University of Washington
Department of Political Science
Box 353530
Seattle, WA  98195-3530



My research focuses on religious and economic forces in American politics.  In my most recent book, Secular Faith: How Culture Has Trumped Religion in American Politics, I investigate how Christian groups and leaders engage political issues.  In a pluralistic religious environment like the United States, I show, churches, denominations, and religious interest groups cannot stray far politically from what their members will accept. During periods of cultural transition, Christian leaders might resist emerging values and behaviors, but those same leaders often change their political priorities and sometimes even their political positions (typically by reinterpreting the Bible) if the cultural trends persist.  As a result, over time religious and non-religious people evolve together in their morals, values, and political stances, thereby diminishing the scope of the so-called "culture war." To support my account, I analyze historical and contemporary issues including slavery, divorce, homosexuality, abortion, and women's rights.

My earlier work investigated the political effects of economic groups and ideas.  In my first book, American Business and Political Power, I explored the conditions under which individual corporations and business at large can win favorable policies through the political system.  The book won the Leon Epstein Award from the Political Organizations and Parties section of the American Political Science Association.  My second book, The Right Talk, examined how and why conservative intellectuals and Republican leaders began stressing the economic aspects of their policies from the early 1970s to the present.  Rising economic insecurity among ordinary Americans led conservatives to highlight the potential economic benefits of their policies regarding taxes, regulation, and the welfare state, which improved the Republican Party's standing with voters.