front cover of Impeachment
Impeachment
Cass R. Sunstein
Harvard University Press, 2017

“Sunstein has written the story of impeachment every citizen needs to know. This is a remarkable, essential book.” —Doris Kearns Goodwin

As Benjamin Franklin famously put it, Americans have a republic, if we can keep it. Preserving the Constitution and the democratic system it supports is the public’s responsibility. One route the Constitution provides for discharging that duty—a route rarely traveled—is impeachment.

Cass R. Sunstein provides a succinct citizen’s guide to an essential tool of self-government. He illuminates the constitutional design behind impeachment and emphasizes the people’s role in holding presidents accountable. Despite intense interest in the subject, impeachment is widely misunderstood. Sunstein identifies and corrects a number of misconceptions. For example, he shows that the Constitution, not the House of Representatives, establishes grounds for impeachment, and that the president can be impeached for abuses of power that do not violate the law. Even neglect of duty counts among the “high crimes and misdemeanors” delineated in the republic’s foundational document. Sunstein describes how impeachment helps make sense of our constitutional order, particularly the framers’ controversial decision to install an empowered executive in a nation deeply fearful of kings.

With an eye toward the past and the future, Impeachment: A Citizen’s Guide considers a host of actual and imaginable arguments for a president’s removal, explaining why some cases are easy and others hard, why some arguments for impeachment have been judicious and others not. In direct and approachable terms, it dispels the fog surrounding impeachment so that Americans of all political convictions may use their ultimate civic authority wisely.

[more]

front cover of Implementing Term Limits
Implementing Term Limits
The Case of the Michigan Legislature
Marjorie Sarbaugh-Thompson and Lyke Thompson
University of Michigan Press, 2017
Today, 70 percent of the American public supports reforms that would limit the number of terms a state legislator may serve, and the advocacy group U.S. Term Limits promotes this reform at all levels of government. But are advocates correct that term limits ensure citizens dedicated to the common good—rather than self-serving career politicians—run government? Or does the enforced high rate of turnover undermine the legislature’s ability to function?

In Implementing Term Limits, Marjorie Sarbaugh-Thompson and Lyke Thompson bring thirteen years of intensive research and 460 interviews to assess changes since Michigan’s implementation of term limits in 1993 and explore their implications. Paying special attention to term limits’ institutional effects, they also consider legislative representation, political accountability, and the role of the bureaucracy and interest groups in state legislatures.

Their thorough study suggests that legislators are less accessible to officials and that there is a larger gap between legislators and their voters. Moreover, legislators become much more politically ambitious after term limits and spend more time on political activities. The selection of top chamber leaders is complicated by newcomers’ lack of knowledge about and experience working with the leaders they elect before being sworn in. As a result, term limits in Michigan fail to deliver on many of the “good government” promises that appeal to citizens.

Implementing Term Limits makes a unique and valuable contribution to the debate over the best means by which to obtain truly democratic institutions.

 

[more]

front cover of In Contempt
In Contempt
Defending Free Speech, Defeating HUAC
Ed Yellin and Jean Fagan Yellin
University of Michigan Press, 2022
“YOU ARE HEREBY COMMANDED to be and appear before the Committee on Un-American Activities of the House of Representatives of the United States, or a duly appointed subcommittee thereof, on February 10 (Monday), 1958, at ten o’clock a.m. at City Council Chambers, City Hall, Gary, Indiana, then and there to testify touching matters of inquiry committed to said committee, and not to depart without leave of said committee.”

So began a decade of hardship for Ed and Jean Yellin and their three young children as the repressive weight of the U.S. government, caught up in the throes of McCarthyism, crashed down upon their careers, their daily household budget, and their relationships to colleagues, neighbors, and their country. In Contempt is a faithful, factual testament to the enduring quality of patriotic dissent in our evolving democracy—and a loving reconstruction of what it meant to be labeled “unAmerican” for defending the Constitution.
 
[more]

front cover of Indecision in American Legislatures
Indecision in American Legislatures
Jeffrey J. Harden and Justin H. Kirkland
University of Michigan Press, 2018

Lawmaking provides many opportunities for proposals to be altered, amended, tabled, or stopped completely. The ideal legislator should assess evidence, update his or her beliefs with new information, and sometimes be willing to change course. In practice, however, lawmakers face criticism from the media, the public, and their colleagues for “flip-flopping.” Legislators may also only appear to change positions in some cases as a means of voting strategically.

