Ellis, Richard J. 1960-
Ellis, Richard J. 1960-
Born November 27, 1960, in Leicester, England; immigrated to the United States; son of John M. (a professor) and Carol Robertson (a high school teacher) Ellis; married Juli Takenaka (an elementary school teacher), July 18, 1987; children: Eleanor, Nicholas. Education: University of California, Santa Cruz, B.A., 1982; University of California, Berkeley, M.A., 1984, Ph.D., 1989.
Home—Salem, OR. Office—Department of Political Science, Willamette University, 900 State St., Salem, OR 97301. E-mail—[email protected]
Political scientist, educator, and writer. Willamette University, Salem, OR, assistant professor, 1990-95, associate professor of political science, 1995-99, Mark O. Hatfield professor of politics, 1999—; writer. University of California, Santa Cruz, visiting lecturer in political science, 1989.
Grant from National Endowment for the Humanities, 1991; Earhart Foundation fellow, 1993, 1998; George and Eliza Gardner Howard fellow, 1993; research grant, Oregon Council for the Humanities, 1994; Donner Foundation grant, 1995; Graves Foundation grant, 1998; Earhart Foundation Fellowship research grant, 2003; Oregon Council for the Humanities research grant, 2003; Lawrence D. Cress Award for Excellence in Faculty Scholarship, 2003; Langum Prize in Legal History, 2005, for To the Flag; Outstanding Scientist, Oregon Academy of Science, 2007.
(With Aaron Wildavsky) Dilemmas of Presidential Leadership from Washington through Lincoln, Transaction Publishers (New Brunswick, NJ), 1989.
(With Michael Thompson and Aaron Wildavsky) Cultural Theory, Westview Press (Boulder, CO), 1990.
(Editor, with Dennis J. Coyle) Politics, Policy, and Culture, Westview Press (Boulder, CO), 1994.
Presidential Lightning Rods: The Politics of Blame Avoidance, University Press of Kansas (Lawrence, KS), 1994.
(Editor, with Michael Thomson) Culture Matters: Essays in Honor of Aaron Wildavsky, Westview Press (Boulder, CO), 1997.
(Editor) Speaking to the People: The Rhetorical Presidency in Historical Perspective, University of Massachusetts Press (Amherst, MA), 1998.
The Dark Side of the Left: Illiberal Egalitarianism in America, University Press of Kansas (Lawrence, KS), 1998.
(Editor) Founding the American Presidency, Rowman & Littlefield (Lanham, MD), 1999.
(With Fred Thompson) The Culture Wars by Other Means: Environmental Attitudes and Cultural Biases in the Pacific Northwest, SFU-UBC Centre for the Study of Government and Business (Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada), 2000.
Democratic Delusions: The Initiative Process in America, University Press of Kansas (Lawrence, KS), 2002.
To the Flag: The Unlikely History of the Pledge of Allegiance, University Press of Kansas (Lawrence, KS), 2005.
(Editor, with Michael Nelson) Debating the Presidency: Conflicting Perspectives on the American Executive, CQ Press (Washington, DC), 2006.
Presidential Travel: The Journey from George Washington to George W. Bush, University Press of Kansas (Lawrence, KS), 2008.
