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Political Experts

Vanderbilt has a campus broadcast facility with a dedicated fiber optic line for live TV interviews and a radio ISDN line. The News Service number ((615) 322-2706) has 24/7 on call information. Visit our website to view this information online and to view other experts-at-a-glance. Visit our news website where you can also access our online searchable database of experts. (Last updated May 2010)

Presidential Elections · Campaigns · Polling · Attack Ads · Civility in Politics

John Geer, Distinguished Professor of Political Science

Geer, who has been interviewed numerous times by all the major news networks, has written extensively on political campaigns, including articles on incivility in campaigns, the impact of negative campaigning on voter participation and the news media’s coverage of negativity. His most recent book, In Defense of Negativity, analyzes negative ads during the 1960-2004 presidential campaigns. The book received the prestigious Goldsmith Book Prize from the Joan Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public at Harvard University. Geer, who co-chairs Vanderbilt’s Center for the Study of Democratic Institutions, also wrote From Tea Leaves to Opinion Polls and Nominating Presidents. This fall he is teaching a course on political campaigns and the electoral process. Previously, he’s co-taught courses on the presidential nominating process and the impact of genetics on political choices.

Watch: John Geer discusses how the media covers presidential election attack ads

Public Opinion · Campaigns and Elections · Representation · Wealth and Political Attitudes

Larry Bartels (John Russell/Vanderbilt)

Larry Bartels, May Werthan Shane Chair of Public Policy and Social Science

Bartels researches how people make political decisions, the electoral process and how election outcomes matter. He has done extensive research on the impact of economic conditions on voting behavior. His 2008 book Unequal Democracy: The Political Economy of the New Gilded Age was cited by then presidential candidate Barack Obama during the campaign and named one of the “economics books of the year” by The New York Times. He is researching the political attitudes of citizens with net worth above $20 million.

Watch: Larry Bartels talk about politics of affluent Americans

Congress · Legislative Process · Political Parties · Elections

Bruce Oppenheimer, professor of political science

Oppenheimer teaches and writes about congressional elections, legislative process and political parties. He co-authored the award-winning book Sizing Up the Senate: The Unequal Consequences of Equal Representation. In addition, he is co-editor of Congress Reconsidered, now in its ninth edition. Recent research includes how Congress has impacted the development of energy policy since the 1970s oil embargo. In the fall Oppenheimer will teach a course on the 2010 midterm elections. He is a former fellow and guest scholar at the Brookings Institution.

Watch: Bruce Oppenheimer talk about the 2012 Republican Presidential debates

American Politics · Presidency · Executive and Bureaucracy · Presidential Transitions · Presidential Power

David E. Lewis, professor of political science

Lewis teaches and writes about the presidency, executive politics and public administration. His most recent book, The Politics of Presidential Appointments: Political Control and Bureaucratic Performance, explores why and how modern presidents including George W. Bush have politicized the bureaucracy and the consequences. Lewis, who is co-chair of Vanderbilt’s Center for the Study of Democratic Institutions, also wrote Presidents and the Politics of Agency Design. Among his current projects is a study of the political views of government agencies and their employees.

American Foreign Policy · International Relations · Middle East · Vietnam War · History of U.S. Presidency · Iran and Iraq

Thomas Schwartz, professor of history

Schwartz can discuss America’s current foreign policy regarding Iraq and the Middle East and U.S. efforts to contain the nuclear ambitions of Iran and North Korea. He has done extensive research on the making of American foreign policy, the role of alliance politics and domestic politics in U.S. foreign policy, “nation-building” and efforts to promote democracy in post-World War II Germany and Japan. He has a strong interest in the modern presidency and has written Lyndon Johnson and Europe: In the Shadow of Vietnam and America’s Germany, both published by Harvard University Press. He is writing a biography of Henry Kissinger that is tentatively titled Henry Kissinger and the Dilemmas of American Power. He has been an historical consultant for Winston DuPont Films of New York and the Marshall Plan Film Project of Arlington, Va.

