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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

AMERICA’S FIRST BLACK* MAJOR-PARTY NOMINEE

Now that Barack Obama has won the Democratic nomination, there will be much talk today and the rest of the campaign season about the historical significance of his victory. And it is historic, no doubt. What I'm about to say is not meant in any way to diminish the significance of his nomination. However, and without wading too deeply into all the complex issues of racial identity, it must be said that Obama is not exactly your average African American politician—and I’m not just referring here to his unique rhetorical skills. What I mean is that his ascendancy also marks an historical departure from African American politics itself. As just a starter list, there are at least five ways that he is different: First, he is half-black and, consequently, light-skinned. Second, his black half is Continental African and more recent in its migration to America, through his father, as compared to slave-descendant and centuries-old in its genealogical origins. Third, he does not come from a...

FOX NETWORK SCARES BEJEEZUS OUT OF MY NIECES.

I like a good horror movie as much as the next person, and I plan to catch The Strangers --an apparent re-make of the 2006 French film Ils (“Them”), itself supposedly if loosely based on a true story -- which opens today. The theatrical trailer is pretty darn good , and quite scary. And that’s what bothers me: My sister Juli , whose two daughters are eight and four, have been exposed to the trailer during commercials for one of my nieces’ favorite shows, So You Think You Can Dance? I’m generally wary of media censoring, and expect parents to exercise control over the programs their kids watch. But when the commercials interspersed during an otherwise family-friendly program are themselves very child-unfriendly, how can parents exercise such judgments? And what in the hell are the executives at Fox, which broadcasts SYTYCD, thinking? Fortunately for my nieces, my sister DVR’s the show and was able to fast-forward through the commercials. But not all families have DVR capacity, and the...

WESTERN DISCOVERIES

Because both John McCain and Barack Obama have been touring the Interior West, I’m getting a lot of calls this week about regional strategies for the Electoral College and reaching the magical 270 threshold. I’m relieved analysts are finally discovering that, among other things, Colorado, Nevada and New Mexico combined have almost the same number of electors (19) as Ohio (20) and that adding those to John Kerry’s 252 total from 2004 would put Obama over the top, however narrowly. Allow me three quick observations. First, the two most competitive regions during the past two elections are the (Upper) Midwest and the Southwest and we have a contest appropriately fought between a man hailing from the Midwest’s largest city and the Southwest’s largest city for the hearts and minds of voters from those two regions. Second, because the demography of these regions entails a battle for Independents and Hispanics (among others) in the Southwest, and white Catholics and suburban women (among...

BLUE DOGS OUGHT TO BE RED-FACED

If I may add a point to Robert 's post below, this story in The Hill about the obstinate-yet-conflicted House “Blue Dog” coalition is exactly the sort of problem that ought to frustrate liberals. Here you have (some) conservative Democrats who have repeatedly voted to fund a war without worrying about how to pay for it, and now all of sudden they show pangs of fiscal responsibility about not coming up with the monies to fund one program in the new war spending bill. Blue Dogs finally getting with the program: Sounds great, right? Not so fast, because the part they are raising fiscal responsibility objectives about is…wait for it, because it’s really going to infuriate you… education benefits for veterans . Where was this sort of ethic from Blue Dogs when the Bush administration was asking for billions to be handed over to venal, wasteful, no-bid contract-winning war profiteers? “Some of us oppose creating a new entitlement program in an emergency spending bill, whether it’s butchers,...

HILLARY CLINTON: FRAT BOY

A smart, liberal, female Democratic friend of mine repeatedly points out to me ways in which Barack Obama often comes across to some women as arrogant. She says a lot of women who are backing Hillary Clinton will find it hard to support Obama in the fall because, in her words, “he’s another frat boy” candidate: the cool and charming jock who gets his way and doesn’t appreciate or work hard enough to have gotten where he did. But, at least as concerns this campaign, who really gave it the old college frat boy try? One candidate claimed to be “in it to win it,” as if it were a mere vanity or popularity contest worth winning for winning’s sake. One candidate casually dismissed the notion that the campaign might go much beyond the February 5 Super Tuesday contests. One candidate prepared, as one television political analyst put it recently to me, “absolutely nothing—zilch, zero” insofar as a delegate-capture strategy. One candidate proved to be a stubborn, bad listener who clung to...

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