It’s that time of year again: cooler weather, fall leaves, and more campaign ads than you can handle! No matter who you vote for, its important to cast a vote next Tuesday and let your voice be heard. But if you’re still looking for a little inspiration (not of the mudslinging variety), you’ll find a few titles below that might help:
The Dilemmas of American Conservatism
edited by Kenneth L. Deutsch & Ethan Fishman
In the second half of the twentieth century, American conservatism emerged from the shadow of New Deal liberalism and developed into a movement exerting considerable influence on the formulation and execution of public policy in the United States. During that period, the political philosophers who provided the intellectual foundations for the American conservative movement were John H. Hallowell, Eric Voegelin, Leo Strauss, Richard Weaver, Russell Kirk, Robert Nisbet, John Courtney Murray, Friedrich Hayek, and Willmoore Kendall.
By offering a comprehensive analysis of their thoughts and beliefs, The Dilemmas of American Conservatism both illuminates the American conservative imagination and reveals its most serious contradictions. The contributing authors question whether a core set of conservative principles can be determined based on the frequently diverging perspectives of these key philosophers.
Homer Simpson Goes to Washington: American Politics through Popular Culture, updated edition
edited by Joseph J. Foy
Americans are turning to popular culture to make sense of the American political system, a trend that explains the success of television shows such as The Simpsons, The West Wing, The Daily Show, and Chapelle’s Show and films such as Election, Bulworth, and Wag the Dog. In Homer Simpson Goes to Washington: American Politics through Popular Culture, Joseph J. Foy has assembled a multidisciplinary team of scholars with backgrounds in political science, philosophy, law, cultural studies, and music. The essays tackle common assumptions about government and explain fundamental concepts such as civil rights, democracy, and ethics. Homer Simpson Goes to Washington will appeal to students of American politics and to readers with an interest in current events or popular culture.
Congressional Ambivalence: The Political Burdens of Constitutional Authority
by Jasmine Farrier
Is the United States Congress dead, alive, or trapped in a moribund cycle? When confronted with controversial policy issues, members of Congress struggle to satisfy conflicting legislative, representative, and oversight duties. These competing goals, along with the pressure to satisfy local constituents, cause members of Congress to routinely cede power on a variety of policies, express regret over their loss of control, and later return to the habit of delegating their power. This pattern of institutional ambivalence undermines conventional wisdom about congressional party resurgence, the power of oversight, and the return of the so-called imperial presidency.
In Congressional Ambivalence, Jasmine Farrier examines Congress’s frequent delegation of power by analyzing primary source materials such as bills, committee reports, and the Congressional Record. Farrier demonstrates that Congress is caught between abdication and ambition and that this ambivalence affects numerous facets of the legislative process.
Explaining specific instances of post-delegation disorder, including Congress’s use of new bills, obstruction, public criticism, and oversight to salvage its lost power, Farrier exposes the tensions surrounding Congress’s roles in recent hot-button issues such as base-closing commissions, presidential trade promotion authority, and responses to the attacks of September 11. She also examines shifting public rhetoric used by members of Congress as they emphasize, in institutionally self-conscious terms, the difficulties of balancing their multiple roles. With a deep understanding of the inner workings of the federal government, Farrier illuminates a developing trend in the practice of democracy.
King of the Mountain: The Nature of Political Leadership
by Arnold M. Ludwig
King of the Mountain presents the startling findings of Arnold M. Ludwig’s eighteen-year investigation into why people want to rule. The answer may seem obvious—power, privilege, and perks—but any adequate answer also needs to explain why so many rulers cling to power even when they are miserable, trust nobody, feel besieged, and face almost certain death. Ludwig’s results suggest that leaders of nations tend to act remarkably like monkeys and apes in the way they come to power, govern, and rule.
Profiling every ruler of a recognized country in the twentieth century—over 1,900 people in all, Ludwig establishes how rulers came to power, how they lost power, the dangers they faced, and the odds of their being assassinated, committing suicide, or dying a natural death. Then, concentrating on a smaller sub-set of 377 rulers for whom more extensive personal information was available, he compares six different kinds of leaders, examining their characteristics, their childhoods, and their mental stability or instability to identify the main predictors of later political success. Ludwig’s penetrating observations, though presented in a lighthearted and entertaining way, offer important insight into why humans have engaged in war throughout recorded history as well as suggesting how they might live together in peace.
Cowboy Conservatism: Texas and the Rise of the Modern Right
by Sean P. Cunningham
During the 1960s and 1970s, Texas was rocked by a series of political transitions. Despite its century-long heritage of solidly Democratic politics, the state became a Republican stronghold virtually overnight, and by 1980 it was known as “Reagan Country.” Ultimately, Republicans dominated the Texas political landscape, holding all twenty-seven of its elected offices and carrying former governor George W. Bush to his second term as president with more than 61 percent of the Texas vote.
Sean P. Cunningham examines the remarkable history of Republican Texas in Cowboy Conservatism: Texas and the Rise of the Modern Right. Utilizing extensive research drawn from the archives of four presidential libraries, gubernatorial papers, local campaign offices, and oral histories, Cunningham presents a compelling narrative of the most notable regional genesis of modern conservatism.
Spanning the decades from Kennedy’s assassination to Reagan’s presidency, Cunningham reveals a vivid portrait of modern conservatism in one of the nation’s largest and most politically powerful states. Cowboy Conservatism demonstrates Texas’s distinctive and vital contributions to the transformation of postwar American politics.