For all the important things about which my wife and I agree, we disagree about acknowledgments—namely, I read them, she does not. For her, acknowledgments are nothing more than a waste of time; for me, they are the essential starting point of any book. After all, while books are about ideas, they are written by people—people whose voices become professional and academic while writing, but people whose lives occur in a rich and complex world from which the reader is wholly excluded. Acknowledgments are the one instance in which readers see authors as people—as mothers and fathers, husbands and wives, friends and colleagues; they are the one instance in which authors offer a glimpse of something more than their scholarly pronouncements. These glimpses, I know from recounting my own favorite acknowledgments, come in many shapes and sizes—from amusing anecdotes that illuminate or epitomize the book’s origins (James Morone’s Hellfire Nation) to touching meditations about those who have made the long nights of writing durable (Julian Zelizer’s On Capitol Hill) to paeans to those whose ideas have encountered, collided with, and shaped the author’s own in meaningful ways (Mark Graber’s Dred Scott and the Problem of Constitutional Evil). I am not sure where my acknowledgments fit along that spectrum or how they measure up to Morone’s, Zelizer’s, or Graber’s, but I have enjoyed writing them nonetheless. If the eight chapters that follow are systematic analysis, then these next several pages are joyous remembrance.
Gary Jacobsohn—more than deserving of first position in any accounting of my intellectual influences—set me on the path to studying the American Constitution and Supreme Court at Williams College more than a decade ago, and, though nothing in here emerged directly out of any conversation I had with him, neither would anything in here exist were it not for him. The more proximate (but by no means more important) source of the spark that became this book came from a group of my Princeton University precept students—specifically Tyler Allard, Anne Louise Bigliani, Jesse Creed, David Korn, Eryck Kratville, and Josh Waldman, all of whom made a habit of asking questions for which I was largely without answers. As I worked my way toward those answers, Paul Frymer nurtured a nascent idea and thankfully confirmed that it could sustain a “project” (rather than just a seminar paper) all its own; Ken Kersch offered enthusiasm, encouragement, and edifying conversation, usually while treating me to lunch in or around Princeton (p.x) in the process; and a collection of smart and congenial scholars including (but certainly not limited to) Chris Achen, Peri Arnold, Beau Breslin, Steve Burbank, Dan Carpenter, Doug Edlin, Chris Eisgruber, Mark Graber, Fred Greenstein, Ed Hartnett, Scott James, Dave Lewis, George Lovell, Richard Morgan, Carol Nackenoff, Robert Post, Ted Ruger, Kim Scheppele, Gordon Silverstein, Rogers Smith, Jim Stoner, Rick Valelly, and Julian Zelizer probed, poked, and prodded me along in various but uniformly helpful ways. Doug Arnold demanded theoretical precision and analytic rigor, honestly telling me at one point that I had neither a theory nor anything close to a theory before helping me to rebuild it in the same way I argue the federal judiciary was built—piece by piece, from the ground up. Once the theory was complete, Doug lent his keen editorial eye to almost every page, rearranging sentences to say things more elegantly and more economically than I thought possible. Keith Whittington flabbergasted me with his depth of analysis, immediate comments, patience for dumb questions, and thorough guidance on matters large and small. I have no idea where he found the time or energy to read seemingly every book, article, or unpublished masters’ thesis that might have been relevant to my work, but I am glad he did and incredibly grateful he gave me access to his encyclopedic store of knowledge while in graduate school and that he has continued to serve as a resource since then. At Princeton University Press, Chuck Myers bred confidence with his excitement and calm with his efficiency, Debbie Tegarden kept things moving smoothly, and Brian Bendlin provided thorough and careful copyediting. Portions of chapters 3 and 6 draw upon material published in Studies in American Political Development 24, no. 1 (2010): 90–120, and the Journal of Politics 69, no. 1 (2007): 73–87, respectively; both are reprinted here with the permission of Cambridge University Press.
Among friends from various stages of life, Michael Cutrone, Megan Francis, and Dave Glick were always willing to share a cup of coffee and let me distract them with my work in Princeton; Will Barndt, Peter Kung, and Mike Steinberger supplied competition (of the athletic variety), comedy, and camaraderie, respectively, in Claremont; and Karima Barrow and Neil Roberts, Lisa Koriouchkina and Q. Ashraf, and Tara and Will Olney have made dinner about far more than food in Williamstown. Through it all, Emily Zackin displayed a penchant for breaking down an argument and putting it back together—even from half a world away, even on incredibly short notice—with a smile, and Freeden Oeur never stopped believing in me. Time and again, both Emily and Freeden also proved—in unique and evolving ways too multiple to list here—why they are the type of friends one feels blessed to have in life.
