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  • Author: David Szakonyi
  • Publication Date: 01-2020
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Political Science Quarterly
  • Institution: Academy of Political Science
  • Abstract: As the 2020 presidential campaign heats up, the issue of billionaires ascendant within American politics will once again take center stage. The country could see another billionaire candidate challenge the incumbent billionaire president, whose many informal advisers and cabinet members run in similar circles. Several ultrarich elites will inevitably break new records with their individual campaign contributions. A voter could be forgiven for thinking that billionaires have publicly co-opted the political system. In a much-needed new book Billionaires and Stealth Politics, Benjamin I. Page, Jason Seawright, and Matthew J. Lacombe argue that these public actions are just the tip of the iceberg. For all the money billionaires invest in campaigns, parties, and issues, only rarely do they say anything in public to explain their preferences or reasons for pursuing specific aims. Billionaires engage in what the authors term stealth politics: they are extremely active in politics but remain intentionally quiet about the extent of their activities and influence. That silence is even more deafening with regard to issues where billionaires diverge from their less affluent fellow citizens, such as tax rates and redistributive policies.
  • Topic: Economics, Politics, Book Review, Political Science
  • Political Geography: North America, United States of America
  • Author: Tom Ginsburg
  • Publication Date: 01-2020
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Political Science Quarterly
  • Institution: Academy of Political Science
  • Abstract: It is hardly a secret that democracy is in trouble around the world, and the phenomenon of backsliding has prompted a small wave of books diagnosing the problem and suggesting solutions. David Runciman’s contribution to this literature is a breezy and readable tour through mechanisms and alternatives. Easily weaving political theory with grounded examples, he has produced a highly accessible analysis focusing more on diagnosis than cure. Runciman’s title is to be distinguished from accounts of how specific democracies are dying or what might be done to save constitutional democracy. Instead, he focuses on the idea that Western democracy is undergoing something of a midlife crisis. Nothing lasts forever, and while democracy has had a pretty good run, it now “looks exhausted in the places it has the deepest roots” (p. 72). Contemplating democracy’s death, the book is organized around a series of mechanisms by which this might come about: coup, environmental catastrophe, technological displacement, and the various alternatives of benevolent and not so benevolent authoritarianism that have been put on offer. His main argument is that while we are attracted to democracy because of its history, the past does not repeat itself, and we are likely to face new challenges not yet contemplated. If democracy dies, the autopsy will be a new one.
  • Topic: Democracy, Book Review, Political Science
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: Christopher Faricy
  • Publication Date: 01-2020
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Political Science Quarterly
  • Institution: Academy of Political Science
  • Abstract: Why has the Republican Party centered its domestic agenda around tax cuts for three decades? Monica Prasad presents a thorough, complicated, and convincing story of the political motivations and impact of Ronald Reagan’s Economic Recovery Tax Act (ERTA) of 1981. Starving the Beast argues that the ERTA marked the transformation of the Republican Party from a party of fiscal responsibility to one of tax cuts. Reagan showed his fellow Republicans that running on tax cuts was not only electorally popular but came with no economic or political costs. Republicans could now distribute government benefits through the tax code as a counter to Democratic expansions of the welfare state. This strategy united disparate factions within the party and is still one of the GOP’s only popular policy positions.
  • Topic: History , Political Science, Tax Systems, Ronald Reagan
  • Political Geography: North America, United States of America
  • Author: Ryan D. Williamson
  • Publication Date: 01-2020
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Political Science Quarterly
  • Institution: Academy of Political Science
  • Abstract: In 2017, then Speaker of the House Paul Ryan broke the record for most closed rules in a single session. Ironically, this feat came only two years after vowing to lead the House in a more open and inclusive manner than his recent predecessors had. This about-face was not new or unique to Ryan, though. Indeed, he was simply the next in a string of Speakers over the previous few decades to promise greater debate, only to renege shortly thereafter. Chronicling this decline of deliberation in Congress is the focus of Donald R. Wolfensberger’s work. The former Republican staff director for the House Rules Committee offers a detailed yet accessible insight into how Congress has evolved in recent history. Beginning with a brief discussion of the history of majoritarian politics in Congress, Wolfensberger specifically looks at a litany of case studies from the last two decades. Topics cover a wide range, including health care reform, budgets and deficits, and the Iran nuclear deal, to name a few. Within each, a common theme pervades—the majority party must “rely on extraordinary consultation, pressures, and compromises within its own ranks, as well as on a creative use of the rules, to eke out a victory on contentious legislation” (p. 57).
  • Topic: Government, Book Review, Political Science
  • Political Geography: North America, United States of America
  • Author: Avery Plaw
  • Publication Date: 01-2020
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Political Science Quarterly
  • Institution: Academy of Political Science
  • Abstract: The reasons why armed drones have been embraced by recent American presidents are obvious. They offer pilot invulnerability, protecting military personnel from harm in the conduct of operations and protecting political leaders from the criticism that follows it. They are also exceptionally well designed for selectivity—that is, for distinguishing legitimate targets from innocent civilians and precisely targeting the former without harming the latter. What may be less obvious is why they have proved anathema to so many critics who are genuinely concerned to make sure that American armed force is used ethically and legally, harming only legitimate targets. After all, both enhanced selectivity and pilot invulnerability reduce unintended harms. Yet many drone critics argue that these weapons pose an exceptional threat precisely because of pilot invulnerability and in some cases target selectivity. Their argument goes like this: democratic leaders and publics are casualty averse, and the fear of public backlash often deters leaders from going to war, but drones remove the danger of military casualties (and potentially diminish collateral civilian casualties) and hence remove the chief sources of public opposition and hence the main deterrents to using force (pp. 32–33). The consequence is that democracies will more frequently resort to force. This will lead to more armed conflict, more harm and a worse world.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Drones, Book Review, Political Science
  • Political Geography: North America, United States of America