Contributor to books and encyclopedias, including Political Parties and Elections in the United States: An Encyclopedia, edited by L. Sandy Maisel, Garland, 1991; Routledge Encyclopedia of Government and Politics, edited by Mary Hawkesworth and Maurice Kogan, Routledge, 1992; Encyclopedia of the American Presidency, edited by Leonard W. Levy and Louis Fischer, Simon & Schuster, 1994; Politics, Policy, and Culture, edited by Dennis Coyle and Richard J. Ellis, Westview Press, 1994; Speaking to the People: The Rhetorical Presidency in Historical Perspective, edited by Richard J. Ellis, University of Massachusetts Press, 1998; Enduring Debate: Classic and Contemporary Readings in American Politics, edited by David T. Canon, Anne Khademian, and Kenneth R. Mayer, Norton, 2000; Encyclopedia of American Cultural and Intellectual History, edited by Mary Kupiec Cayton and Peter W. Williams, Scribner, 2001; Election Law: Cases and Materials, edited by Daniel Hays Lowenstein and Richard L. Hasen, Carolina Academic Press, 2001; The Elections of 2000, edited by Michael Nelson, Congressional Quarterly Press, 2001; International Encyclopedia of the Social and Behavioral Sciences, edited by Neil J. Smelser and Paul B. Baltes, Pergamon, 2001; Cultural Analysis: Politics, Public Law, and Administration, edited by Brendon Swedlow, Transaction, 2006; and Oxford Handbook of Contextual Political Analysis, edited by Robert E. Goodin and Charles Tilly, Oxford University Press, 2006. Also contributor to political science, history, and economic journals, including Western Political Quarterly, Critical Review, Presidential Studies Quarterly, Journal of Public Administration, Oregon Humanities, University of Montana Law Review, and Perspectives in Political Science.
Richard J. Ellis, a native of England, has built his career assessing politics in the United States. A professor of political science at Willamette University in Salem, Oregon, Ellis has written such books as American Political Cultures and Presidential Lightning Rods: The Politics of Blame Avoidance. The latter book examines how a president may use members of his inner circle—including the vice president, senior staff members, advisors, and even a spouse—to deflect criticism. For such a "lightning rod" to be effective, Ellis writes in the book, the deflector must be widely recognized. "Unknowns," he points out, "cannot function as lightning rods."
Times have changed since Harry Truman placed a sign, "The Buck Stops Here," on his desk in the Oval Office. In today's media-intrusive political environment, according to the author, a chief executive may delegate blame. In Presidential Lightning Rods, Ellis cites as one example Richard M. Nixon, who turned to many subordinates during the Watergate scandal. The author shows, wrote John Hart of American Political Science Review, "that the scope for lightning-rod strategies is severely constrained by numerous factors, not the least that any president ‘who is serious about blame avoidance must be prepared to cede not only responsibility but power.’" Ellis concludes that deflecting blame has become a "prerequisite for effective presidential leadership," wrote Hart, who called Presidential Lightning Rods "a stimulating and challenging analysis of an important aspect of presidential leadership. Not all will agree with his conclusion, but few can deny that his work opens up an area of empirical and normative significance."
In the opening of The Dark Side of the Left: Illiberal Egalitarianism in America, Ellis describes himself as a longtime Democrat, a "card-carrying member" of the American Civil Liberties Union, and a federalist. Still, his work looks critically at left-wing movements from the nineteenth-century utopians and abolitionists to modern-day feminists and environmental activists. In many cases, the author asserts, "ideologues abandoned their egalitarian principles in favor of rigid political correctness," as a Publishers Weekly contributor noted. The author finds a "common thread" among the left-wingers of yesterday and today, Society critic Robert K. Schaeffer remarked: "Intrinsic to all these forms of egalitarianism is the rejection of the classical liberal understanding of equality before the law." Instead, Schaeffer added, egalitarians "seek de facto equality of wealth, of status, of gender, among species, etc. These goals come into conflict with the existing rule of law in the United States … and the preferences of the vast majority of ordinary people." Don Herzog of American Political Science Review put it more simply: "The American Left has been so passionate about equality that it has run roughshod over liberty."
History contributor David De Leon thought the author inadequately defined "the Left" in The Dark Side of the Left, omitting analysis of the New Deal initiative during the Depression in favor of a view of the 1960s New Left, "wherein the New Frontier and the Great Society [movements] are nearly invisible." To Schaeffer, Ellis "lays intellectual traps for his subjects. Either they ‘idealize the oppressed,’ a serious error, or they ‘disdain the masses,’ an equally serious fault. Under these circumstances, of course, the Left can do no right, only different wrongs." Still, Schaeffer noted that "although Ellis's negative assessment of Left movements is unwarranted, his general aversion to intolerance and self-righteousness, in its many forms, is sound."
