Books

Deep Roots: How Slavery Still Shapes Southern Politics (with Avi Acharya and Matt Blackwell, 2018, Princeton University Press)

Deep Roots CoverDespite dramatic social transformations in the United States during the last 150 years, the South has remained staunchly conservative. Southerners are more likely to support Republican candidates, gun rights, and the death penalty, and southern whites harbor higher levels of racial resentment than whites in other parts of the country. Why haven't these sentiments evolved or changed? Deep Roots shows that the entrenched political and racial views of contemporary white southerners are a direct consequence of the region's slaveholding history, which continues to shape economic, political, and social spheres. Today, southern whites who live in areas once reliant on slavery—compared to areas that were not—are more racially hostile and less amenable to policies that could promote black progress. 

Highlighting the connection between historical institutions and contemporary political attitudes, the authors explore the period following the Civil War when elite whites in former bastions of slavery had political and economic incentives to encourage the development of anti-black laws and practices. Deep Roots shows that these forces created a local political culture steeped in racial prejudice, and that these viewpoints have been passed down over generations, from parents to children and via communities, through a process called behavioral path dependence. While legislation such as the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act made huge strides in increasing economic opportunity and reducing educational disparities, southern slavery has had a profound, lasting, and self-reinforcing influence on regional and national politics that can still be felt today.

Deep Roots demonstrates how social beliefs persist long after the formal policies that created those beliefs have been eradicated.

This book is co-authored with Avidit Acharya and Matthew Blackwell.

The Judicial Tug of War: How Lawyers, Politicians, and Ideological Incentives Shape the American Judiciary (with Adam Bonica, Under Review)

How, why, and when do courts become politicized? This book addresses controversies that have exploded in importance over the last few years---why have conservatives blasted ``activist judges'' and why do they support attempts at reforming or stacking the judiciary---even as it risks criticisms of politicization? Why have liberals opposed these attempts and why have they instead insisted on focusing on prestigious qualifications? These questions not only speak to how political elites approach judicial appointments but also to the importance of norms and institutions surrounding ostensibly "nonpartisan" institutions.

Our argument in the book highlights a key, overlooked player in the fights over the judiciary: the legal establishment. Not only are lawyers heavily politically overrepresented, but they have enjoyed a long-standing symbiotic relationship with the judiciary. First, courts have been a highly effective tool for nullifying or blocking legislation that would subject lawyers to regulations not of their own making, fending off unwanted reforms to the legal system. Second, and as a result, lawyers have developed a strong interest in the composition, organization, and authority of the judiciary, serving not just as its core constituency but also as its primary font of candidates. We refer to this control over the judiciary as the captured judiciary.

However, the interests of lawyers often conflict with the interests of the second key player: political actors. This tension between politicians and the legal establishment establishes the theoretical framework of the book---the judicial tug of war. As long as the interests of lawyers and political actors are in harmony, then political actors will welcome the involvement of the bar in the process of selecting and vetting judges. But when the interests of the two are in tension, partisan conflicts over the judiciary will arise. From a policy perspective, this framework predicts where and when attempts at judicial "reform" will emerge. Widening ideological gulfs between the bar and elected politicians will exacerbate tensions, thereby leading political actors to adopt measures to limit the bar's influence. These attempts will also deemphasize traditional qualifications while at the same time emphasizing ideology and political connections (and hence, be "politicizing"). On the other hand, ideological congruence between the bar and political officials will result in selection systems that allow the bar a significant amount of influence and input into the selection of judges. Our framework therefore provides a blueprint for potential paths toward judicial selection policies, depending on the parties' ideological goals.

Chapter 1 of the book is available here.