Miller Center

Miller Center Fellows 2004 – 2005

Ariel David Adesnik

The Rebirth of American Democracy Promotion: Carter and Reagan in Central America

Ariel David Adesnik, Oxford University
Mentor: Melvyn Leffler, University of Virginia

Ariel Adesnik is a Research Analyst at the Institute for Defense Analyses. 

David Adesnik has written for the Wall Street Journal and Foreign Policy magazine. Adesnik's academic interests include the impact of rhetoric on foreign policy, democracy promotion, and Latin America. He studied as an Olin Fellow at Harvard University (2003–04), a Rhodes Scholar (2000), was a Junior Fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace (1999–2000), and won the Hajo Holborn Prize for Scholarship on German public affairs. He received his Ph.D. and Masters of Philosophy from Magdalen College, Oxford as well as a B.A. from Yale University.

Although the United States has long committed itself rhetorically to the promotion of democracy abroad, it has often behaved in a manner inconsistent with this stated objective. Adesnik's dissertation accounted for such apparent inconsistency in U.S. foreign relations, attributing variation in U.S. democracy promotion abroad to the changing nature of executive-legislative relations. Furthermore, his dissertation suggested that the public interaction of the executive and legislative branches – in the form of political rhetoric – played a decisive role in returning democracy promotion to the American agenda during the administrations of Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan. By establishing the influence of rhetoric on the policy-making process, this dissertation offered a revision of the prevailing view that rhetoric serves primarily to justify existing policies via the manipulation of public opinion.

Adesnik now blogs for Doublethink magazine. His posts are also published at The Moderate Voice


Emily Brunner

Irish-American Nationalists and the Dilemmas of National Belonging

Emily Brunner, University of Chicago
Mentor: Timothy Meagher, Catholic University of America

Emily Brunner has spoken at the University of Chicago and the UCD Clinton Institute for American Studies. Her interests include American Progressive reform, Irish nationalism, and the problem of state power in the post-World War I era. She received the O'Shaughnessy Award for her research topic, "Irish American Nationalists and the Dilemma of National Allegiance: 1910–24" from the University of Chicago Department of History. Brunner received her Ph.D. from the University of Chicago and taught a seminar on the methods of writing and research.

Brunner's dissertation examined how Irish nationalist leaders responded to changing ideas about citizenship and how they contributed to the debate about what it meant to be a member of a state and a nation. She began with an exploration of the conditions during this period that made it more difficult for Irish-Americans to claim to be both Irish and American. Next, Brunner discussed the debate over the boundaries of legitimate dissent while additionally examining the connections between Irish-American nationalism and the global feminist movement, analyzing ways in which Irish nationalist women employed global feminist networks to access and sway audiences that might otherwise have been hostile to their cause.


Jenny Diamond Cheng

Are Children Citizens?: The Minimum Voting Age and Liberal Democratic Citizenship

Jenny Diamond Cheng, University of Michigan

Jenny Diamond Cheng is a Lecturer in Law at Vanderbilt University’s Law School. 

Cheng's dissertation addressed the question: Given their disenfranchisement, to what extent does it still make sense to think of children as "citizens"? Her research focused on political discussions of the minimum voting age from 1942 to the present. The decades in and after World War II witnessed a quiet but persistent movement to reduce the voting age from 21 to 18, which gathered steam in the late 1960s and culminated with the passage of the 26th Amendment in 1971. A close reading of the debates about the voting age over the last six decades reveals competing ideas about the meaning of the franchise and profound confusion about children's place in the polity. In her dissertation, Cheng explored the theoretical links between voting, military service, and education while additionally examining how advocates for lower voting ages have sought to frame youth as the natural heirs to the women's suffrage and African-American civil rights movements.


Shane Hamilton

Trucking Country: Food Politics and the Transformation of Rural Life in Postwar America

Shane Hamilton, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Mentor: Edmund Russell, University of Virginia

Shane Hamilton is Associate Professor of History at the University of Georgia.

