Obamacare Wars, Reviewed

9780700621910The passage of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) in 2010 could easily be considered another example of the partisan rancor that dominates American politics. In fact, not five minutes after ACA was signed into law, in March 2010, Virginia’s attorney general was suing to stop it. And yet, the ACA rolled out, fought and defended at every turn—despite President Obama’s claim, in 2014, that its proponents and opponents could finally “stop fighting old political battles that keep us gridlocked.” But not only would the battles not stop, as Obamacare Wars makes acutely clear, they spread from Washington, DC, to a variety of new arenas. The first thorough account of the implementation of the ACA, this book reveals the fissures the act exposed in the American federal system.

The book, released in January, was recently reviewed by The Journal of Politics. Dr.

“In this interesting and thought-provoking book, Daniel Béland, Philip Rocco, and Alex Waddan attempt to capture that nuance. They set the stage for their primary argument by deftly condensing the long history of health care reform in the United States and the specific conditions at the beginning of the Obama administration into a digestible description that helps the reader to understand the debate leading up to passage. They also demonstrate that the complexity of the ACA made its passage an ‘uncertain legislative victory’ at best and provided many ‘points of leverage’ for a determined set of opponents to obstruct implementation.

Obamacare Wars suggests that in order to understand how the law’s many detractors used that leverage, we must avoid treating the ACA as a monolithic piece of legislation and instead divide it into its three major components: state health insurance exchanges, Medicaid expansion, and insurance regulation. Béland, Rocco, and Waddan argue that each component gave state officials distinct opportunities to obstruct the implementation of the law, creating different ‘post reform politics,’ because of variation in the ‘policy legacies, institutional settings, and public sentiments’ associated with each. The main thesis of the book is that these three factors, and not just partisan polarization, explain how opponents in the American states responded to the ACA.”

Dr. Nicholson-Crotty’s review praises the book’s thorough examination of the topic.

Obamacare Wars is a worthwhile read for scholars interested in federalism and intergovernmental relations and in health policy and politics. Béland, Rocco, and Waddan contribute significantly to our understanding of implementation in federal systems by demonstrating convincingly that the politics and strategies of implementing this single piece of health care reform legislation in the American states were myriad and a function not only of partisan polarization but also of the diverse policy issues embedded within the law.”

The 2016 Election and the End of the Conservative Movement

photo courtesy of CNN
photo courtesy of CNN

Every Thursday from now until the election, we will feature a piece by a UPK author that deals with an aspect of American politics. Today, Dr. George Hawley, author of Right-Wing Critics of American Conservatism, dissects the possible effects of Donald Trump’s candidacy on the American conservative movement.

By George Hawley, PhD

In American politics, we are accustomed to thinking about people and groups in binary terms: liberal and conservative, left and right, and Republican and Democrat. Because the GOP has established itself as the conservative party, and the GOP has won many impressive victories in recent cycles (presidential elections being prominent exceptions), we might infer that there is large grassroots support for conservatism. At the very least, we should be able to describe the average Republican voter as a conservative. Such a description would be wrong. Observers make this mistake because they fail to understand that conservatism as a general sensibility is very different from American conservatism as an ideology and dogmatic collection of inflexible policy demands. Once we disaggregate these two phenomena, Trump’s success, and the conservative movement’s ineffectual efforts to stop Trump, make more sense.

As a general disposition, conservatism is a normal tendency. If we define conservatism as a fear of radical change, then all societies at all times have had a large proportion of conservatives. Indeed, we may even think of conservatism as the default position of most people. For decades, polls have shown that more Americans define themselves as conservatives than liberals. Republicans are especially likely to define themselves as conservatives.

Yet the major institutions of organized conservatism do not define conservatism as a disposition; to the leading journalists and intellectuals associated with the movement, conservatism requires devotion to the free market, support for traditional values, and commitment to an aggressive foreign policy abroad – the so-called three-legs of the conservative stool. These are the hallmarks of a “true conservative.”

