Research

My research uses qualitative and statistical methods to produce innovative findings on political regimes, regime transitions, political parties, and Latin American politics. My main line of research examines how former dictators and their inner circles try to preserve their interests and influence under democracy.

Recent Papers

“Branching Out: Consequences of the Dispersion of Authoritarian Elites Across Government.” With Michael Albertus. Under Review at Democratization.

Op-ed article, “Pinochet Still Looms Large in Chilean Politics.” With Michael Albertus. Foreign Policy (11/05/19).

Dissertation: The Strategic Foundations of Authoritarian Successor Parties

Why do political parties linked to former dictatorships crop up in many new democracies? Why do they often become mainstays of democratic politics and even regain access to governmental power?

I root so-called authoritarian successor parties (ASPs) in the decision-making of individual authoritarian-era elites. I argue that wide-ranging political and economic elites from a former dictatorship will coordinate to create and sustain such ASPs under two conditions: First, threats to elites’ persons, property, and privilege under democracy generate a perceived need for organized political protection. Second, a nascent ASP quickly and credibly signals its reliability as a political ally to authoritarian-era elites by staunchly defending the policies and projects of dictatorship.

I assess my argument using statistical and qualitative methods. First, I draw on an original dataset of all Latin American ASPs from 1900 to 2015. I show how ASPs usually cater to narrow elite interests under democracy and, accordingly, the overall quality of democracy tends to suffer wherever they crop and exert their influence. Second, I draw on original interview and archival data to perform detailed analyses of ASPs in contemporary Chile and Peru. In both cases, ASPs unexpectedly survived democratic transition and even became the most successful parties in their respective systems. Why? I show how, on one hand, threats in the form of transitional justice and proposed redistributive reforms prompted former authoritarian elites to seek refuge within ASPs shortly after democratic transition. On the other, ASPs early on signaled their reliability as a political ally to former authoritarian elites by staunchly defending those elites’ interests at every turn.