From southern California to northwestern Massachusetts, the San Gabriels to the Berkshires, the City of Trees and PhDs to the Village Beautiful, my colleagues in both the Politics Department at Pomona College and the Political Science Department at Williams College have also fulfilled a variety of valuable roles. In Claremont, I was fortunate to find, among other wonderful colleagues, a supremely gracious predecessor (Leo Flynn), a walking book of wisdom and witticisms (Lorn Foster), an inspirational firebrand who continually makes me want to be more like (p.xi) him (John Seery), and a lifelong intellectual soulmate who continually makes me into a better version of myself (Sue McWilliams). In Williamstown, I have been lucky to encounter—again, among other happy things—an unflaggingly supportive chair (Jim Mahon), a sports-obsessed elder statesman (Michael MacDonald), a sophisticated theoretical mind (Mark Reinhardt), an incisive historical interlocutor (Nicole Mellow), a pair of receptive sounding boards and lively lunch companions (Paul MacDonald and Ngoni Munemo), and a trusted and supportive sparring partner (James McAllister). Leaving the first group—especially John and Sue, who made every day of my life at Pomona truly idyllic for two years—was unquestionably the most difficult moment of my (admittedly thus far short) professional life, but the opportunity to come “home” to Williams was too tempting to pass up; luckily for me, the second group—with James in the office next door and the nostalgia of having my mentor’s job floating in the air above—has also made it too good to be true.
Colleagues, of course, are—or, at least, have been for me—only half the benefit of being associated with two of the very best educational institutions in the world. It is commonly assumed—especially, I would imagine, by parents who write the tuition checks—that professors educate students. In my case, even as I would like to think I have done that, I know that mine have also educated—and continue, on a daily basis, to educate—me. I wish I could do more than simply name them, but listing the precise ways in which each and every one of them has shaped me as a scholar and a teacher might well double the length of this book; I trust that they, and many others not named here, all know how my fondness for them extends well beyond the words on this page. Especially influential in my perpetual education—to say nothing of my daily enjoyment of my job—at Pomona were Laura Beebe, Sean Beienburg, Dawn Bickett, Greg Carter, Grace Chuchla, Jemel Derbali, Becka DeSmidt, Kevin Frick, Amal Karim, Scott Levy, Dahni Ma, Tom Sprankling, Marlies Talay, Ingrid Vidal, and Jon Zelig; at Williams, my kids are, Darryl Brown, Vera Cecelski, Jen Chan, Rose Courteau, Aimee Dennett, Danielle Diuguid, Kara Duggan, Billy Glidden, Lindsey Graham, Emily Hertz, Tyler Holden, Natalie Johnson, Greg Kim, Chloe Kuh, Alexa Lutchen, Sam Murray, Michelle Noyer-Granacki, Cameron Nutting, Jordan Roberts, Andy Quinn, Chandler Sherman, Nicole Smith, Juliana Stone, Nathaniel Sutton, Stefan Ward-Wheten, and Sam Weinstein. Sean, Natalie, Juliana, and Scott all deserve special mention for sundry forms of research assistance. Sean dutifully performed early copyediting and fastidious fact-checking. Natalie perspicaciously tracked down obscure nineteenth-century information about state populations and congressional committee composition. Juliana—besides often making me laugh and always making me smile—gracefully offered thoughtful feedback and pitch-perfect advice on all manner of aesthetic issues, including the layout of the jacket, the lyricism of the acknowledgments, and the liveliness of the first chapter. Scott single-handedly turned me around on Homer Cummings, but that was only the start: already aware that he is probably more familiar with the strengths and weaknesses of this book than anyone other than me, he should also know—as I firmly (p.xii) do—that those strengths would have been decidedly fewer and those weaknesses unquestionably more glaring in his absence.
Regardless of whether I happened to be dwelling on strengths or weaknesses, triumphs or tribulations, I have purposefully (and perhaps unnecessarily) shielded my family from hearing about my research. That does not mean, of course, I did not garner strength from them along the way. My parents—Bari and Chris Carley, Robert and Rachel Crowe—have always demonstrated, in both word and deed, their confidence in my ability to do whatever I set my mind to and their pride in whatever it was I ultimately did while my siblings—Billy and Madison Crowe and Taylor Carley—have always demonstrated, in both word and deed, that they loved their brother no matter how infrequently he came to visit or how far away from home he moved. I owe all seven of them a debt of gratitude not only for never questioning me but also for never letting me question their support for me.