In 2008, Hamilton published Trucking Country: The Road to America's Wal-Mart Economy (Princeton University, 2008). Hamilton received his Ph.D. in History and Social Studies of Science and Technology from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Department of Science, Technology, and Society, and a B.A. in History from the University of Wisconsin, Madison.

Hamilton's dissertation traced the efforts of state and federal agricultural experts, cooperating with food processors and supermarkets, to create the postwar marketing machine. Emerging from an effort to contain the political controversies surrounding New Dealism in agriculture, this marketing machine sought to eliminate economic uncertainties (such as seasonal and regional variations in production, or potential strikes from unionized workers) from the food distribution chain. According to postwar USDA economists, policymakers, and engineers, the rationalization of food marketing could effectively keep commodity prices high for farmers, without production controls, while consumer food prices remained steady. Industrial farms, high-tech food processors, and suburban supermarkets, by practicing economies of scale and by using the latest technologies – from pesticides on farms to forklifts in cold-storage warehouses – thus emerged as part of a political effort to solve the decades-old "farm problem" by reducing the cost of moving food from farms to consumers. Ultimately, Hamilton hypothesized trucks were political technologies, used to define the contours of public policy regarding foods and farmers.

Recent Publications:
“The Populist Appeal of Deregulation: Independent Truckers and the Politics of Free Enterprise, 1935-1980.” Enterprise & Society (March 2009)
Trucking Country: The Road to America’s Wal-Mart Economy (Princeton University Press, 2008)


Chris Loss

From Democracy to Diversity: The Transformation of American Higher Education from World War I through the Cold War

Chris Loss, University of Virginia
Mentor: Julie Reuben, Harvard University

Christopher Loss is Assistant Professor of Public Policy and Higher Education and affiliated Assistant Professor of History at Vanderbilt University's Peabody College of Education and Human Development.

He joined the faculty in 2007. Professor Loss holds doctorates in higher education and in history from the University of Virginia. Prior to joining the faculty at Vanderbilt University, Loss was a research fellow in the Governance Studies Program at the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C. Loss specializes in 20th century American history with an emphasis on the social, political, and policy history of American higher education.

Loss's dissertation focused on the organizational and educational changes in higher education from the standpoint of university leaders, national policymakers, and average citizens. A social and political history of learning within and outside bounded collegiate settings, this dissertation asserts that policymakers and educational leaders – often relying upon the widening jurisdiction of psychological experts and their social technologies – turned toward higher education to help create the citizens the state most wanted to have, while citizens turned toward education because it offered a pathway to becoming the citizens they most wanted to be. In this sense, the state and its subjects had very different ideas about the functions education served. Yet, by World War II both parties agreed that universities should be a central training ground for the education of citizens for life in a democracy – an idea which persisted until the 1960s when the soft ideology of diversity replaced the hard ideology of democracy as the key organizing principle of American higher education.

Recent Publications:
Between Citizens and the State: The Politics of American Higher Education in the Twentieth Century (Princeton University Press, 2011)
“Between Citizens and the State: The Politics of American Higher Education in the Twentieth Century,” Politics of Education Bulletin, (2009)


Mary Christina Michelmore

With the First Penny Paid: Welfare Reform, Tax Policy and Political Change, 1960–1980

Mary Christina Michelmore, University of Michigan
Mentor: Julian Zelizer, Boston University

Mary Michelmore is Associate Professor of History at Washington and Lee University. 

Mary Christian Michelmore completed a dissertation titled "Taxing State/Welfare State: How the Politics of Aid to Families with Dependent Children and the Federal Income Tax Shaped Modern America, 1960–80" and received her Ph.D. from the University of Michigan in 2007.