Joseph Bertolini, in Perspectives on Political Science, found more to recommend in The Dark Side of the Left. He cited the book's "excellent concluding chapter" in which Ellis "puts together all these movements and explains that they all exhibit similar qualities that make them a threat to liberalism." Alan Charles Kors, in Reason, criticized the author, writing about the utopian communities, for instance, that Ellis "ignores the essential point that these were wholly voluntary associations" and not designed to influence the lives of others. But Kors also felt that "there is lots of grand stuff in Ellis's work. He is at his best, displaying a fine ear for detail, when examining the dissonance between the love of radical intellectuals for the masses in the abstract and their contempt for ordinary lives in the particular." American Political Cultures contributor Don Herzog called it "elegantly written, provocative, and sometimes just plain provoking."
Democratic Delusions: The Initiative Process in America questions the ability of the ballot initiative to effect change. In Ellis's view, "only rarely and accidentally," a Publishers Weekly contributor wrote, "is the public interest served by the initiative process." The same reviewer also wrote that this book is one to "crystallize simmering discontent."
Ellis won the Langum Prize in Legal History in 2005 for his book To the Flag: The Unlikely History of the Pledge of Allegiance. Library Journal contributor Janet Sassi called the book "a thoughtful, thorough history of America's most revered patriotic mantra." As the author explores the more than one-hundred-year history of the Pledge of Allegiance, he examines the debates and controversies that have surrounded it at different times, including recent challenges to the Pledge, such as the Supreme Court case resulting from atheist Michael Newdow's court battle over his objection to the words "under God." The author also examines the influence the Pledge of Allegiance has had on American society, pointing out that it has been used to inspire millions and also to promote conformity and silence dissent. "To the Flag … goes far toward explaining why an issue that some persist in deeming trivial still provokes passion and outrage in loyal Americans everywhere," wrote David Greenberg in Political Science Quarterly. Booklist contributor David Pitt referred to the book as an "insightful, informative account of politics, patriotism, and—yes—paranoia."
Ellis is also coeditor with Michael Nelson of Debating the Presidency: Conflicting Perspectives on the American Executive. The book features pro and con essays concerning various aspects of the U.S. presidency, from the electoral college process and presidential performance to the balance of power between Congress and the president. Other topics addressed via the pro-and-con approach include how the framers of the Constitution would approve of the modern presidency and whether or not the media scrutinize the president too much. The editors introduce each set of pro/con essays to provide a context with which to read the essays critically.
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Ellis, Richard J., Presidential Lightning Rods: The Politics of Blame Avoidance, University Press of Kansas (Lawrence, KS), 1994.
Ellis, Richard J., The Dark Side of the Left: Illiberal Egalitarianism in America, University Press of Kansas (Lawrence, KS), 1998.
American Historical Review, February, 1995, John Patrick Diggins, review of American Political Cultures, p. 222; February, 1996, Robert A. Divine, review of Presidential Lightning Rods: The Politics of Blame Avoidance, p. 257; December, 1999, Michael Kazin, review of The Dark Side of the Left, p. 1713.
American Political Cultures, December, 1995, John Hart, review of Presidential Lightning Rods, p. 1021; June, 2000, Don Herzog, review of The Dark Side of the Left, p. 445.
American Political Science Review, June 3, 2002, Michael Nelson, "The Voter as a Legislator," p. 37.
Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, March, 1996, Rhonda Kinney, review of Presidential Lightning Rods, p. 219.
Booklist, March 1, 2005, David Pitt, review of To the Flag: The Unlikely History of the Pledge of Allegiance, p. 1116.
Choice, February, 1994, H.G. Reid, review of American Political Cultures, p. 995; March, 1995, review of Presidential Lightning Rods, p. 1212; July-August, 1998, N.B. Rosenthal, review of The Dark Side of the Left, p. 1934; July-August, 1999, S.L. Harrison, review of Speaking to the People: The Rhetorical Presidency in Historical Perspective, p. 2019; July-August, 2002, H.R. Ernst, review of Democratic Delusions: The Initiative Process in America, p. 2040.