Of course, my greatest debt is to my wife, best friend, and confidant, Christen Romanick. Her blasphemous views about acknowledgments notwithstanding, I love, respect, admire, and trust her deeply. Over the past few years, Christen let me work when I needed to and happily distracted me when I did not want to. Early in the process, before we started our family, she spent far too many days alone, passed far too many evenings virtually alone, and went to bed far too many nights alone. More recently, even with a toddler in the house, she let me disappear for the occasional long stretch of time when I yearned to focus on research even as she had things—including much-desired rest and much-needed sanity!—to focus on herself. In the meantime, she consoled me when things were going poorly, celebrated with me when they were going well, listened to me brainstorm when I developed new ideas, discovered my errors with her well-honed copyediting skills, picked up the slack on things I forgot (or claimed I lacked time) to do around the house, and invented words with me on a daily basis. I am not yet, and may well never be, certain how to repay her for the myriad ways in which she made this book—in which she makes everything—possible, so simply finishing it and at last being more present, in every way possible, for her and our two little men, Everett and Fisher, will need to suffice for the moment. Everett, of course, did much in his first three years of life to make completing this book more difficult (starting with the fact that he ripped the “enter” key off my laptop!) but even more—from wanting to read books to asking to help cook to begging to throw rocks in the river—to make the prospect of completing it more enticing. His little brother, Fisher, may only have arrived after the bulk of work on this book was completed, but that hardly means he—or, more accurately, the prospect of him—did not simultaneously distract and motivate me as I sought to finish. (Inheriting his big brother’s love of dilatory techniques, he also steadfastly refused to continue napping in my arms or on my chest while I sought to copyedit during his first few weeks of life.) Simply put, anything done with Christen and the boys is better than anything done without them; they are the ones who give my days meaning and the ones to whom my heart is dedicated.
Finally, there is he to whom this work is dedicated. Long before I knew how this book would end, I knew how it would begin: with a nod to my late friend (p.xiii) and teacher Tim Cook. And long before it became clear where I would finish this book, I realized—in retrospect—where it became clear that I would someday write a book: at a cramped table in a small coffee shop on a snowy street tucked away in the mountains. For it was there on a cold and dusky December afternoon that Tim, an accomplished scholar of political communication and the mass media (among other subjects) whom I first encountered as my unassuming yet generous freshman advisor in college, asked about my interest in serving as his research assistant. To this day, I am not sure what prompted Tim’s offer, but it intrigued me enough to spend the summer in Williamstown, where I found myself increasingly committed to graduate school in political science and where two doors down from my dorm room I met the woman who would ultimately become my wife. All freshman advisors remove registration holds, many guide curricular planning, and some write letters of recommendations; mine gave me both a career I love and a partner I love.
I knew Tim just under seven years—he passed away in August 2006, a few months before I accepted a job at his alma mater (Pomona)—but, even in that relatively short period of time, he taught me innumerable lessons that stick with me to this very day. I can’t go to the Thai restaurant without remembering Tim’s advice that green curry should be eaten with duck rather than chicken. I can’t discuss my syllabus on the first day of class or hold a review session at the end of the semester without repeating—perhaps ad nauseam to my students’ ears—Tim’s aphorism that “even a final exam can be a learning experience.” I can’t write about the Supreme Court without embodying Tim’s insistence that, despite the impression lent by most scholars of public law, “Congress makes a little bit of law, too.” (I’d like to think that point is painfully apparent in this book.) And I can’t think about any of those lessons without also thinking about the ones Tim never had the chance to teach me. (One idiosyncratic example: upon reading my senior thesis acknowledgment that “from the mountains of Massachusetts to the bayous of Baton Rouge, Tim Cook has spent much of the past four years teaching me both what political science was and how to be a political scientist,” Tim, who had by that point left Williams for Louisiana State University, simply asked, “Do you even know what a bayou is?”)
In the days before brain cancer took Tim from us entirely too soon, I futilely tried to put my feelings about him, my reflections of him, and my gratitude toward him into writing. I have no idea whether my rambling and disorganized electronic “missive” (a word I never use but one of which Tim was inordinately fond) actually reached Tim before he passed, but I wanted him to know, in case he did not already, how much he had meant to me. I wanted him to know that on issues from food to teaching to research, from literature to politics to humanity, he shaped my thinking and influenced my worldview in more ways than I can explain. Most of all, I wanted him to know how he had literally changed the course of my life and how I planned to dedicate my first book to him as some small measure of appreciation. Tim never had the chance to read any of the material in this book, a fact that saddens me because he is, among those who cannot read it, the person I most wish could do so. I do not know whether or not he would have agreed with what I have (p.xiv) to say, but I know beyond a glimmer of a doubt that I would have enjoyed talking about it with him. So, for one last time, from a roomier table at a shinier version of the very coffee shop on the very (and usually still very snowy) street in the very (and definitely still very tucked away) mountains where it all began, from an Eph who briefly taught Sagehens (and now teaches Ephs) to a Sagehen who long taught Ephs—for one last time: all good things, Tim C—all good things.