Graduation Year


Date of Submission


Document Type

Campus Only Senior Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts



Reader 1

Emily Pears


This thesis investigates moments when politicians cast votes that maintain, restore, and protect democratic ideals and institutions. I begin by presenting a novel theory of “constitutional votes of courage.” The constitutional component of the theory is satisfied when representatives fulfill their oath of office to defend the Constitution. Politicians meet the courage requirement of the theory when they vote in opposition to the majority of their fellow officeholders or members of their political party. To test and refine my theory, I conducted case studies on Congresswoman Liz Cheney, Senator Mitch McConnell, Senator Mitt Romney, late Senator John McCain, former Senator Russ Feingold, and late Senator Margaret Chase Smith. The case studies highlight the important role constitutional votes of courage play in promoting civic education among the American public. The theory posits that votes can help inform Americans about constitutional crises. Constitutional votes of courage should help the public form a more robust attachment to democratic institutions and constitutional principles. Officeholders who cast these votes remind Americans that there are faithful defenders and caretakers of our democratic system.

This thesis is restricted to the Claremont Colleges current faculty, students, and staff.