Thomas Schaller

Thomas F. Schaller is an associate professor of political science at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County and author of Whistling Past Dixie: How Democrats Can Win Without the South.

Recent Articles

What Ever Happened to Moderate Republicans?

With the hard right dominating their party, two groups have formed to recenter the Republicans. But even in their old habitats -- Wall Street and the media -- they're struggling to be noticed.

Rep. Jim Ramstad's (R-Minn.) career provides a useful prism through which to view the Republican's disappearing moderate wing. He announced in September that he will not be seeking re-election in 2008. (AP Photo/Nick Wass, File)
When Minnesota's Jim Ramstad was first elected to Congress in 1990, the Republican Party was approaching a critical juncture. President George H. W. Bush, a mainline Protestant and former abortion-rights supporter who had just appointed moderate David Souter to the Supreme Court, was riding strong popular approval in the wake of the Gulf War. But the Souter appointment, coupled with Bush's broken pledge to not raise taxes, awakened a conservative movement that had become powerful enough to make or break Republican presidents. Bush tried to appease conservatives with his 1991 selection of Clarence Thomas for the high court, but it was too little too late: He had become an apostate. Ramstad, the moderate rookie, held on to his seat in 1992. Bush did not. Over the next dozen years, Ramstad would witness the sometimes rapid, occasionally stalled, but always rightward shift of his party. The maverick's image he nurtured with frequent votes against his party was cemented when, after being...

Will the GOP Make a Statement?

Why rank-and-file Republicans might opt to send a protest message by throwing the '08 fight with a statement candidate.

At this month's presidential debate in the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, the Republican presidential hopefuls struggled like 10 puppies trying to climb out of a box to prove who among them is the next Reagan. In future debates, or when they are campaigning individually, expect to hear each of the GOP candidates continue to assert that he is the one, true heir. Of course, none are. With the exception of Congressman Ron Paul of Texas, and possibly former Wisconsin Governor Tommy Thompson, the seven second-tier candidates are generally more conservative if not more reactionary than Reagan. The deeper problem for the Republicans, as everyone on stage and viewing audiences well know, is that the troika of major candidates -- former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani, Arizona Senator John McCain, and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney -- are perceived, fairly or not, as too liberal to stake any legitimate claim to the Gipper's legacy. So allow me to dispatch with all the "it's way...

Gettysburg, Again

The revolution is over. After 12 years of GOP control of both chambers of Congress and a majority of American governors' offices, the Republican era has finally imploded. And while it was accelerated by self-inflicted wounds from bribery and a child-predation scandal, the Republican demise was chiefly caused by a congenital self-denial about the growing disconnect between the party's pursuit of power and the inability to deliver on its promises. Simply put, the GOP could no longer sustain a majority that elevated public relations over policy performance, mantra over management. Despite their defeat, Republicans will attempt to fashion a sort of "pre-visionist" history of why their reign ended. The same folks who are all too happy to brag about mandates that exceed the actual winning margins -- or in Bush's case six years ago, a negative margin -- have both the media means and ideological motive to re-cast their defeat as if it were an indirect validation of their ideas and policies...

Who Rides the Elephant?

Halfway through The Elephant in the Room: Evangelicals, Libertarians and the Battle to Control the Republican Party , the new book by New York Post columnist and self-described libertarian Ryan Sager, readers may find themselves torn over whether to empathize with Republican Congressman Mike Pence of Indiana. The former talk show host won a House seat in 2000, the same year George W. Bush punched his Supreme Court-issued ticket for Washington. Regretful of the fact that he missed out on the 1994 revolution that swept the GOP into power in both chambers, Pence arrived on Capitol Hill in January 2001 excited -- “suited up” -- to join that ambitious pack of conservatives who had taken control six years earlier and, presumably, were still rocking the people's House. Soon after his arrival, however, Pence learned that H.R. 1 -- the bill assigned symbolic import by virtue of its position at the front of the legislative queue -- would constitute nothing less than the largest expansion in the...

Tactics Make Perfect

A few weeks before the Democrats' 2002 midterm disaster, I found myself at a political event seated next to a longtime Democratic congressman. During a lull, I asked him why Democrats were unable to nationalize the congressional elections as Republican Newt Gingrich did in 1994. “It's a lot tougher for us,” he bemoaned. “We're more heterogeneous, and it's hard to find a message we can all agree on.” He was more or less right: The Democrats are the bigger tent party, making it difficult to fashion a national policy umbrella under which 200 incumbents and another 200-plus challengers can fit comfortably. Take Iraq, this election's most salient issue. Prominent national Democrats have staked out at least four positions. Feingold Democrats opposed the war from the start and want America to withdraw. Kerry-Edwards Democrats voted for the war, complained frequently about its management, and later admitted their war votes were a mistake. Hillary Democrats are akin to Kerry-Edwards ones, only...

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