Political scientists use different terms for these two types of ideologies. To understand the distribution of Americans across the ideological spectrum, we must understand that operational ideology is different from conceptual ideology – for the best recent examination of this issue, I recommend Ideology in America by Christopher Ellis and James Stimson. Americans, especially Republicans, tend to be symbolically conservative; they love the flag, consider themselves religious, and enjoy rhetoric about liberty and the Constitution. But when it comes to actual policy preferences, their operational ideology, Americans are, on average, pretty liberal.

Most Americans do not support upper-class tax cuts; they are not pro-life purists; they are not eager for more wars. In fact, this is not just true of Americans overall. Most Republican voters reject at least one important element of the conservative policy agenda. In terms of operational ideology, consistent conservatives are not just a minority of all Americans; they are a minority among Republicans.

To get a sense of just how little the Republican electorate supports the conservative policy agenda, we can examine polling data. Looking at the 2012 American National Election Survey, we see that almost 62 percent of Republicans would support new taxes on millionaires; only about 19 percent said they supported cutting the federal budget for education; fewer than ten percent supported cutting Social Security spending. Republicans are also, on average, rather moderate or even liberal on many social issues. Fewer than one in five Republicans said they wanted to prohibit abortion in all circumstances; a majority of Republicans supported legal recognition for same-sex couples. If we define a “true conservative” as a person who supports the conservative position on every policy issue, then such conservatives are a tiny percentage of the electorate.

Professional conservatives are faced with a frightening reality: the GOP has been successful in spite of its conservatism, not because of it. The Republican Party can successfully activate voters by appealing to their symbolic conservatism; but Republican leaders, conservative intellectuals, radio hosts, and talking heads have had little success in selling the operational conservative ideology to the public. Even Tea Party supporters, those ostensibly intractable devotees of supply-side economics, are divided on corporate and high-income tax cuts.

The weak hold that conservatism has on any segment of the electorate is not a new development. But Donald Trump has put the conservative movement’s weakness on very public display. Trump kept the GOP’s conservative symbolism (the flag, appeals to greatness and patriotism), added an implied element of ethnic grievance, and otherwise ignored conservative dogma. Conservative pundits are right that Trump is not a true conservative, and they are right to oppose him on ideological grounds. The National Review cover story denouncing Trump, the #NeverTrump movement, and Glenn Beck’s Trump-inspired tears were all justified.

Unjustified, however, was the belief that the conservative movement’s hostility to Trump mattered. The disconnect between the conservative movement’s influence on public policy and the public’s actual support for conservative policies is one of the dirty secrets of American politics. The real problem that Trump presents the conservative movement is not that he ensures a new Clinton Administration – though he may. Instead, Trump showed that conservatism is a spent force, easily abandoned by ordinary Republicans when they are provided with a right-wing alternative, even a flawed and erratic alternative.

When Trump won the GOP nomination, in spite of conservative objections, we saw definitive evidence that the organized conservative movement has little popular support. If he goes on to win in November, conservatism is finished. If Trump loses to Clinton, conservatives will try to wash their hands of the defeat. But much damage will have already been done.

In contrast to conventional wisdom, the United States is not a “center-right nation.” The American voting public may be to the right of the electorates in other advanced democracies, but it is certainly not conservative in the sense that William F. Buckley used the term. In fact, despite the claims by various talk-radio personalities, Republicans do not lose because they “betray conservative principles.” Those very principles have been a hindrance to greater electoral success. Trump has broken this illusion, and having demonstrated that there is no conservative consensus among GOP voters, we can expect others to follow his lead. Although the Republican Party will likely survive the 2016 election, its status as a uniformly conservative party will not. The end result of the Trump campaign will be an ideological vacuum on the right, one that will likely be filled by something very different from the mainstream conservative movement we have known for six decades.

2016 Kansas Book Festival

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This Saturday is the 2016 Kansas Book Festival in Topeka. We are proud, honored and not surprised that three University Press of Kansas books (Kansas Wildflowers and Weeds, Twenty-Five Years Among the Indians and Buffalo, and Kansas Trail Guide) are being honored as 2016 Notable Books.

The fifteen books selected for the honor feature quality titles with wide public appeal, either written by Kansans or about a Kansas-related topic.

“The Kansas Notable Books Committee considered the eligible books published in 2015. I was delighted to receive the recommended list and make the final decision,” said State Librarian Jo Budler. “Our list is intended to showcase Kansas’ unique talent and history while encouraging residents to visit their library and check out the celebrated titles.”

