Contentious Federalism: Sheriffs, State Legislatures, and Political Violence in the American West

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Authors Zoe Nemerever
Journal/Conference Name POLITICAL BEHAVIOR
Paper Category
Paper Abstract Despite the extensive literature probing individual motivations for committing political violence, little existing academic research directly examines the role of local governments in encouraging political violence. I use a federalism perspective to consider how subnational governments can decrease the perceived costs of high-risk political violence against the state. This paper introduces three novel datasets to substantiate my theories: political violence against Bureau of Land Management employees, land transfer legislation in state legislatures, and a roster of constitutionalist sheriffs. As emblems of the contentious relationship between rural land users and the federal government, employees of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) routinely deal with threats, harassment, and physical violence from civilians who are incensed by restrictions on the use of federal land. Counties with constitutionalist sheriffs are 50% more likely to have violence against BLM employees than other counties, even when controlling for other factors. Additionally, levels of political violence are higher in years following the passage of land transfer legislation in the state legislature. Elected officials’ legislative activity, campaign promises, and law enforcement decisions all may promote political violence against federal employees. Incorporating federalism into the study of political violence uncovers how the actions of elected officials at the state and county levels can lower the perceived costs of violence against the national government.
Date of publication 2019
Code Programming Language R

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