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

The Republican Structural Advantage

Republicans start every election cycle with structural advantages regardless of the issues and all the other factors that usually determine who wins elections.

(Art: Victor Juhasz)
In the 25th anniversary issue of this magazine, Jacob Hacker and Paul Pierson offered an explanation of what they call the “no-cost extremism” of current Republican politics. How does the GOP continue to move rightward and still win, they ask, despite the American public’s opposition to much of the party’s agenda? “Poll after poll,” they point out, “shows that major GOP positions are not all that popular. Among swing voters, there has been nothing like the party’s right turn. … On many social issues, such as gay marriage, middle-of-the-road voters have actually moved left. Yet the Republican Party keeps heading right. … In a 50-50 nation, Republicans have learned how to have their extremist cake and eat it too.” At first blush, this disconnect indeed poses a small-d democratic conundrum. Hacker and Pierson proceed to investigate a variety of possible explanations for the gap between what Americans want and what...

Boehner Exits House of Shards

The speaker was never master of his own majority.

AP Photo/Steve Helber
John Boehner’s announcement on Friday that he will resign his speakership and the U.S. House seat he first won in 1990 came as shocking, but not surprising news. Whether he knew it or not, the Ohio Republican has been on a slow, political death march since before he seized the speaker’s gavel almost five years ago. Liberals and Democrats inclined to rejoice may want to pause, and not only because Boehner’s successor may prove to be an even more difficult adversary. The speaker’s resignation may mark the onset of a new and, believe it or not, potentially more contentious era in congressional politics. The timing of Mr. Boehner’s announcement—after Pope Francis’s visit, before what may be the latest in a series of partisan government shutdowns—makes perfect sense for the Catholic speaker, who was moved to public tears yet again discussing the papal visit. But it’s the private tears Boehner may well have shed during the four-plus...

Key to Understanding the New Congress: Gingrich's Contract With America

Republicans never really promised to deploy congressional power to fundamentally change national policy.

(AP Photo/Denis Paquin)
As the 114 th Congress begins, Republicans are signaling their desire to prove their party can not only win elections, but can govern. “GOP goal: Prove it can lead,” was the title of a page A1 story in Sunday’s print edition of Washington Post . “GOP agenda for Congress: Challenge Obama, prove they can govern,” CNN blared the next day. That governing agenda surely includes speeding up energy production, slowing down Obamacare’s implementation, and continued foot-dragging on immigration reform. But top party leaders readily confess their deeper motives. “We have to show that we can be a productive party, and that, I think, will have a direct effect on whether we’re able to elect a Republican as president in 2016,” said Senator John McCain, the party’s 2008 presidential nominee. New Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell was even more blunt: “I don’t want the American people to think that, if they add a Republican...


The incomparable Marcy Wheeler makes a compelling point in a post today about yesterday's "miracle" rescue of the US Airways plane that had to make an emergency landing in the cold waters of the Hudson River: from the pilot to the flight attendants to the air traffic controllers to certain members of the rescue crews, union workers shined from start to finish. Nicely-played, organized labor. And nicely-said, Marcy. --Tom Schaller


Let me get this straight: Barack Obama hasn't taken office yet, but based merely on his appointments and statements Charles Krauthammer sees vindication of George Bush's policies? The failure by Obama to order a 180 on every policy is not necessarily a vindication of any policy, and certainly not the Bush Administration as a whole. Indeed, the process of undoing a mess is almost always incremental by its nature. Nor does the keeping on of somebody like Defense Secretary Bill Gates , as Krauthammer would have us believe, necessarily validate Bush's Iraq policy. All this reminds me of the scene in the movie version of Primary Colors in which fictional Gov. Jack Stanton (that is, Bill Clinton ) in a fit of pique throws his cell phone out of the window of a moving car. When Stanton's wife, played by the gorgeous Emma Thompson, insists the phone landed near where she's looking, and she turns out to be right, Stanton's prideful character says something like, "Well, you wouldn't have found...