An awards ceremony will be held at the Kansas Book Festival, on September 10, 2016 at the State Capitol, to recognize the talented Notable Book authors.

In addition, UPK Authors Michael John Haddock (Kansas Wildflowers and Weeds), Jonathan & Kristin Conard (Kansas Trail Guide), Warren Street (Twenty-Five Years Among the Indians and Buffalo) & George Frazier (The Last Wild Places of Kansas) will present talks about their books during the festival.

Huelskamp’s Defeat: Did Kansas Aggies Get their Revenge?

5726782ca3c5b_previewBy Christopher Bosso

The 1st Kansas is one of the nation’s largest and most rural House districts, stretching from the suburbs of Topeka over 300 miles westward along the Nebraska border to Colorado and curling south another 200 miles to the Oklahoma state line.

The Big First is also Agriculture: vast fields of wheat and grain sorghum interspersed with “concentrated feeding operations” of thousands of head of beef cattle. Not surprisingly, those representing the 1st in Congress, including Representative (later Senator) Robert Dole and Representative (later Senator) Pat Roberts, were devoted to and left indelible fingerprints on agricultural policy – and to making sure that Kansas got its fair share of federal funds.

In 2010 the district’s voters elected state senator Tim Huelskamp to fill a seat left empty when fellow Republican Jerry Moran won the Senate seat vacated when, Sam Brownback, also a Republican, became governor. Huelskamp beat out five other Republicans with 34.5% of the vote in a hotly contested primary, after which he went on to an easy general election victory in a district that voted Democrat only once (1953-1955) in its history.

Huelskamp grew up on a farm in Fowler – 2010 population, 590 – and like many future members of Congress had an early fascination with politics and public policy. He returned to Kansas in 1995 after finishing his doctorate in political science and jumped into politics, getting elected a year later as one of the youngest state senators in decades. He was reelected three times with ease, largely on his conservative values on issues like abortion and same sex marriage as well as his views that government was too big and too expensive. Perhaps reflecting training in a Catholic seminary, or maybe just because he is contrarian by nature, Huelskamp also showed a willingness to criticize fellow Republicans he thought weren’t hewing to those values, to the point that in 2003 he was removed from the key Senate Ways and Means Committee for clashing with party leaders. His reputation with voters for his uncompromising defense of his – and their – beliefs, aided by the support of national conservative groups, enabled Huelskamp to enter Congress in 2010 as part of the “tea party” wave that gave Republicans control of the House.

Huelskamp promptly claimed the district’s “traditional” seat on the House Agriculture Committee. However, anyone who thought that he went to Washington to promote Kansas agriculture were soon disabused. To the surprise of no one who paid attention to his career, Huelskamp fast became a thorn in the side of House Speaker John Boehner and other Republicans leaders. He also refused to compromise on cutting federal spending, even when the all-important Farm Bill was up for reauthorization. In fact, despite pleas by Kansas agricultural groups to support passage, Huelskamp and fellow House conservatives blocked action on the Farm Bill throughout the 112th Congress (2011-2012).

In December 2012 Speaker Boehner, furious at Huelskamp’s obstinacy, booted him from the Budget Committee and, to make the lesson hit closer to home, the Agriculture Committee. The Big First now had no seat on Agriculture for the first time in (recent?) history. Huelskamp, along with the other three members of the Kansas House delegation – the most conservative in the country – also famously voted against the final version of the Agricultural Act of 2014 – the Farm Bill! – despite pleas by Kansas agricultural leaders to support the compromise measure.

All of this should have hurt Huelskamp at home. Boehner certainly hoped that Big First voters would elect a more agreeable Republican. But they didn’t: Huelskamp survived a primary challenge by an underfunded opponent and won easy re-election in 2014. So did his three compatriots, no doubt because they adhered to the set of values on which their supporters sent them to Congress in the first place.

It’s August 2016. Huelskamp again faced a primary challenge. This time he got thumped, losing by 13 points to political novice Roger Marshall. Barring a cataclysm in November, Marshall will be the Big First’s next representative.