This book presents a systematic examination of legislative indecision in American politics. This might occur via “waffling”—where a legislator cosponsors a bill, then votes against it at roll call. Or it might occur when a legislator votes one way on a bill, then switches her vote to the other side. In Indecision in American Legislatures, Jeffrey J. Harden and Justin H. Kirkland develop a theoretical framework to explain indecision itself, as well as the public’s attitudes toward indecision. They test their expectations with data sources from American state legislatures, the U.S. Congress, and survey questions administered to American citizens. Understanding legislative indecision from both the legislator and citizen perspectives is important for discussions about the quality of representation in American politics.

[more]

front cover of THE INDIRECT EFFECT OF DIRECT LEGISLATION
THE INDIRECT EFFECT OF DIRECT LEGISLATION
HOW INSTITUTIONS SHAPE INTEREST GROUP SYSTEMS
FREDERICK J BOEHMKE
The Ohio State University Press, 2005
Frederick J. Boehmke's book makes explicit the many consequences—intended and unintended—of having direct legislation possible in a state. Many studies of the initiative process argue that it is a flawed process that rewards wealthy interests. While evidence to support this conclusion is often drawn from a number of high-profile, high-expenditure initiative campaigns, ballot campaigns are merely one consequence of the initiative process. The ability to propose legislation directly to the people fundamentally changes the process through which citizens are represented by organized interest groups, benefiting typically underrepresented interests.

To demonstrate this, the author models the incentives that the initiative process creates for interests to organize and for how they communicate their preferences to policy makers. Interests that represent a broader range of the public are found to gain the most from the option to propose initiatives, implying that the set of organized interests in initiative states should reflect this advantage. Ironically, an effect of direct legislation is to potentially increase the effectiveness of special interest lobbying in state legislatures—in a sense, the opposite of the direct control that gives direct legislation its theoretical appeal. Yet, the clear effect is one of empowering voices that traditionally had very little effect in the legislative process. If greater representation is the goal of direct legislation, it is a clear success, even though that success does not really come in the act of ballot initiatives itself.
[more]

front cover of The Influence of Campaign Contributions in State Legislatures
The Influence of Campaign Contributions in State Legislatures
The Effects of Institutions and Politics
Lynda W. Powell
University of Michigan Press, 2012

Campaign contributions are widely viewed as a corrupting influence but most scholarly research concludes that they have marginal impact on legislative behavior. Lynda W. Powell shows that contributions have considerable influence in some state legislatures but very little in others. Using a national survey of legislators, she develops an innovative measure of influence and delineates the factors that explain this great variation across the 99 U.S. state legislative chambers.

Powell identifies the personal, institutional, and political factors that determine how much time a legislator devotes to personal fundraising and fundraising for the caucus. She shows that the extent of donors' legislative influence varies in ways corresponding to the same variations in the factors that determine fundraising time. She also confirms a link between fundraising and lobbying with evidence supporting the theory that contributors gain access to legislators based on donations, Powell's findings have important implications for the debate over the role of money in the legislative process.

[more]

front cover of Information and Legislative Organization
Information and Legislative Organization
Keith Krehbiel
University of Michigan Press, 1992

In this controversial book, Keith Krehbiel investigates and casts doubt upon a view of Congress held by many academics, journalists, and members of the lay public: that Congress is organized primarily to facilitate logrolling or "gains from trade" between legislators. The author puts forward an alternative "informational" theory that, unlike previous formal theories, highlights institutional needs and individual incentives for acquiring policy expertise. Using games with incomplete information, Krehbiel derives a set of unique and testable predictions about the organization of legislatures -- including the composition of committees and the procedures under which legislation is considered.

Krehbiel's creative illustrations and nonmathematical presentation of formal theories make this book accessible to a diverse set of readers. The political relevance and testability of games with incomplete information will be appreciated by game theorists and economists, while the book's findings make it essential reading for political scientists who study American politics, political institutions, or democratic legislatures.

