Where do mass politics come from?
My work focuses on the way in which institutions—most notably states and parties—influence the evolution of mass politics by giving political meaning to underlying social distinctions. In my previous work I examined the relationship between state and party formation in the United States Constitutional Convention of 1787. More recently, I have begun to look at the way in which the expansion of the railroad network influenced patterns of third-party support in Minnesota, North Dakota, and South Dakota between 1890 and 1896. This latter project is part of a larger study which looks at the evolution of the American party system between 1763 and 1896 through the lens of Western settlement and public land policy.
...and what do they look like?
To the extent that the resulting political distinctions are shaped by the setting within which political action unfolds, questions regarding the emergence and concatenation of local cleavage structures across time and space are integral to understanding the evolution of mass politics and the creation of partisan divides. Together, John Levi Martin and I are working on developing a set of quasi-field theoretic measures designed to formally summarize the structure of locally-varying relationships captured through the use of techniques such as multilevel modeling and geographically-weighted regression. These methods can be used to shed new light on issues related to electoral nationalization and the spatial dynamics of party politics.
I also have the privilege of collaborating on several projects outside of my main interest area. Along with Katherine Curtis, I have begun work on a study analyzing the effects of spatial and organizational connectivity on county-level population growth on the Northern Great Plains between 1880 and 1930. I am also working with Amy Quark on a project which uses data on international trade flows to help explain the changing dynamics of rule-making in the global cotton trade over the past forty years.