Many saw Huelskamp’s ouster as the revenge of Kansas Agriculture. Indeed, former Huelskamp allies at the Kansas Farm Bureau and Kansas Livestock Association supported Marshall, as did the American Farm Bureau Federation and the National Association of Wheat Growers. Not surprisingly, Marshall pledges to regain the 1st’s rightful place on the House Agriculture Committee.

Yet Huelskamp’s loss may have more to do with Republican Party politics than with the power of agriculture interests. The primary was like the Spanish Civil War – the warm-up for World War II – with each combatant backed by outside powers using the two as proxies in a bigger fight. Huelskamp had the support of National Right to Life, the National Rifle Association, and conservative groups like Club for Growth and Americans for Prosperity. Marshall, no liberal, was backed by what passes these days for Establishment Republicanism – notably the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. These groups poured nearly $3 million into the race, most of it fueling an arms race of television and radio ads. The money mattered: few challengers can beat an incumbent, even one with Huelskamp’s negatives, without it.

While Huelskamp alienated voters, he lost only because he faced a well-funded opponent in a one-on-one race funded by outside groups with their own agendas. Agriculture got its revenge, but only as a result of that larger war within the Republican Party.

Christopher Bosso is professor of public policy at Northeastern University. His areas of interest include food and environmental policy, science and technology policy, and the governance of emerging technologies. His newest book, Framing the Farm Bill: Interests, Ideology, and the Agricultural Act of 2014 will be published by UPK next year.

The Rise of Anti-Establishment Populism

9780700621934UPK author Dr. George Hawley was quoted in this fantastic Toronto Star story examining Donald Trump’s “anti-establishment” presidential campaign. Hawley’s book, Right-Wing Critics of American Conservatism offers a complete, complex, and nuanced account of the American right in all its dissonance in history and modern day.

In the story, Hawley states that conservative intellectuals have strategically dealt in anti-establishment populism “with the understanding that they would always be able to remain in control of it…. And now they find themselves completely aghast: they see that someone else is coming along and using those exact same latent tendencies in the electorate to fuel his own rise and is completely not beholden to them, and they’re utterly horrified.”

 

You Say Hello, I Say Goodbye

12322913_10155258639297818_9004970699960871526_oLast week we welcomed new Editor-in-Chief Joyce Harrison to the press. This week we say goodbye Press Director Chuck Myers.

Wednesday will mark the final day for UPK Director Chuck Myers. Appropriately, Chuck will launch a new title Wednesday afternoon. Chuck came on board at UPK as Director on October 2, 2013 and in his stint oversaw the implementation of digital versions of our books and the major overhaul of the UPK website.

Chuck’s dry sense of humor, sharp editing eye and warm nature will be missed by the UPK staff. We wish him well in his new position at the University of Chicago Press.

Donald Trump, His Porn Pledge & the Historic Relevance

Nixon porn exploBy Douglas M. Charles

In the current presidential election cycle, we have witnessed unprecedented firsts from the nominee of the Republican Party, Donald Trump. We have seen this major-party presidential candidate say racist, misogynist, xenophobic and all manner of unorthodox or shocking things, like threatening to pull out of NATO and praising Vladimir Putin. We’ve also seen him borrow from the political past. He’s dredged up and embraced the previously discredited America First movement of the early 1940s, and he’s borrowed the Law and Order mantle of Richard Nixon in 1968. In early August Trump announced, to some excitement and drama, that he had signed the Children’s Internet Safety Presidential Pledge, a declaration crafted by an anti-pornography group claiming it seeks to protect children (they all do) and calling itself Enough Is Enough. This latest news item involving The Donald is also nothing new. Focusing on pornography or obscenity and appealing to people’s perceptions of decaying morality has been a standard GOP modus operandi since the late 1960s and Richard Nixon and ever after.

By the late 1960s, after various Supreme Court rulings liberalized federal anti-obscenity law, leading to a boom in the pornography industry, some Americans unsurprisingly became concerned. Around the same time (1970), in the realm of politics, political scientists concluded that Democrats won elections on economic issues while Republicans won by appealing to social issues. The GOP and Nixon fully embraced this idea and appealed to the great “silent majority” of Americans who worried about crime and respected decency, and Nixon squeaked out an electoral victory. Nixon continued to push social issues as president and focused on the pornography boom as something dangerous to Americans. A scientific presidential commission had even been formed by President Lyndon Johnson to study the issue, and the report was due out during Nixon’s first months in office.

