I am a political scientist specializing in Public Law and American Politics. My current book project, The Politics of Sovereignty: Federalism in American Political Development, addresses an under-examined question in American constitutionalism, one central to the aspirations to popular sovereignty and constitutional governance: How has the federal system been shaped by political and constitutional development? Whereas extant accounts focus primarily on how federalism shapes politics, I reverse the question and, in so doing, argue that the flexibility of the federal system—the absence from the constitutional text of a comprehensive state-federal relationship—anticipates political and constitutional development. These developmental trajectories are, in turn, inflected by institutionally-induced perspectives that actors have on questions of constitutional meaning and government power. Through a combination of theoretical inquiry and developmental analysis, I both clarify the constitutional logic of federalism and document its consequences for jurisprudential and political development. The Politics of Sovereignty demonstrates how the course of American constitutional development, along with the understandings of nationalism and states’ rights it entails, is the result of an interaction between an enduring constitutional logic and contingent political interests.
In addition to the book manuscript, I am also the co-editor, with Benjamin Kleinerman, of Good Government: Separation of Powers and American Constitutionalism (under contract with University Press of Kansas). Both severally and taken together, the contributions to this volume seek to broaden our understanding of the separation of powers, supplementing the conventional focus on governmental constraints and the negation of political power with an emphasis on the positive purposes of government and its powers.
Finally, I am working on a multipart project on the role of human dignity in American constitutional law and theory. The first piece, recently published in the International Journal of Constitutional Law, documents the emergence of “equal dignity” in the Supreme Court’s recent individual rights decisions and assesses its relationship to preexisting doctrine. A second piece that examines the ways in which judicial articulations of human dignity have been influenced by the structure of the American political system is being prepared for a forthcoming volume that explores human dignity from a multidisciplinary perspective. The next phase of this project is an analysis of the multiple ways dignity has been deployed by Supreme Court justices as an interpretive lens. At once revelatory and obscuring, human dignity has been used to render the American constitutional tradition comprehensible. But far from speaking univocally, dignity supports multiple constitutional traditions that exist in considerable tension with one another. Taken together, these projects illustrate how and why human dignity has risen to increasing prominence in American constitutional politics, while also explaining the significance of its past and future use.