Publisher’s Pick: “Nancy Reagan: On the White House Stage”

9780700614011The passing of former First Lady Nancy Reagan brings back memories of Ronald Reagan’s transformative presidency and her role in it. Some argued that she played an important part in managing the president and his staff as she single-mindedly pursued her goal of protecting President Reagan. She denied that she was some sort of “power behind the throne.” James G. Benze, Jr. authored, “Nancy Reagan: On the White House Stage” for UPK’s series on American First Ladies. In that book, which focused on her years in the White House, Benze portrays her as a forceful presence who was unafraid to take on powerful figures like Oliver North and Don Regan if she thought they were not serving the interests of the president. He shows how Nancy Reagan played the consummate supporting actor to Ronald Reagan and was a key figure in advising him on administration appointments and on policy issues during the eight years he was president. The book also follows Mrs. Reagan as she continued to care for the former president as he suffered from Alzheimer’s disease. This book, like others in the series, shows how Nancy Reagan took the unscripted part of first lady and found her own way to have an impact on the nation.

–Written by Chuck Myers, Director of University Press of Kansas

The Future of Scholarly Publishing

FB-cover-UPKThis is University Press Week, a time to understand the important role of our not-for-profit scholarly publishers. One need only look at the most recent catalog of books published by the University Press of Kansas (and our many sister presses) to see that university presses are publishing exciting, thoughtful books that help lead us closer to wisdom in so many areas of human endeavor. Some of what we publish is, as Niko Pfund stated in The Scholarly Kitchen, “intra-tribal publications” that are written by and for scholars. Other books are efforts to reach outside the academy and bring the best insights of our scholars to bear on the challenges we all face. While we must deal with rapidly changing technology, dramatic alterations in the way books are bought and sold, and the challenges of funding that face higher education, all of us in university press publishing are united in our desire to overcome these challenges and continue to publish exciting writing and ideas for scholars and the general public. And I think we are doing this better now than ever.

-Written by Charles Myers, Director of the University Press of Kansas

Publisher’s Pick: In “Broken Trust,” Griffin Points To Precisely What Americans Don’t Like About Government and Politics

9780700621224In our Constitutional Thinking series we publish books that ask important and sometimes uncomfortable questions about our Constitution. In “Broken Trust: Dysfunctional Government and Constitutional Reform,” Stephen M. Griffin asks whether the low levels of trust in our government can be tied to weaknesses in our Constitution. Most of us think that our Constitution is virtually holy writ. While it creates the structure for the protection of a wide range of rights and liberties, it also establishes a system of government that seems designed to generate political conflict. Griffin points us to the considerable body of research that shows that this is precisely what Americans don’t like about government and politics. They object to the give and take of politics, the involvement of interest groups and parties, and the inevitable compromises that happen as those who seek to make government work navigate the many aspects of the system that make it easier to frustrate action. So what if the distrust Americans feel for their government is the result of the way our government is structured? He shows that constitutional changes has been one way that states have sought to overcome cynicism about politics. He asks us to look at constitutional innovation at the state level where processes such as direct democracy have been adopted in order to give voters a way to circumvent institutions (such as legislatures) that they feel are hopelessly corrupt and ineffective. Do we need to amend the Constitution in order to make it more responsive to citizens and increase their confidence in government? We might look at innovation at the state level for ways to rethink our national system of governance.

–Written by Chuck Myers, Director of University Press of Kansas

Publisher’s Pick: New Books from UPK

9780700620890As lawsuits against Obamacare again await a decision by the Supreme Court, many might wonder about the prominent role of state attorneys-general in bringing suits attacking the health care law. Recently we published the first study of litigation pursued by many state attorneys-general on policy issues, focusing on cases involving the liability of tobacco companies for the health consequences of smoking and litigation involving climate change and Obamacare. Paul Nolette’s “Federalism on Trial: State Attorneys General and National Policymaking in Contemporary America” shows how states, working together, have sought to use the courts to influence the policies of the federal government from both the left and the right. Liberal state attorneys-general have used law suits to push the government to adopt aggressive policies against climate change while cases have been litigated by conservative state attorneys-general to stop Obamacare. Nolette explores the legal strategies employed in these cases, the involvement of private interest groups in supporting the litigation, and the role of state politics, especially the ambitions of the attorneys-general and their relationship to other state leaders, in determining who will sue. Charles Epp says that “Nolette’s rich, carefully researched analysis shows that AG’s litigation campaigns are coordinated, politically polarized, and enhance federal regulation as much as challenge it.”

One of the exciting aspects of publishing now is that the internet and blogs like this offer the opportunity to build new connections between our authors and new audiences for their ideas and work. As a publisher of books on current affairs as well as history, I am eager to see these books join the conversations about important issues. From time to time in this blog, we will highlight new Kansas books that can change the way we think about critical issues now or important events of the past. Paul Nolette’s book is a great example of the public affairs books we publish and that we will bring to your attention in this blog and through our other marketing efforts.

–Written by Chuck Myers, Director of University Press of Kansas