The Paradox of Ambition. 2011.Abstract.
I argue that there is a ``paradox of ambition" because black electoral success is detrimental to black agenda setting. The last three election cycles suggest that we may be experiencing a surge in black political ambition. Barack Obama's historic election is sandwiched between the failed efforts of people like Denise Majette, Harold Ford Jr., Artur Davis, and Kendrick Meek. Combined with the specter of Cory Booker's inevitable run for higher office, scholars have argued that there is a need for a reevaluation of black political ambition and a new classification for black politics itself. If we are experiencing a genuine emergence of a new ambitious breed of black politicians, then the paradox of ambition would suggest that we may also be experiencing a major abandonment of black politics. This paper begins to investigate this possibility in terms of individual bill sponsorship and collective power through the committee system.
Legislative Problem-Solving: Exploring Bill Sponsorship in Post-war America. 2010.Abstract.
Given the small number of bills that are actually enacted into public policy, it is puzzling that members continue to sponsor bills at such high rates. The conventional approach to this puzzle has been to either focus on the determinants of legislative effectiveness or to conceive of bill sponsorship as symbolic position-taking. As a result, we know relatively little about how sponsorship patterns vary across members and over time, and more importantly the introduction of legislation has been divorced from the policy process. I address both of these problems by offering a ``problem-solving" framework of bill sponsorship that is compatible with standard conceptions of goal-oriented behavior and conceives of sponsorship as placing issues onto the public agenda. Using multilevel models I analyze the volume and content of members' legislative portfolios from 1947 to 1998. I find that members adjust their sponsorship according to changing circumstances, whether those changes are in terms of their own institutional positions or broader developments in the social, political, and economic environments. Bill sponsorship is neither irrational nor devoid of policy relevance. It is a tool that members use to recognize problems and cultivate reputations as problem-solvers.