Please join us on May 14, 2021 for a Social Science Matrix Book Salon focused on the book Race to the Bottom: How Racial Appeals Work in American Politics, by LaFleur Stephens-Dougan, Assistant Professor in the Department of Politics at Princeton University. Professor Stephens-Dougan will be joined in conversation by Taeku Lee, Professor of Political Science and Law at UC Berkeley.
About the Book
African American voters are a key demographic to the modern Democratic base, and conventional wisdom has it that there is political cost to racialized “dog whistles,” especially for Democratic candidates. However, politicians from both parties and from all racial backgrounds continually appeal to negative racial attitudes for political gain.
Challenging what we think we know about race and politics, LaFleur Stephens-Dougan argues that candidates across the racial and political spectrum engage in “racial distancing,” or using negative racial appeals to communicate to racially moderate and conservative whites—the overwhelming majority of whites—that they will not disrupt the racial status quo. Race to the Bottom closely examines empirical data on racialized partisan stereotypes to show that engaging in racial distancing through political platforms that do not address the needs of nonwhite communities and charged rhetoric that targets African Americans, immigrants, and others can be politically advantageous. Racialized communication persists as a well-worn campaign strategy because it has real electoral value for both white and black politicians seeking to broaden their coalitions. Stephens-Dougan reveals that claims of racial progress have been overstated as our politicians are incentivized to employ racial prejudices at the expense of the most marginalized in our society.
LaFleur Stephens-Dougan earned her Ph.D. in Public Policy and Political Science from the University of Michigan. Her research interests include racial attitudes, Black politics, and public opinion. Her book Race to the Bottom: How Racial Appeals Work in American Politics was published by the University of Chicago Press in 2020. She is a recipient of the National Science Foundation’s Time-Sharing in Experimental Social Sciences Research Grant and grants from the Social Science Research Council and the Russell Sage Foundation.
Taeku Lee is George Johnson Professor of Law and Professor of Political Science at the University of California, Berkeley. His interests are in racial and ethnic politics; immigrant political incorporation; public opinion and survey research; identity and inequality; deliberative and participatory democracy. At Berkeley, Lee is currently Associate Dean of Law, directing its Legal Studies and its Jurisprudence and Social Policy programs. Lee is also co-Principal Investigator of the National Asian American Survey and Managing Director of Asian American Decisions. He has served in numerous leadership positions including as member of the National Advisory Committee for the U.S. Census Bureau, member of the Board of Overseers of the American National Election Studies (twice), member of the Board of Overseers of the General Social Survey, Treasurer and the Executive Council member for the American Political Science Association, Department Chair at Berkeley, and Associate Director of the Haas Institute at Berkeley. He was previously Assistant Professor of Public Policy at Harvard, and has visited as Robert Wood Johnson Scholar at Yale, Fernand Braudel Senior Fellow at the European University Institute, and Non-Resident Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution. Lee was born in South Korea, grew up in rural Malaysia, Manhattan, and suburban Michigan, and is a proud graduate of K-12 public schools, the University of Michigan (A.B.), Harvard University (M.P.P.), and the University of Chicago (Ph.D.).