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UC Davis Experts on Current U.S. Politics and Policies Presidential Leadership, Environment, History of Politics

By Karen Nikos-Rose on February 8, 2017 in Society, Arts & Culture

This list was updated in September 2017

The following University of California, Davis, researchers are available to comment to media on topics in the news regarding the presidential administration and policy reform.  From the history of the political process to oil policy to the environment, UC Davis can provide expertise on a variety of issues in the news. Keep an eye on this and other current expert lists on the UC Davis news website. (“Expert Sources” are located approximately halfway down the page on the right). These resources will be updated regularly.

Leadership and inconsistency

Kim Elsbach, associate dean and professor in the Graduate School of Management, studies how organizations, their leaders and individuals acquire and maintain images, identities and reputations. She also looks at issues of leader trustworthiness, and is the author of the book, Organizational Perception Management. Elsbach says, “People in Western society do not like inconsistency in their leaders. It’s what gets a lot of leaders tripped up. There is so much pressure on leaders to be consistent that it outweighs the need to make the right decision or to be accurate.” She has commented to the media on President Trump and the effects of the appointment of a special prosecutor. Contact: (530) 752-0910,

History of electoral politics, history of presidencies

Eric Rauchway, professor of history, can discuss presidential politics, the postwar (after 1945) order (including the United Nations and Bretton Woods institutions), and policies to oppose fascism. He is also an expert on the Electoral College; congressional politics, constitutional rules and party structure; and the role of international economics, globalization and wars in American history. He recently has been quoted in the media on President Trump's statements on the civil war and President Andrew Jackson. He can talk about economic and monetary policies, specifically comparisons to historical policies, especially the New Deal.

He has contributed to Slate and The American Prospect. He is the author of Murdering McKinley: The Making of Theodore Roosevelt’s America, The Great Depression and the New Deal: A Very Short Introduction and Blessed Among Nations: How the World Made America. Contact:

History of politics, Civil War, slavery, segregation

Gregory Downs, professor of history, can talk about the history of U.S. politics, the Civil War and slavery, segregation, Jim Crow laws, military occupation, and the history of the Constitution. His latest works include, After Appotomax: Military Occupation and the Ends of War (Harvard University Press, 2015), and the National Park Service’s Theme Study on Reconstruction. His efforts have been highlighted in The Atlantic and the New York Times.

He can also address U.S.-Cuba relations. Contact:

The constitution and the president, other constitutional issues

Carlton Larson is a scholar of American constitutional law and Anglo-American legal history. His constitutional law scholarship addresses a wide range of issues, including enemy combatant detentions, legacy preferences in public universities, the historical basis of Second Amendment rights, and parents’ rights to name their children. As a legal historian, he focuses primarily on eighteenth-century America, and has written extensively about treason prosecutions in revolutionary Pennsylvania.

Professor Larson’s scholarship has been cited by numerous federal and state courts and has been profiled in The New York Times, The Economist, TIME, and many other publications. He is a frequent commentator on public radio and regularly advises the state legislature on pending legislation. He has commented for the media recently on the Logan Act, treason law, reports on Trump’s ties to Russia, and free speech issues.

Professor Larson is a graduate of Harvard University and Yale Law School, where he was an Articles Editor of The Yale Law Journal. Prior to joining the UC Davis law faculty, Professor Larson served as a law clerk to Judge Michael Daly Hawkins of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit and spent three years as a commercial litigator at Covington & Burling in Washington, DC. Contact:

Who votes? Political and civic behavior and election reforms

Mindy Romero is a political sociologist and director of the California Civic Engagement Project (CCEP), at the UC Davis. She can discuss voter representation trends among Latinos, Asians, youth and women. She can also address voting rights and electoral systems, online voter registration, vote centers, vote-by-mail, automatic voter registration and political party representation.

The CCEP is a civic engagement research and outreach initiative for the state of California. The CCEP has a policy brief series examining voter turnout, election trends and the latest electoral reforms. More information on these reports: Romero also had a TEDx Talk on the Power of the Youth voter. Contact: (530) 665-3010,

Health care initiatives

Drew Halfmann, associate professor of sociology, focuses his research and teaching on social movements and the politics of health and social policy. His current research is on the African-American struggle for health equality from Reconstruction to Obamacare. He can talk about how Republican health care proposals reverse the recent progress made by eliminating pre-existing conditions as criteria for getting fairly priced health insurance coverage. Read his recent op-ed on this topic. He is the author of Doctors and Demonstrators: How Political Institutions Shape Abortion Law in the United States, Britain and Canada (University of Chicago Press, 2011), which won the 2012 Charles Tilly Best Book Award from the American Sociological Association Section on Collective Behavior and Social Movements, and the 2013 Distinguished Scholarship Award from the Pacific Sociological Association. He blogs at After-Dinner Critic and Dissent. Contact:

Oil policy and Russia

Amy Myers Jaffe, Institute for Transportation Studies, is executive director, energy and sustainability. She is an energy consultant and leading expert on the geopolitics of oil, energy, security and risk and an influential thought leader on global energy policy and sustainability. She also serves as senior advisor, Energy and Sustainability Office of the Chief Investment Officer of the Regents, University of California. She can discuss United States-Russia relationships and issues on oil and gas; and transportation technology advances and the long term outlook for oil. Contact:

Economic policy

UC Davis faculty share their perspectives, separating fact from fiction, on current economic issues on a national site. See, “A Matter of Facts,"

Conspiracy theories; roots of modern conservatism

Professor and history department chair Kathryn S. Olmsted has long investigated conspiracy theories, from the Kennedy assassination to 9/11, and many that have cropped up since, even during the recent elections. She authored Real Enemies: Conspiracy Theories and American Democracy, World War I to 9/11 (Oxford University Press, 2009).

In her recent research, she also has re-examined the labor disputes in Depression-era California that led California’s businessmen and media to create a new style of politics with corporate funding, intelligence gathering, professional campaign consultants and alliances between religious and economic conservatives. Her 2015 book is Right Out of California: The 1930s and the Big Business Roots of Modern Conservatism. She is quoted in The New Republic on the history of states' rights. Contact:

Policing, surveillance, technology, constitutional law

Elizabeth Joh has written widely about policing, technology and surveillance. She does a podcast, "What Trump Can Teach Us About Con Law"  with Roman Mars. Her scholarship has appeared in the Stanford Law Review, the California Law Review, the Northwestern University Law Review, the Harvard Law Review Forum, and the University of Pennsylvania Law Review Online. She has also provided commentary for the Los Angeles Times, Slate, and the New York Times. Contact:

Election law and voting rights

Law professor Christopher Elmendorf can talk about election law and the Voting Rights Act. His recent writings have focused on empirical methods for use in voting rights litigation, voter behavior, the geography of racial discrimination, and judicial strategies for policing partisan gerrymanders. His work has been published in the Yale Law Journal, and the law reviews of several universities, including the University of Chicago, Columbia University, UC Berkeley (California Law Review), New York University and Duke University, among others. Contact: (530) 752-5756, (415) 385-5781 (cell),

Climate and the environment

Benjamin Houlton, professor and chancellor’s fellow, and director of the UC Davis John Muir Institute of the Environment, can discuss climate change, global biogeochemical cycles and other issues related to the environment. He also gave his predictions for the year in this UC Davis story. Contact:

Media contact(s)

Karen Nikos-Rose, UC Davis News and Media Relations, 530-219-5472,

Media Resources