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

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Research

My research focuses on economic and religious groups, ideas, and influences in American politics.  I am currently fininishing a book, Secular Faith: Why Culture Trumps Religion in American Politics. In a pluralistic religious environment like the United States, I argue, churches, denominations, and religious interest groups cannot stray far politically from what their members will accept. During periods of cultural transition, religious leaders (mostly Christian in America) often resist the prevailing values and behaviors, but those same leaders often give up the fight if their positions become no longer tenable. Secular ideas also shape how Christian leaders construct and revise their biblical interpretations. As a result, over time religious and non-religious people usually evolve together in their morals, values, and political stances. To support my account, I study historical and contemporary issues where religion and politics have intersected, including slavery, divorce, homosexuality, abortion, and women's rights.

My first book (University of Chicago Press, 2000) investigated the political activities of business, finding that business unifies only on issues that also present strong incentives for officeholders to respond to constituent sentiment and that make election outcomes important determinants of what government does.  Business's political fortunes under those conditions depend more on a favorable climate of public opinion than on its own efforts to advance its interests, though business associations also gain noticeable returns from shaping public opinion.  My second book (Princeton University Press, 2007) studies how, why, and with what effects conservative intellectuals and leaders of the Republican party, from the early 1970s to the present, reformulated their rhetoric to incorporate a stronger economic component.  A long-term rise of economic insecurity prompted conservatives to highlight the potential economic benefits of their policies on taxation, regulation, and the welfare state.