Current Book Projects
Eisenhower and Interstate Highways: The Reconstruction of American Transportation
On June 29, 1956, President Eisenhower signed into law the Federal Highway Aid Act, the largest public works project in American history. Given the hurdles Eisenhower faced at every stage of the project’s development, his decision to support it is quite surprising. Among numerous other challenges, Eisenhower’s decision to support this unprecedented expansion of federal power had required him to break from the tradition of his own Republican Party, which had consistently opposed similar public works programs when New Dealers had pursued them in the 1930s and 40s. Indeed, Republican hostility to such programs dated back to the early twentieth century, when Democrats Woodrow Wilson and John Hollis Bankhead helped pass the Federal Aid Road Act in 1916, and continued under the administrations of Franklin Roosevelt and Harry Truman, both of whom had sought to expand federal highways. Consequently, when Eisenhower went forward with highway expansion, his chief Congressional partners were Democrats; and their first attempt to pass highway legislation in 1955 failed in part because members of Eisenhower’s own party refused to support him. Years later, Eisenhower’s support for highway expansion and other big-government programs served as a rallying cry for conservatives like Barry Goldwater, who saw the Republican Party as having failed to offer a clear small-government alternative to the New Deal.
Why did Eisenhower decide to advocate for such a controversial measure, and why did he persist in defending it in the face of so many setbacks and such forceful opposition from his own party? More broadly, what considerations went into his decision to pursue the largest expansion of federal infrastructure in American history, a decision that contradicted his own party’s political philosophy and helped redefine the national government’s role in the American constitutional order? With what arguments did Eisenhower justify his decision, and what political tactics did he judge as necessary for seeing it through?
My book pursues these questions through a sensitive historical analysis of the dynamics underlying Eisenhower’s decision to campaign for the 1956 Federal Highway Act. The book introduces undergraduates and graduate students in political science, American history, public policy, and leadership studies to the complexities of American political history and the American political system. In pursuing these questions, the book considers the difficulties that American presidents (and leaders, generally) face in getting new public policies accepted as legitimate within the American constitutional context, the tensions between party authority and presidential leadership, and the range of tactics that presidents can draw from in pursuing their policy objectives.
Demagogues in the Constitutional Order
My second book project argues that the United States Constitution displaces a classical conception of demagoguery which is ‘moralistic’ in that it situates responsibility for demagoguery in the character and choices of a particular orator. In the modern conception with which the U.S. Constitution displaces the classical alternative, demagoguery is no longer defined as a consequence of moral depravity because political actions are no longer viewed primarily in light of the upright or shameful intentions that are purported to be responsible for them. Instead, the Constitution directs our attention to the merits of the rationale the orator develops to justify public conduct. In this conception, demagogic rhetorical tactics can be justified if integrated into a broader political argument and strategy. Further, the Constitution establishes different offices—Congress, the presidency, and the Court—from each of which characteristic duties and responsibilities can be inferred. Demonstrating that each office entails different rhetorical responsibilities as well, the book uses case studies to illustrate how to evaluate uses of demagogic rhetoric on the part of individual officeholders.
I have experience teaching in-person, hybrid, and remote classes. My courses utilize Canvas and Zoom as much as possible and I regularly host the authors of texts which students are currently reading for that course.
"Demagoguery and Populism in Contemporary Perspective," Spring 2021. Upper-level undergraduate course of my own design surveying contemporary literature on demagoguery and populism and examining recent and historical case studies.
"Leadership in American Political Development," Spring 2021. Upper-level undergraduate course of my own design examining the causes of American political development, with a particular emphasis on the role of leadership in regime transformation.
"Conspiracy Theories in American Politics," Fall 2020. Upper-level undergraduate course of my own design on the history and nature of conspiracy theories in American politics.
"Introduction to Leadership Studies," Fall 2020. Lower-level undergraduate course introducing the subject of leadership through classic and contemporary scholarly texts as well as historical case studies.
University of Texas - Austin
"Introduction to American Government," Spring 2020. Undergraduate course outlining the main features of American politics, including the Founding and Constitution, federalism, Congress, the presidency, and the Courts, campaigns and elections, media, bureaucracy, and policy making.
Overall instructor rating: 4.6/5
Overall course rating: 4.5/5
UT Graduate School Dissertation Fellowship
UT College of Liberal Arts Summer Fellowship
Jack Miller Center Summer Fellowship
University of Konstanz Research Grant
Charles Koch Foundation Dissertation Grant
UT Recurring Recruitment Fellowship
UT Center for European Studies Teaching Fellowship
Jefferson Center for Core Texts and Ideas Scholarship
Clements Center Graduate Fellowship
Hertog Political Studies Fellowship