Michelmore's dissertation placed the "Reagan Revolution" in historical context by studying the politics of welfare reform and tax policy between 1960 and 1980. Ronald Reagan's 1980 election represented the culmination of a decade-old re-evaluation of national political priorities, the result of which was a political settlement centrally concerned with the costs of the liberal state. Her dissertation explores how and why "welfare" grew from a policy problem of interest to only a small group of experts into an issue of national political importance, and examines the era's larger political, economic and social changes. Examining social and fiscal policies considered or enacted between 1967 and 1980, Michelmore's dissertation analyzed the process by which taxes and welfare became two sides of the same coin and were politicized to an unprecedented extent in the 1970s. Specifically, she argued that both welfare and taxes became important weapons in the arsenal of the conservative attack on the state and its reification of the market, that the politics and policies of welfare reform played a significant role in the rise of conservatism and the repudiation of the postwar liberal paradigm.


Jon Shields

The Democratic Virtues of Christian Right Activism

Jon Shields, University of Virginia
Mentor: James Q. Wilson, Pepperdine University

Jon A. Shields is Associate Professor of Government at Claremont McKenna College.

Shields' research interests include Christianity and democracy; social movements; and the politics of bioethics. In 2009, he published The Democratic Virtues of the Christian Right (Princeton University Press). Shields received his Ph.D. from the University of Virginia in Political Science in 2006, and his B.A. from the University of California, Santa Barbara, in 1997.

The tentative title for his forthcoming book is The Democratic Virtues of the Christian Right, which will be published by Princeton University Press in 2008.

Shields's dissertation focuses on the portrait of democratic education in Christian politics being principally complicated by the demands of political mobilization. That is, Christian leaders often need to mobilize apathetic or uninvolved citizens through more passionate exhortations before these deliberative norms can be taught at all. In fact, the culture war rhetoric that many scholars find so rampant in American politics is actually most commonly found in the context of mobilization. Shields argues that once Christian leaders have mobilized citizens, most then labor diligently to moderately and inform the passions they have provoked by encouraging activists to embrace deliberative norms before they practice public advocacy. He hypothesizes that this organizational tension, moreover, between the exigencies of mobilization and successful public activism highlights a deeper tension that democratic theorists need to confront between the ideals of a participatory and deliberative democracy.

Recent Publications:
“The Politics of Motherhood Revisited." Contemporary Sociology, (2012)
The Democratic Virtues of the Christian Right (Princeton University Press, 2009)


Justin J. Wert

The Not-So-Great Writ: Habeas Corpus & American Political Development

Justin J. Wert, University of Pennslyvania
Mentor: Gary Gerstle, University of Maryland

Justin J. Wert is Assistant Professor of Political Science at the University of Oklahoma.

His research interests include Constitutional Law, Jurisprudence, American Political Development and American Political Thought. Wert has additionally appeared before Republican House members and staff with a presentation on "Employee Free Choice Act" legislation, as well as offering a lecture on "Habeas Corpus & Slavery" at the University Pennsylvania Graduate Workshop Series in 2003. He received his undergraduate degree at Colorado State University where he graduated cum laude in 1996. Wert continued his education at the University of Pennsylvania, where he completed his master's and doctorate degrees, specializing in American Politics and Political Theory.

In Wert's dissertation, he analyzed the institutional development of Habeas Corpus law in four time periods: ante-bellum slave law; Reconstruction; the 20th century debates over the applicability ("Incorporation") of the Bill of Rights to the states; and habeas corpus during war, particularly the current prosecution of the "War on Terror." The writ of habeas corpus – "The most important human right in the Constitution" according to Zecharia Chafee – must be re-examined in the 21st century according to its etymological roots. Wert argued that habeas corpus has always been inextricably linked to shifting notions of American citizenship, moving from state to national, and then again to state conceptions of citizenship, with the respect to meaningful access to the "Great Writ." The origins of this divide can be found in the enduring, yet shifting, conceptions of state versus national citizenship in the American state.

Recent Publications:

Habeas Corpus in America: The Politics of Individual Rights (University Press of Kansas, 2011)
“With a Little Help from a Friend: Habeas Corpus and Magna Carta After Runnymede.” PS: Political Science and Politics, (2010)