Watch: Thomas Schwartz talk about what factors might affect the 2012 Presidential election

North Korea · Japan · East Asian Defense Policies

James Auer, director, Center for U.S.-Japan Studies at Vanderbilt; retired naval commander

Auer can discuss North Korea’s military threats to Japan and the U.S. Auer was stationed in Japan and the Western Pacific during his naval career and was the special assistant on Japan with the office of the Secretary of Defense. He has written numerous articles and made presentations addressing East Asian security and defense policies. He is co-author of “Japan: America’s New South Korea?” published in the journal Current History.

Political Party Polarization · Presidential Elections · Political Parties · Public Opinion Polls · Trust in Government · Media and Politics

Marc Hetherington, professor of political science

Hetherington can discuss party polarization, presidential elections, voting, public opinion polls, media coverage during a campaign, anti-government campaign rhetoric and how trust in government affects elections and public policy. Hetherington is the co-author of Authoritarianism and Polarization in American Politics. He also wrote Why Trust Matters: Declining Political Trust and the Demise of American Liberalism.

American Politics · Presidency

Erwin Hargrove, professor of political science, emeritus

Hargrove is an expert on the American presidency and political leadership. In his latest book, The Effective Presidency, Hargrove analyzes the effectiveness of America’s eight most recent presidents. Previous books include The President as Leader: Appealing to the Better Angels of Our Nature, The Future of the Democratic Left in Industrial Democracies (edited) and Prisoners of Myth: The Leadership of the Tennessee Valley Authority, 1933-90.

Race and Politics • Public Opinion • Political Psychology

Efren Perez

Efren Perez (Vanderbilt)

Efrén O. Pérez, assistant professor of political science

Pérez researches how bias against immigration and illegal immigrants plays out in the political process. He has analyzed data showing that politicians who make aggressive references to illegal immigrants alienate many Latinos, a growing segment of the American electorate. He has also studied language and survey response among U.S. Latinos. His research has been published in The Journal of Politics, Political Analysis and Political Behavior.

African American Representation · Black Leadership · Reparations · White Nationalism · Race and Public Policy · Affirmative Action · Voting Rights Act · Immigration

Carol Swain, professor of law; professor of political science

Swain is the editor and contributor to a published book of essays titled Debating Immigration. In the book, Swain talks about the impact of immigration on African Americans. Swain is also the author of the highly acclaimed book Black Faces, Black Interests: The Representation of African Americans in Congress, which won the 1994 Woodrow Wilson prize for the best book on government published in the United States, and The New White Nationalism in America: Its Challenge to Integration. This fall Swain is teaching a course on American political culture. She is an authority on voting rights law and is frequently consulted on Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act. Swain also serves on the National Council on the Humanities.

Politics · Immigration · Race · Labor

Gary Gerstle, the James G. Stahlman Professor of American History

Gerstle is a 20th century American historian who teaches and writes about immigration, ethnicity, nationality and the American experience. He has a strong interest in how the United States reconstitutes itself periodically to accommodate the needs and desires of newcomers. He is also an expert in 20th century political history, and of the history of liberalism and conservatism in particular. His books include American Crucible: Race and Nation in the 20th Century (Princeton University Press), which received the Theodore Saloutos Memorial Book Award for outstanding book on U.S. immigration and ethnic history in 2001, and The Rise and Fall of the New Deal Order, 1930-1980. His current book projects are titled Race, Diversity, and the American Presidency from Theodore Roosevelt to George W. Bush and Governing America: Public Power from the Revolution to the Present. He is also writing “George W. Bush’s Vision of a Multicultural America and Why It Failed,” to be published in Historical Essays on the Bush Era (Princeton University Press, 2010).

Watch: Gerstle talk about the Occupy Wall Street movement

Congressional Politics · Campaigns and Elections · Polling · Statistics

Joshua D. Clinton, associate professor of political science

Clinton uses statistical methods to better understand political processes and outcomes, especially on issues dealing with elections and the conduct of the U.S. Congress. He has developed one of the leading methods for analyzing legislator roll call behavior and has conducted research on legislators’ posturing and lawmaking behavior – including work on claims regarding which members are “most extreme.” One of Clinton’s projects looks at the impact of the Swift Boat ads on John Kerry’s 2004 presidential campaign and another looks at effects of the blanket primary in California. Recent papers that he co-authored include “Does Advertising Exposure Affect Turnout?” in the Quarterly Journal of Political Science and “Design, Inference, and the Strategic Logic of Suicide Terrorism” in the American Political Science Review. Clinton, who is co-director of Vanderbilt’s Center for the Study of Democratic Institutions, previously taught at Princeton University.

