 150 readings with only minor editing to preserve the integrity of the original sources became the slimmed down anthology presented here. Perhaps students appreciated the severe editing that I had to do to get this down to the word limits imposed to make this economically viable, but I’m not sure this was a good use of my time or very defensible as a scholarly endeavor. In any event, here are parts of that project.
Choosing A President: The Electoral College and Beyond, edited with Burdett Loomis, Chatham House, 2001 (now distributed by CQ Press).
The Electoral College project, described as the last research program under the ARTICLES button, is discussed in greater detail here. After presenting basic background information about this project – such as the limited protest that arose in the aftermath of George W. Bush’s Electoral College victory over Al Gore in 2000, which enabled him to assume the presidency despite losing the popular vote – I discuss how the Electoral College became part of the U.S. Constitution, the intentions of the framers when mandating this method of choosing a president, and the workings of this system now. I also discuss the major reforms of the Electoral College system and the alternatives to it that have been proposed: (a) the district plan, (b) proportional allocation, (c) the national bonus plan, (d) a national popular vote with a plurality rule, (e) a national popular vote with a majority rule, and (f) a national popular vote with rank-order ballots and an instant run-off to get to a majority-rule outcome. I point out that there is no perfect system but propose a “consequential approach” that might yield a collective judgment about the best system. This method involves inquiring about various outcomes and the likely implications of having either the Electoral College system or these alternatives to it. Judgments on such outcomes are rendered by political science experts in various fields of the discipline.
The articles that these experts produced on the following topics are provided in the following chapters: (3) historical and philosophical considerations, (4) implications for our federal system, (5) implications for the operations of the executive and legislative branches, (6) implications for parties and interest groups, (7) implications for campaign strategies, (8) implications for media coverage, (9) implications for citizen participation, (10) implications for social stability, and (11) implications for those on various sides of our social divisions.
Our collective judgments are provided in Chapter 12. Of the 37 participants in the project, 24 approved of the Electoral College, and no alternative received a majority of approval votes. But the Electoral College was the first choice of only 15 of our participants. All of the alternatives gathered significant support, but such support was widely distributed among the alternatives. The reasons given in support and opposition of these options are all discussed. Consistency with the larger Constitutional principles of federalism and the separation of power and with our evolved preference for a two-party system seem to be the major reasons why the Electoral College system was deemed acceptable by most of us. But other systems had important strengths (and weaknesses).
We conclude by noting two vexing problems with the current operation of the Electoral College: (1) the possibility of outcomes being determined by rogue voters (who defect from their commitment to vote for the candidate that won the popular vote in their state) and (2) the possibility of the House of Representatives using a complex method to choose the president if no candidate achieves a majority in the Electoral College (as occurred in 1800 and 1824).
When beginning the Electoral College project, I saw it as a side interest or a hobby, not much related to advancing pluralism. But as I continued to observe the workings of the Electoral College and pondered its role in our elections, I came to think of it as a significant barrier to pluralist democracy and to believe that other electoral systems – especially a national popular vote with rank-order ballots and an instant runoff – could better provide inoculations against the election of extremists and authoritarians. These thoughts are pursued in some of my ARTICLES and in some of my BLOGS, such as that posted on 10/16/16.