Thomas Schaller

Thomas F. Schaller is an associate professor of political science at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County and author of The Stronghold: How Republicans Captured Congress but Surrendered the White House.

Recent Articles

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...

Sore Loserman

A day before the Connecticut Senate primary, Paola Roy was still struggling with how she would cast her vote. Then she happened to stumble into Joe Lieberman at one of the senator's final campaign stops, in the small town of Southington. Roy immigrated to the United States from Sicily in 1971, and not until the early 1990s did she go through the process of gaining her citizenship. She lives in Plantsville, a small hamlet next to Southington, both of which are home to significant Italian-American and French-American populations. With an Italian first name and French surname courtesy of her late husband, this longtime state employee and mother of two was a useful barometer for Lieberman's support in this largely working-class area 20 miles southwest of Hartford. If he hoped to thwart Greenwich businessman Ned Lamont's surging primary challenge, Lieberman needed to close the sale with voters like Roy. After chatting with folks at a dozen tables inside Anthony Jack's restaurant, Lieberman...

Cat Scratch Fever

It was moments before my panel with political consultant Dave "Mudcat" Saunders on the significance of the South to the Democratic Party at the Yearly Kos convention last week in Las Vegas. Another political consultant, Joe Trippi -- who was added to the panel at the last minute by the moderator, MyDD blogger Jerome Armstrong, himself now also a political consultant -- leaned over to Saunders and said, "Do we even have to have this panel? Can't we just say, 'Mudcat is right,' and get out of here?" Thus my amusement, following the panel, when a disgruntled audience member came forward to insult me -- the guy living on a state university professor's salary -- as "just another slick consultant." I presume the heckler was among those who hollered when Saunders opened his remarks by saying I could "kiss [his] rebel ass" for even suggesting that Democrats need to build a non-southern majority as their best and fastest route back to national power. How ironic that the attendee's reflexive...

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