Bruce Cain

2019 Rothbaum Distinguished Lectureship Retrospective

Michael H. Crespin | Carl Albert Center

Professor Bruce E. Cain delivered a series of lectures on the politics of adapting to climate change in the American West as the featured speaker in the Rothbaum Distinguished Lecture series sponsored last fall by the Carl Albert Center.

Bruce Cain photo

Bruce E. Cain, Stanford University

The lectures surveyed the intersection between citizens, policymakers, and federalism as political actors struggle to overcome collective action problems related to climate change.

The biennial lectureship is central to the mission of the Carl Albert Congressional Research and Studies Center. It brings together scholars, students and citizens on important questions regarding the health of the nation’s representative democracy. Since 1983, the center has welcomed some of political science’s most able and discerning observers of American political life.

Cain, the Charles Louis Ducommun Professor in Humanities and Sciences and the Spence and Cleone Eccles Family Director of the Bill Lane Center for the American West at Stanford University served as the center’s 19th Julian J. Rothbaum Distinguished Lecturer, delivering three lectures on Oct. 22, 23, and 24. Professor Cain is an expert in U.S. politics, particularly the politics of California and the American West. His expertise includes political regulation, applied democratic theory, representation and state politics.

Cain’s current research focuses on state regulatory processes and stakeholder involvement in the areas of water, energy and the environment. He has published research on the topic in the Water and Environment Journal, Energy Policy, Sustainability, and the American Review of Public Administration.

Rothbaum Lecture 2019

Professor Bruce Cain delivering the 2019 Rothbaum Lecture.

In the lectures, Cain taught us about the importance of thinking about the West as a region, rather than individual states. We also learned about the potential for future fights over water, and the need to recognize the vast amount of western land that is under federal control.

Rothbaum Dinner Panel

Rep. Emily Virgin participates in panel discussion with Rothbaum Lecturer Bruce Cain, moderated by CAC Associate Director Prof. Charles Finocchiaro.

Bringing substantial data to bear, Professor Cain showed us that while Democrats and Republicans disagree about causes and solutions to climate change, some traditionally conservative states like Oklahoma, Texas, and Iowa are actually leading on producing wind energy while more liberal states like California are struggling with red tape associated with permits.

Cain also argued that it is hard to enact effective solutions to climate change because politics incentivize short term aid after the fact rather than long term planning. Finally, Cain explored slowly moving climate catastrophes like flooding and droughts.

In addition to his three lectures, Cain met with faculty and graduate students from the University of Oklahoma’s Department of Political Science. He also participated in a roundtable discussion about climate change with faculty from the Department of Geography and Environmental Sustainability, the Center for Risk and Crisis Management, and the School of Geosciences.

During the traditional ceremonial dinner, the Carl Albert Center’s Associate Director Charles Finocchiaro moderated a panel discussion with Cain and Oklahoma’s House Minority Leader Emily Virgin.

Crespin, Jankowsky, Cain, and Finocchiaro

Faculty and attendees at the 2019 Rothbaum Lecture. Pictured (L to R): CAC Director and Prof. Michael Crespin; Joel Jankowsky, son of Julian J. Rothbaum; Prof. Cain; Prof. Finocchiaro.

Cain’s lectures, suitably revised, will be submitted for publication to the University of Oklahoma Press. This year’s topic is particularly relevant for a press featuring current monographs on the American West.

The latest book in the University of Oklahoma Press’s Rothbaum series, How America Lost Its Mind: The Assault on Reason That’s Crippling Our Democracy, by Thomas E. Patterson was published in time for the 2019 lecture. Professor Patterson was the 16th Rothbaum lecturer and his book joins 13 other distinguished books in the series.

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