The commission concluded that pornography did not contribute in any significant way to America’s various social problems of the time. Nixon would have nothing of it, and pushed the issue going so far as to arrange an all-out effort to discredit the commission’s report and advocating for the strengthening of federal anti-obscenity law. Nixon staffers even drafted an internal report on “The Pornography Explosion” and wanted to “activate all of the anti-obscenity groups” against the commission’s report. Nixon hoped to change the law (but the GOP had only minority numbers in Congress) or push for new obscenity prosecutions to develop a possible new Supreme Court ruling in its favor. Neither happened, but Nixon’s appointing of four conservative Supreme Court justices did slow, if not stop, the liberal trend in obscenity case rulings.

This trend then continued with certain GOP presidents. During the Reagan years pressure mounted again to do something about pornography, which resulted in Reagan’s attorney general, Ed Meese, releasing his own utterly un-scientific report concluding that pornography resulted in sexual violence and social problems. Even still during the 1980s fewer than 100 people were charged under federal anti-obscenity statues and only 71 convicted, a dismal record reflecting the continuing liberal evolution of Americans’ attitudes about the issue. Still, the issue was good for Republican base politics.

Reagan’s successor, George H. W. Bush, however, was not much interested in this aspect of social politics and neither, of course, was the Democrat Bill Clinton. But when George W. Bush ran for president in 2000 he resurrected it as an appeal to his right-wing evangelical base who wanted something done about obscenity and pornography. Bush won the election and even tried, but failed, to reinstate federal prosecutions of adult obscenity — unsurprisingly claiming an aim to protect children, an age-old proclamation —  which had previously faded away. When Barrack Obama assumed office in 2009 he ended the Bush effort (except for the focus on child pornography) as a drain on resources, but socially conservative Republicans tried to push back and demanded the Obama Justice Department do something about the alleged threat pornography posed to American society.

So Trump’s resurrecting the old ratty dog of pornography and its threat is really nothing new. It’s an effort to motivate the GOP’s socially conservative based in hopes to drum up votes. Could anything come of Trump’s anti-pornography pledge? Perhaps. But obscenity prosecutions have actually diminished steadily not just from the 1960s but throughout most of the 20th Century and into the next. It would be legally and socially very difficult for a President Trump to revive anti-pornography targeting and prosecutions; George W. Bush tried and failed miserably. American culture and social attitudes have just evolved too far to care much and see successful prosecutions. Then again, it would also depend on Trump winning the election, and that seems unlikely.

Douglas M. Charles is the author of UPK books, The FBI’s Obscene File: J. Edgar Hoover and the Bureau’s Crusade Against Smut & Hoover’s War on Gays: Exposing the FBI’s “Sex Deviates” Program.

The New Editor-in-Chief

13937914_10155244985812818_7865403029253945207_oWe are thrilled to introduce our new Editor-In-Chief, Joyce Harrison. She brings with her a wealth of university press publishing experience that we are eager to tap. Harrison comes to Kansas from Kent State University Press in Kent, Ohio.

“I’m excited about working with the Press’s terrific staff, authors, and series editors,” Harrison says. “I’ve admired UPK for most of my career, and I’m delighted to be a part of the team!”

Decoding the 2016 Elections

9780700622764Election campaigns this year are playing by new rules. The 2016 presidential nominating conventions clearly demonstrated that many voters are profoundly angry with politics as usual. Republicans primary voters bypassed even Tea Party candidates to nominate Donald Trump. Bernie Sanders, a liberal independent, won both delegates and platform concessions from Hillary Clinton. The alienated in both parties show deep dissatisfaction with elected officials, whom they view as ineffective and nonresponsive.

At the same time, campaigns have become increasingly expensive. Candidates spend too much of their time raising money. Often, they seek to please potential donors more than their constituents.