[more]

front cover of Insecure Majorities
Insecure Majorities
Congress and the Perpetual Campaign
Frances E. Lee
University of Chicago Press, 2016
As Democrats and Republicans continue to vie for political advantage, Congress remains paralyzed by partisan conflict. That the last two decades have seen some of the least productive Congresses in recent history is usually explained by the growing ideological gulf between the parties, but this explanation misses another fundamental factor influencing the dynamic. In contrast to politics through most of the twentieth century, the contemporary Democratic and Republican parties compete for control of Congress at relative parity, and this has dramatically changed the parties’ incentives and strategies in ways that have driven the contentious partisanship characteristic of contemporary American politics.
           
With Insecure Majorities, Frances E. Lee offers a controversial new perspective on the rise of congressional party conflict, showing how the shift in competitive circumstances has had a profound impact on how Democrats and Republicans interact. For nearly half a century, Democrats were the majority party, usually maintaining control of the presidency, the House, and the Senate. Republicans did not stand much chance of winning majority status, and Democrats could not conceive of losing it. Under such uncompetitive conditions, scant collective action was exerted by either party toward building or preserving a majority. Beginning in the 1980s, that changed, and most elections since have offered the prospect of a change of party control. Lee shows, through an impressive range of interviews and analysis, how competition for control of the government drives members of both parties to participate in actions that promote their own party’s image and undercut that of the opposition, including the perpetual hunt for issues that can score political points by putting the opposing party on the wrong side of public opinion. More often than not, this strategy stands in the way of productive bipartisan cooperation—and it is also unlikely to change as long as control of the government remains within reach for both parties.
 
[more]

front cover of Institutional Change, Discretion, and the Making of Modern Congress
Institutional Change, Discretion, and the Making of Modern Congress
An Economic Interpretation
Glenn R. Parker
University of Michigan Press, 1992
Controversial new interpretation of legislators' behavior
[more]

logo for Ohio University Press
Inventing Congress
Origins and Establishment of the First Federal Congress
Kenneth R. Bowling
Ohio University Press, 1999

On March 4, 1789, New York City's church bells pealed, cannons fired, and flags snapped in the wind to celebrate the date set for the opening of the First Federal Congress. In many ways the establishment of Congress marked the culmination of the American Revolution as the ship of state was launched from the foundation of the legislative system outlined in Article I of the Constitution.

Inventing Congress presents the latest scholarship on the interrelated intellectual, institutional, cultural, and political antecedents of the formation of the First Federal Congress. The first section covers the origins of the body, ranging in discussion from the question of how the founders' understanding of classical Greek and Roman republican precedent shaped their thinking, to the political lessons learned during the Continental and Confederation Congresses.

The second section concerns itself with the establishment of the First Federal Congress, examining several heretofore little-treated aspects of the most important Congress in history, including its relationship to the press, morality, the arts and sciences, and economic philosophy.

Inventing Congress represents the papers from the first two conferences sponsored by the United States Capitol Historical Society in its series, “Perspectives on the History of Congress, 1789-1801.”

[more]

front cover of It's Not Personal
It's Not Personal
Politics and Policy in Lower Court Confirmation Hearings
Logan Dancey, Kjersten R. Nelson, and Eve M. Ringsmuth
University of Michigan Press, 2020

In order to be confirmed to a lifetime appointment on the federal bench, all district and circuit court nominees must appear before the Senate Judiciary Committee for a confirmation hearing. Despite their relatively low profile, these lower court judges make up 99 percent of permanent federal judgeships and decide cases that relate to a wide variety of policy areas. To uncover why senators hold confirmation hearings for lower federal court nominees and the value of these proceedings more generally, the authors analyzed transcripts for all district and circuit court confirmation hearings between 1993 and 2012, the largest systematic analysis of lower court confirmation hearings to date. The book finds that the time-consuming practice of confirmation hearings for district and circuit court nominees provides an important venue for senators to advocate on behalf of their policy preferences and bolster their chances of being re-elected. The wide variation in lower court nominees’ experiences before the Judiciary Committee exists because senators pursue these goals in different ways, depending on the level of controversy surrounding a nominee. Ultimately, the findings inform a (re)assessment of the role hearings play in ensuring quality judges, providing advice and consent, and advancing the democratic values of transparency and accountability.

[more]


Send via email Share on Facebook Share on Twitter