Chronicle of Higher Education, February 22, 2002, Nina C. Ayouh, "Nota Bene," review of Democratic Delusions, p. 6.
Congress & the Presidency, spring, 1995, Kathryn Dunn Tenpas, review of Presidential Lightning Rods, p. 103.
Contemporary Sociology, November, 1994, Russell L. Hanson, review of American Political Cultures, p. 886.
Critical Review, winter, 1993, review of Cultural Theory, p. 81.
Government and Opposition, summer, 1997, Marco Verweij, review of Politics, Policy, and Culture, p. 421.
Historian, winter, 1994, Harry W. Fritz, review of American Political Cultures, p. 381; winter, 2000, W.J. Rorabaugh, review of The Dark Side of the Left, p. 407.
History, summer, 1995, review of Presidential Lightning Rods, p. 147; fall, 1998, David De Leon, review of The Dark Side of the Left, p. 6.
Human Events, December 4, 1998, review of The Dark Side of the Left, p. 18.
Independent Review, winter, 2000, Joseph R. Stromberg, review of The Dark Side of the Left, p. 439.
Journal of American History, March, 1995, James T. Kloppenberg, review of American Political Cultures, p. 1669; March, 1999, Wini Breines, review of The Dark Side of the Left, p. 1680.
Journal of Interdisciplinary History, autumn, 1995, John Higham, review of American Political Cultures, p. 326.
Journal of Politics, February, 1995, review of American Political Cultures, p. 270; February, 1996, Joseph A. Pika, review of Presidential Lightning Rods, p. 251; November, 1999, J. Donald Moon, review of The Dark Side of the Left, p. 1177.
Library Bookwatch, October, 2005, review of To the Flag.
Library Journal, July, 1994, review of Presidential Lightning Rods, p. 112; February 15, 2005, Janet Sassi, review of To the Flag, p. 148.
New York Law Journal, October 31, 2005, Daniel J. Kornstein, review of To the Flag.
Perspectives on Political Science, fall, 1995, review of Presidential Lightning Rods, p. 225; spring, 1999, Joseph C. Bertolini, review of The Dark Side of the Left, p. 97; summer, 1999, David C. Saffell, review of Speaking to the People, p. 153.
Political Science Quarterly, spring, 1995, Michael A. Genovese, review of Presidential Lightning Rods, p. 136; spring, 2006, David Greenberg, review of To the Flag, p. 172.
Political Studies, June, 1994, Martin Durham, review of American Political Cultures, p. 354.
Presidential Studies Quarterly, September, 1999, Anthony J. Mohr, review of Speaking to the People, p. 728.
Publishers Weekly, February 2, 1998, review of The Dark Side of the Left, p. 77; January 21, 2002, review of Democratic Delusions, p. 79.
Reason, December, 1998, Alan Charles Kors, review of The Dark Side of the Left.
Reference & Research Book News, February, 1995, review of Presidential Lightning Rods, p. 11; February, 1998, review of Culture Matters: Essays in Honor of Aaron Wildavsky, p. 93; May, 1998, review of The Dark Side of the Left, p. 94; August, 2006, review of Debating the Presidency: Conflicting Perspectives on the American Executive.
Review of Politics, winter, 1995, H. Mark Roelofs, review of American Political Cultures, p. 179.
Society, July-August, 1999, Robert K. Schaeffer, review of The Dark Side of the Left, p. 94.
Times Literary Supplement, May 22, 1998, review of The Dark Side of the Left, p. 11.
Washington Post Book World, March 8, 1998, review of The Dark Side of the Left, p. 6.
William and Mary Quarterly, July, 1994, Joshua Miller, review of American Political Cultures, p. 590.
Richard J. Ellis University Home Page, http://www.willamette.edu/~rellis (April 3, 2008).