Post-Election Reading Roundup

As our nation’s new President-Elect Barack Obama prepares to make his transition to the White House, millions of Americans wait in anticipation to see how he will turn the weakening economy around and make good on his promise for “a new dawn of American leadership.”

Three books by professors from the College of Liberal Arts, offer keen insight into the challenges our new president will face. From scandals in the White House to party polarization to the issue of race in political campaigns, these books provide timely perspectives into hot-button issues facing the nation in 2009.

“Race, Republicans, and the Return of the Party of Lincoln”

Is it possible for a political party to successfully revamp its image without changing its political platform? How do voters respond to these seemingly promising campaigns?

Tasha Philpot, assistant professor of government and African and African American Studies, examines these questions in her book “Race, Republicans, and the Return of the Party of Lincoln” (The University of Michigan Press, 2007).

Using the 2000 Republican National Convention as a case study, she analyzes how parties rebrand themselves to reach out to minority voters. Philpot examines experiments, focus groups, national surveys and newspaper articles to explore how voters perceive changes in political parties.

As the U.S. electorate becomes more racially diverse, how will political parties rebrand themselves in the future? Add your insights in the comments section.

“Party Polarization in Congress”

What propelled the rise in polarization among party lines? To put it simply, why can’t Democrats and Republicans just get along?

Examining more than 30 years of congressional history, Sean Theriault, associate professor of government, explores the “Right vs. Left” phenomenon in his book “Party Polarization in Congress” (Cambridge University Press, 2008).

Theriault defines the building blocks for party polarization in the U.S. Congress by examining the increasing homogony in congressional districts and the evolution of legislative procedures. His studies on redistricting and political extremism reveal how both parties have grown more ideologically polarized and less diverse.

With the landslide win of Democrats in both the Senate and the House, will they reach across the divide to their Republican counterparts in 2009?

“On Scandal: Moral Disturbances in Society, Politics and Art”

From Bill Clinton’s nationally publicized indiscretions with Monica Lewinsky, to Richard Nixon’s infamous Watergate scandal, moral transgressions in the political arena generate overwhelming amounts of media buzz.

These are just two of several case studies Ari Adut, assistant professor of sociology, examines in his book “On Scandal: Moral Disturbances in Society, Politics and Art” (Cambridge University Press, 2008).

From a sociological perspective, Adut analyzes a broad range of case studies, including the vulnerabilities of presidents, the rise in sexual politics and reactions to controversial content in modern art. He reveals the conditions that cause scandals, while others slip under the radar.

What do you think has been one of the most visible but irrelevant political scandals in American history?