John Sides

John Sides is an associate professor in the Department of Political Science at George Washington University.

Recent Articles

The Photocopy-and-Furtive-Conversation Revolution

P. took the subway to Bowling Green. On his way to the exit, he passed a line of police officers accompanied by bomb-sniffing dogs. Outside, police had surrounded the “Charging Bull” with barricades and, a few blocks north, sealed off a stretch of Wall Street around the Stock Exchange. P. tried to look nonchalant as he carried a black messenger bag that contained a first-aid kit, a bottled solution of liquid antacid and water (to remedy the effects of tear gas and pepper spray), fifteen Clif bars (carrot cake), and several hundred photocopied maps, showing seven possible locations. “We decided that low-tech communication methods would be best,” P. told me. “If we’d used a mass text message, or Twitter, it would have been easy for the police to track down who was doing this…” …P. quickly found the two other members of the Tactical Committee, both white men in their twenties. All three were “extremely nervous,” P. says. They left to scout Location Two, three-quarters of an acre of honey...

Hey Journalists! Go Report on the Ground Game!

I think the press is way too focused on media strategies — both as they say in the business paid media and earned media — and way too little on grassroots organizing and the so-called “ground game” of politics. Interest groups get under-covered tremendously. There’s also kind of moralism in political journalism; that there are good guys and bad guys; that people are being tested on character; that they are being caught doing bad things or are innocent of doing bad things. There’s a tendency not to understand larger forces — to use a kind of “great man theory” of history — and not to understand politics in the way that political scientists generally do: as a realm where interests come to contend and try to run societies either peacefully or not. Interest groups tend to be treated as illegitimate actors. Compromise tends to be undervalued. Legislation tends to be undervalued. Within political coverage, there tends to be too much focus on the executive branch and not enough on the...

Tea Party Racism: Some Experimental Evidence

Lavine and his colleagues designed an online survey and got responses from a sample of about 800 citizens, including many who expressed sympathy for the Tea Party and many who did not. The survey asked about programs designed to help people who can’t keep up with their mortgage payments stay in their homes… But the online survey contained two curveballs. At the beginning of the section on the mortgage assistance, a picture was included of a man, presumably a struggling homeowner, and a house with a foreclosure sign in the yard. Half of the sample saw a white man in the yard; half saw a black man. That’s curve No. 1. The second curve was the way the survey suggested those men came to be standing in their yards next to a foreclosure sign. Half the sample was told: “As we now know, many people took out large loans and mortgages during the housing bubble that they couldn’t afford and they are likely to lose their homes unless the government intercedes.” This is from research by political...

Blending Journalism with Academia

I think the press is way too focused on media strategies — both as they say in the business paid media and earned media — and way too little on grassroots organizing and the so-called “ground game” of politics. Interest groups get under-covered tremendously. There’s also kind of moralism in political journalism; that there are good guys and bad guys; that people are being tested on character; that they are being caught doing bad things or are innocent of doing bad things. There’s a tendency not to understand larger forces — to use a kind of “great man theory” of history — and not to understand politics in the way that political scientists generally do: as a realm where interests come to contend and try to run societies either peacefully or not. Interest groups tend to be treated as illegitimate actors. Compromise tends to be undervalued. Legislation tends to be undervalued. Within political coverage, there tends to be too much focus on the executive branch and not enough on the...

Will Assad Survive?

The entrails of the Arab Spring suggest that Assad will be the fifth dictator to fall only if the Syrian military irrevocably splits or if international military force intervenes on the side of the opposition. Neither looks likely. The Syrian army is dominated by Assad’s Alawite minority and foreign powers have demonstrated no stomach to insert themselves into the quagmire of a civil war in Syria which would spark tensions, not just between Turkey, Israel and Lebanon, but would ominously see NATO , Russia and China picking sides. From an op-ed by Andrew Reynolds, based on his forthcoming book, The Arab Spring: Political Transformation in North Africa and the Middle East , with Jason Brownlee and Tarek Masood.

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