Political Rhetoric · Media · Politics

Vanessa Beasley, associate professor of communication studies

Beasley’s areas of expertise include the rhetoric of American presidents, political rhetoric on immigration and media and politics. She can discuss campaign speeches as well as how political campaign strategists must take into consideration the expanding forms of media covering the candidates, including blogs and participatory/collaborative websites. In addition, she has a strong interest in gender, race and ethnic diversity in contemporary U.S. politics, including the rhetoric surrounding candidates’ campaigns. Beasley can critique the performances of political candidates during debates and other campaign events.

Comparative Politics · Latin American and Mexican Politics · Political Behavior

Elizabeth Zechmeister, associate professor of political science; associate director of the Latin American Public Opinion Project

Zechmeister, co-author of Democracy at Risk: How Terrorist Threats Affect the Public (University of Chicago Press, 2009), has written extensively about the impact of terrorist and other threats on political leaders’ approval ratings, including those of former President George W. Bush and current President Barack Obama. She co-authored a recent journal article “Terrorist Threat, Leadership, and Vote Choice: Evidence from Three Experiments.” She also recently secured two National Science Foundation grants, one to study terrorist, economic, and crime threats across eight countries and the other to study the effects of the recent earthquake on public opinion in Chile. Zechmeister, who is teaching a class on Latin American politics this fall, also is the co-author of the Latin American Party Systems (Cambridge University Press, 2010) .

Immigration Policies · Radical Politics · Intercultural Communication

Robert Barsky, editor of AmeriQuests; professor of French and comparative literature

Barsky is working on a research project on immigrant incarceration —”Issues of Inter-Cultural Relations among Inmates Held for Immigration Concerns”— and can speak to the idea of making first entry a felony. Prior to joining Vanderbilt, Barsky taught at Yale University’s Center for International and Area Studies. He has authored many articles and two books on refugees and immigration policies. His book Arguing and Justifying looks at why people flee their country seeking refuge elsewhere. He is the founding editor of AmeriQuests, a Vanderbilt journal that focuses on dislocation and relocation in the Americas. He is also author of two books on Noam Chomsky and an expert on the beat writers and radical politics.

Immigration’s Impact on “New Destination Cities”

Dan Cornfield, professor of sociology

Cornfield looks at how “new destination cities” in the interior states are dealing with integrating documented and undocumented immigrants into their communities. While cities like New York, Miami, Chicago and Houston have historically been at the forefront of immigration issues, Cornfield says the “formerly secluded” interior states are now dealing with immigration’s implications for social services, health care, employment and the prospects for unionization. Cornfield led an immigration study looking at Nashville, Tenn., one of the new destination cities, during which researchers surveyed service providers and members of immigrant communities in cities of comparable size to Nashville – Atlanta, Charlotte, N.C., and Memphis.

Religion and War · Religion and Social Movements · Religion and Politics · Ethics

Melissa Snarr, assistant professor of ethics and society

Snarr studies the intersection of religion, social change and social/political ethics. She teaches courses ranging from “Religion and War in an Age of Terror” to “Religion and Social Movements” to “Christian Political Thought.” She argues that both Democrats and Republicans misunderstand the religious community in America and could improve their election results by considering the issue with more care. She has researched the alliance of religion and labor in the living wage movement, and is currently studying the United Nations and avenues for global peacemaking from a religious perspective. She is an expert on ethics.

Abu Ghraib · Women in the Military · Suicide Bombers

Kelly Oliver, Alton Jones Professor of Philosophy

Oliver is the author of Women as Weapons of War, which examines how women are increasingly being used by military organizations around the world. She has studied the use of young attractive females as Palestinian suicide bombers, how the United States has used female sexuality as an interrogation tool and rape issues in the military. She is the author of more than 50 articles and 15 books, including Animal Lessons: How They Teach Us to Be Human; The Colonization of Psychic Space: A Psychoanalytic Theory of Oppression; Family Values: Subjects Between Nature and Culture; and Reading Kristeva: Unraveling the Double-Bind.


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