Assessing the 2008 "Super Primaries"
Marc Landy, Boston College
Kay L. Schlozman, Boston College
Alan Wolfe, Boston College
Date: February 13, 2008
The extraordinary level of interest in the presidential primaries and their unusual scheduling this winter prompted the Boisi Center to arrange a post-primary panel discussion featuring members of the political science faculty — Professors Marc Landy, Kay Schlozman and Alan Wolfe.
Marc Landy is Professor of Political Science and Faculty Chair of the Irish Institute at Boston College. In addition to instructing Boston College students, he regularly teaches public officials from Ireland and Northern Ireland about American politics through a series of executive programs run by the Irish Institute. He has written two books with Sidney Milkis, American Government: Balancing Democracy and Rights (McGraw Hill, 2003); and Presidential Greatness (Kansas, 2000). He co-edited Seeking the Center: Politics and Policymaking at the New Century with Martin Levin and Martin Shapiro (Georgetown, 2001) and The New Politics of Public Policy with Martin Levin (Johns Hopkins, 1995).
Kay Lehman Schlozman serves as J. Joseph Moakley Endowed Professor of Political Science at Boston College. She received a B.A. from Wellesley College and a Ph.D. from the University of Chicago. She is co-author of Injury to Insult: Unemployment, Class and Political Response (with Sidney Verba); Organized Interests and American Democracy (with John T. Tierney); Voice and Equality: Civic Voluntarism in American Politics (with Sidney Verba and Henry E. Brady), which won the American Political Science Association’s Philip Converse Prize; and, most recently, The Private Roots of Public Action: Gender, Equality, and Political Participation (with Nancy Burns and Sidney Verba), which was co-winner of the APSA’s Schuck Prize. She has also written numerous articles in professional journals and is editor of Elections in America. Among her professional activities, she has served as Secretary of the American Political Science Association and as chair of the APSA’s organized section on Elections, Public Opinion, and Voting Behavior. She is the winner of the APSA’s 2004 Rowman and Littlefield Award for Innovative Teaching in Political Science and the 2006 Frank J. Goodnow Distinguished Service Award. She is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
Alan Wolfe is the founding director of the Boisi Center and Professor of Political Science at Boston College. He is author of more than a dozen books, including Does American Democracy Still Work? (Yale University Press, 2006), One Nation After All (Penguin, 1999), Return to Greatness (Princeton University Press, 2005), The Transformation of American Religion: How We actually Practice our Faith (Free Press, 2003), and Moral Freedom (W.W. Norton & Company, 2001). Widely considered one of the nation's most prominent public intellectuals, he is a frequent contributor to the New York Times, Washington Post, and Atlantic Monthly, and has delivered lectures across the United States, Europe and Middle East.
The extraordinary level of interest in the presidential primaries and their unusual scheduling this winter prompted the Boisi Center to arrange a post-primary panel discussion featuring members of the political science faculty — Professors Marc Landy, Kay
Schlozman and Alan Wolfe. Scheduled for Wednesday, February 13, eight days after “Super Tuesday,” the panel was envisioned as a recap of the election results and discussion of how the presumptive nominees engineered their triumph. Of course, while McCain had emerged as the clear Republican front runner, the Democratic nominee remained in doubt.
Braving the torrential rain, a large contingent of Boston College students filled the Fulton Debate Room. Schlozman opened the panel by noting that she is a professor, not a pundit, so she focused on providing historical context for the arcane primary system that has perplexed so many voters, young and old alike. Wolfe and Landy, both active pundits, traded good-natured and entertaining jabs from the left and right. All three panelists discussed the effect of last year’s American military “surge” on McCain’s bid, the role of anti-Mormon sentiment in the demise of Romney’s candidacy and the massive missteps of the Giuliani campaign.
Although unable to predict for the large, hopeful audience of Boston College undergraduates the eventual Democratic nominee, the professors provided context and discussion of the Clinton and Obama candidacies. They discussed the looming questions of whether the United States is ready for either a black or female president, and whether race or gender would prove to be the greater handicap to electability. (The consensus: gender remains the greater handicap.) Due in part to the success of the post-primary panel, the Boisi Center is planning a significant panel discussion following the general election in November 2008, by which time — unlike in 2000 — we hope the election will actually be over.