front cover of No Longer Outsiders
No Longer Outsiders
Black and Latino Interest Group Advocacy on Capitol Hill
Michael D. Minta
University of Chicago Press, 2021
With the rise of Black Lives Matter and immigrant rights protests, critics have questioned whether mainstream black and Latino civil rights organizations such as the NAACP and UnidosUS are in touch with the needs of minorities—especially from younger generations. Though these mainstream groups have relied on insider political tactics, such as lobbying and congressional testimony, to advocate for minority interests, Michael D. Minta argues that these strategies are still effective tools for advocating for progressive changes.
 
In No Longer Outsiders, Minta provides a comprehensive account of the effectiveness of minority civil rights organizations and their legislative allies. He finds that the organizations’ legislative priorities are consistent with black and Latino preferences for stronger enforcement of civil rights policy and immigration reform. Although these groups focus mainly on civil rights for blacks and immigration issues for Latinos, their policy agendas extend into other significant areas. Minta concludes with an examination of how diversity in Congress helps groups gain greater influence and policy success despite many limits placed upon them.
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No Middle Ground
How Informal Party Organizations Control Nominations and Polarize Legislatures
Seth E. Masket
University of Michigan Press, 2011

“This is a fascinating book. It is one of the best studies of the ways that parties and politics get conducted in any American state. Masket shows that legislators can be perfectly content without parties that control agendas and does a terrific job of explaining the transition from free-wheeling legislators to rigidly partisan voting blocs.”
—Sam Popkin, University of California at San Diego

“No Middle Ground makes a significant contribution to the study of American parties and legislative politics.”
—Matthew Green, Catholic University of America

Despite concerns about the debilitating effects of partisanship on democratic government, in recent years political parties have gained strength in state governments as well as in Washington. In many cases these parties function as machines. Unlike machines of the past that manipulated votes, however, today’s machines determine which candidates can credibly compete in a primary.

Focusing on the history and politics of California, Seth E. Masket reveals how these machines evolved and how they stay in power by directing money, endorsements, and expertise to favored candidates, who often tend toward the ideological extreme. In a provocative conclusion, Masket argues that politicians are not inherently partisan. Instead, partisanship is thrust upon them by actors outside the government with the power to manipulate primary elections.

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No Property in Man
Sean Wilentz
Harvard University Press, 2019

“Wilentz brings a lifetime of learning and a mastery of political history to this brilliant book.”
—David W. Blight, author of Frederick Douglass


A New York Times Book Review Editors’ Choice
A Foreign Affairs Best Book of the Year


Americans revere the Constitution even as they argue fiercely over its original toleration of slavery. In this essential reconsideration of the creation and legacy of our nation’s founding document, Sean Wilentz reveals the tortured compromises that led the Founders to abide slavery without legitimizing it, a deliberate ambiguity that fractured the nation seventy years later. Contesting the Southern proslavery version of the Constitution, Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass pointed to the framers’ refusal to validate what they called “property in man.” No Property in Man has opened a fresh debate about the political and legal struggles over slavery that began during the Revolution and concluded with the Civil War. It drives straight to the heart of the single most contentious issue in all of American history.

“Revealing and passionately argued…[Wilentz] insists that because the framers did not sanction slavery as a matter of principle, the antislavery legacy of the Constitution has been…‘misconstrued’ for over 200 years.”
—Khalil Gibran Muhammad, New York Times

“Wilentz’s careful and insightful analysis helps us understand how Americans who hated slavery, such as Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass, could come to see the Constitution as an ally in their struggle.”
—Eric Foner

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No Property in Man
Slavery and Antislavery at the Nation’s Founding
Sean Wilentz
Harvard University Press, 2018

A radical reconstruction of the founders’ debate over slavery and the Constitution.

Americans revere the Constitution even as they argue fiercely over its original toleration of slavery. Some historians have charged that slaveholders actually enshrined human bondage at the nation’s founding. The acclaimed political historian Sean Wilentz shares the dismay but sees the Constitution and slavery differently. Although the proslavery side won important concessions, he asserts, antislavery impulses also influenced the framers’ work. Far from covering up a crime against humanity, the Constitution restricted slavery’s legitimacy under the new national government. In time, that limitation would open the way for the creation of an antislavery politics that led to Southern secession, the Civil War, and Emancipation.

Wilentz’s controversial and timely reconsideration upends orthodox views of the Constitution. He describes the document as a tortured paradox that abided slavery without legitimizing it. This paradox lay behind the great political battles that fractured the nation over the next seventy years. As Southern Fire-eaters invented a proslavery version of the Constitution, antislavery advocates, including Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass, proclaimed antislavery versions based on the framers’ refusal to validate what they called “property in man.”

No Property in Man invites fresh debate about the political and legal struggles over slavery that began during the Revolution and concluded with the Confederacy’s defeat. It drives straight to the heart of the most contentious and enduring issue in all of American history.

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front cover of Nobody Calls Just to Say Hello
Nobody Calls Just to Say Hello
Reflections on Twenty-Two Years in the Illinois Senate
Philip J. Rock, with Ed Wojcicki
Southern Illinois University Press, 2011
A loyal partisan and highly principled public official whose career overlapped with those of many legends of Illinois politics-including Mayor Richard J. Daley, Governor James Thompson, and Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan-Democrat Philip J. Rock served twenty-two years in the Illinois Senate. Fourteen of those years were spent as senate president, the longest tenure anyone has served in that position. This nuanced political biography, which draws on dozens of interviews conducted by Ed Wojcicki to present the longtime senate president's story in his own words, is also a rare insider's perspective on Illinois politics in the last three decades of the twentieth century. 

A native of Chicago's West Side, Rock became one of the most influential politicians in Illinois during the 1970s and 1980s. As a senator in the 1970s and senate president from 1979 to 1993, he sponsored historic legislation to assist abused and neglected children and victims of domestic violence, ushered the state through difficult income tax increases and economic development decisions, shepherded an unruly and fragmented Democratic senate caucus, and always was fair to his Republican counterparts. Covering in great detail a critical period in Illinois political history for the first time, Rock explains how making life better for others drove his decisions in office, while also espousing the seven principles he advocates for effective leadership and providing context for how he applied those principles to the legislative battles of the era. 

Unlike many Illinois politicians, Rock, a former seminarian, was known for having a greater interest in issues than in partisan politics. Considered a true statesman, he also was known as a skilled orator who could silence a busy floor of legislators with his commentary on important issues and as a devoted public servant who handled tens of thousands of bills and sponsored nearly five hundred of them himself. 

Nobody Calls Just to Say Hello, which takes its title from the volume of calls and visits to elected officials from constituents in need of help, perfectly captures Rock's profound reverence for the institutions of government, his respect for other government offices, and his reputation as a problem solver who, despite his ardent Democratic beliefs, disavowed political self-preservation to cross party lines and make government work for the people. Taking readers through his legislative successes, bipartisan efforts, and political defeats-including a heartbreaking loss in the U.S. Senate primary to Paul Simon in 1984-Rock passionately articulates his belief that government's primary role is to help people, offering an antidote to the current political climate with the simple legislative advice, "Just try to be fair, give everyone a chance, and everything else comes after that."
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