I am professor of political science at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. I started at UMBC in 1998, shortly after completing my PhD at the University of North Carolina in 1997. I am the author of The Stronghold: How Republicans Captured Congress but Surrendered the White House, Whistling Past Dixie: How Democrats Can Win Without the South, and co-author (with fellow UMBC political scientist Tyson King-Meadows) of Devolution and Black State Legislators: Challenges and Choices in the Twenty-First Century. Along with Paul Waldman, I am author of White Rural Rage: The Threat to American Democracy (Random House, 2024). A former political columnist for the Baltimore Sun, I have published commentaries in The New York Times, The Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, The American Prospect, Politico, and The New Republic, and have appeared on ABC News, MSNBC, The Colbert Report, National Public Radio and C-SPAN. Since 2004, I have given lectures on American elections in 19 countries on behalf of the U.S. State Department.
Q: What led you to become a political scientist?
A: I came to political science indirectly. As an undergraduate I majored in communications and was far more interested in writing about sports than politics. But after running for and winning election as student body president, I caught the political bug and decided to pursue graduate work in political science, first at Florida State and later at the University of North Carolina.
Q: What kinds of research questions are most interesting to you?
A: I am interested in American campaigns, elections, parties and race–and especially questions at the intersection of these topics. My two most recent books focus specifically on political parties, one each for the two major parties: Whistling Past Dixie (Democrats) and The Stronghold (Republicans). At a curious moment in history when U.S. parties are weak but American voters’ partisan attachments are strong, the parties are fascinating to study.
Q: What ideas, skills, or experiences do you hope students will come away with after having taken a class with you?
A: First, I hope students leave my courses as better writers than when they arrived. For graduates in political science or other social sciences, writing well is essential to finding employment and career success after graduation. Second, I avoid textbooks in favor of the types of readings that will make students more active and engaged readers. After all, those who read more tend to write better.
Q: What can POLI majors do with their degrees?
A: Political science graduates can and do work in a variety of fantastic placements. My graduates have gone on to work for Congress, the Maryland General Assembly, the governor’s office, plus a variety of jobs with lobbying firms, political parties and the media. What’s particularly exciting to me is when a current student finds an internship or paid job working for an accomplished alumnus I taught 10 or 15 years ago.