Examining American political development through the lens of parties, movements, and political entrepreneurs
Hello! I am assistant professor of politics at Mount Holyoke College in South Hadley, Massachusetts. I have a PhD from the Department of Political Science at York University, Toronto. My current research focuses on the relationship between movements, interest groups, and political parties, and the agency of political entrepreneurs in transforming them.
My work falls within the American Political Development (APD) tradition and cross-examines the "exceptional" features of US politics in historical-comparative perspective. My first book, True Blues: The Contentious Transformation of the Democratic Party (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2021) looks at the question of party power and authority through an examination of the development of the Democratic Party's ideology and organization since the end of the 1960s to the present.
I am also working on an edited book project with Jessica Hejny (MTSU), entitled Placing Parties in American Political Development, that collects together in one volume much of the most interesting and pathbreaking work on parties within the historical institutionalist and APD tradition.
Finally, for my second monographic study, I am conducting research on the role that insurgent presidential candidates have played as agents of change in American politics. Looking at both third-party challenges as well as intraparty insurgents, the book seeks to help us make sense of the outsize impact these individuals can have -- even when they fail to win elections.
True Blues: The Contentious Transformation of the Democratic Party
Who governs political parties? Recent insurgent campaigns, such as those of Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders, have thrust this critical question to the center of political debate for casual observers and party scholars alike. Yet the dynamics of modern party politics remain poorly understood. Assertions of either elite control or interest group dominance both fail to explain the Trump victory and the surprise of the Sanders insurgency and their subsequent reverberations through the American political landscape.
In True Blues, I tackle the question of who governs parties by examining the transformation of the Democratic Party since the end of the New Deal order. Reconceiving parties as contentious institutions, I argue that Democratic Party change has been driven by recurrent conflicts between groups and officeholders to define and control party identity, program, and policy. The outcome of this prolonged struggle was a wholly new kind of party – an advocacy party – which institutionalized greater party dependence on outside groups for legitimacy and organizational support, while also, in turn, fostering greater group dependency on the presidency for the satisfaction of their symbolic and substantive demands. Consequently, while the long conflict between party reformers and counter-reformers successfully opened the Democratic Party to new voices and identities, it also facilitated the growth of presidential power, rising inequality, and deepening partisan polarization.
Tracing the rise of the advocacy party from the late 1960s through the presidency of Barack Obama, True Blues explains how and why the Democratic Party has come to its current crossroads and suggests a bold new perspective for comprehending the dynamics driving American party development.
Publications and media
Editor and Peer-Reviewed Publications
Works in Progress
“Contentious Institutions and Party Orders,” Coauthored with Jessica Hejny (working
“Bringing Contentiousness Back In: A Critical Perspective on Political Parties as
Institutions,” Coauthored with Jessica Hejny (under review)
Mount Holyoke College
July 2019 - Present
American Politics; US Elections; Parties and Movements in American Politics; American Political Development; The Politics of Disruption; The 1%
Mount Holyoke College
July 2016 - July 2019
American Politics; 2016 Election in Real Time; Parties and Movements in American Politics; US Elections; American Political Development; Why Is There No Socialism in the United States?
York University, Toronto
September 2010 - April 2016
Race and Inequality in the Postwar American City
The Future of Work; Classics in Western Political Thought; Canadian Political Economy