The Citizen United and McCutcheon court cases have drastically affected 21st century campaigns. Not only have limits on spending by interest groups been eliminated, but SuperPAC donors remain secret and flood campaigns with “dark money. Our book, Winning Elections in the 21st Century, explains how grassroots campaigns can win despite these obstacles. It also decodes behind the scenes changes in the 2016 elections.

A strong candidate with avid volunteers can still win votes with little money. The first thousand votes are cheap ‑ almost free ‑ because as much as five percent of the vote is obtained just by getting your candidate’s name on the ballot. The next few thousand votes require financing a headquarters, staff, and publicity. Toward the end of a close race, advertising extras like radio or television ads and direct mail must be bought.  In today’s elections, however, there are additional costs in purchasing data analytic and technological expertise in managing social media, as well as purchasing Internet platforms and ads.

Comparing today’s elections from those of the past, the Internet and related technology cannot be overlooked. The technology developed by national campaigns is now used in local campaigns to interact with their potential supporters to get volunteers, donations, and votes. Planning an online campaign begins by building an integrated system with traditional and online campaign components reinforcing each other. The major technological components of a twenty-first century participatory campaign include a campaign webpage, blogs, email lists, and social media such as Facebook and Twitter.

Social media and bloggers have influence, so campaigns develop ways to monitor and respond to them. Knowing this, Donald Trump conducted his successful primary campaign mainly through use of often-hourly tweets. He sent more than 5,000 tweets in the first few months and had millions of views by the time of the early primaries.

Data analytics, information on voters gathered through social media data, is also having a major effect on present-day campaigns. Even local campaigns now use cookie-targeted online advertising to reach voters. Campaigns market their candidate online just like any other product.

Online politics brings both benefits and  problems to voters and candidates. A candidate with no gravitas can use a catchy campaign to gain notoriety, displacing a worthy candidate with less online presence. This accounts for Donald Trump’s success in winning the Republican nomination for president in 2016.

The Internet and social media have become a permanent part of modern political campaigns. Wise use of digital media gives an edge to a candidate, enabling anyone to interact with them.  Smart campaigns use social media to reach voters inexpensively.

As we recount in Winning Elections in the 21st Century, campaigns at even the most local level cost more than even the most expensive campaigns twenty years ago. Yet, raising money other than in Internet appeals is much the same.  The candidate still has to meet and call donors for hours every single day.

Today’s campaigns are digital, with websites, voter analytics, and social media.  Digital technologies make it possible to select which voters to contact and how best to approach them; sending information cheaply to them through the Internet.  But the simple principle behind this is the same since the days of Abraham Lincoln.  Find your favorable voters, get them to the polls, and you win the election.

Some of these new campaign trends boost voter information and participation.  Some negative aspects threaten democracy.  All these techniques, both the good and the bad, are now coming to local campaigns. Digital media is evolving quickly, so it is critical that it be harnessed to improve informed, democratic participation. This is a major challenge, not only for the Clinton and Trump campaigns, but for candidates running for town council, school board, or state legislature.  No matter how crazy this election becomes under the new rules of the game, the end must be to improve, not undermine, our democracy.

-Written by Betty O’Shaughnessy & Dick Simpson, authors of Winning Elections in the 21st Century

God Hates: An Author Talk

9780700622658On Tuesday evening, Rebecca Barrett-Fox will be discussing her book God Hates: Westboro Baptist Church, American Nationalism, and the Religious Right at the Kansas City Public Library.

In a discussion of her book, the Arkansas State University sociologist goes inside the church, its ideology and daily operations. She makes a case that the Westboro movement isn’t so distanced from more mainstream segments of today’s religious right, where tragedy is commonly attributed to God’s ability to punish sin.

God Hates traces WBC’s theological beliefs to a brand of hyper-Calvinist thought reaching back to the Puritans—an extreme Calvinism, emphasizing predestination, that has proven as off-putting as Westboro’s actions, even for other Baptists. And yet, in examining Westboro’s role in conservative politics and its contentious relationship with other fundamentalist activist groups, Barrett-Fox reveals how the church’s message of national doom in fact reflects beliefs at the core of much of the Religious Right’s rhetoric.

The program begins at 6:30 in the Central Library (14 West 10th Street
Kansas City, MO 64105).