Louis “Tracy” Bolce

The Political Science Department at Baruch College, City University of New York, is saddened to announce the sudden passing of our friend and colleague Louis “Tracy” Bolce on November 24th, 2017. Tracy, a native of Ohio, was educated at the University of Cincinnati. He concentrated on public opinion, political parties, and elections.

Tracy’s early work in the 1970s focused on urban riots and the emerging African American middle class. In a series of articles with Abraham Miller and Mark Halligan in the American Political Science Review and Ethnicity, they tested the J-Curve thesis’s applicability to the riots of the 1960s. It generated a lively debate among social scientists. This was followed by a subsequent article with Susan Gray in The Public Interest which called into question the extent of polarization among blacks and whites and diversity in the African American community on issues such as affirmative action.

At Baruch, Tracy was involved in projects addressing the determinants contributing to the defeat of the Equal Rights Amendment, African American voting behavior, and the Christian Fundamentalist factor in contemporary American politics. These too found outlets in well regarded journals. Their finding were disseminated by journalists in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, U.S. News & World Report, the Atlantic, The Wilson Quarterly, and many others.

The ERA papers (with Gerald De Maio and Douglas Muzzio) focused that the impact of intensity and nationally distributed majorities, articulated by political theorists Willmoore Kendall and Martin Diamond, had on the amendment’s defeat. The empirical findings demonstrated that relatively small numbers in the public were intensely involved and that the amendment failed to achieve nationally distributed majorities crucial to success. In a related paper for Social Science Quarterly, the impact of dissonance that the abortion issue had on ERA supporters was delineated.

During the era when the gender gap surfaced, focusing on the Democrats’ advantage with women, Tracy’s article in Presidential Studies Quarterly called attention to a “reverse gender gap” among men favoring Republicans.

Tracy and his colleagues also examined the presence of bloc voting in the African American electorate and explored ideology and class factors that might lead to a “20% solution” and Republican victories. They found scant evidence for this, a fact later verified in elections since 1964.

In the 1990s, Tracy contributed an early article on the “talk radio” phenomenon which has spawned a great deal of literature over the last twenty years, calling attention to this trend in democratic discourse.

During the last phase in his career, Tracy focused on the culture wars and the role of religion in political polarization. An article he published with De Maio in The Public Interest, calling attention to the secularist trend in the Democratic Party, received a much attention in media and has become a staple in discussions of party coalitions. A particular interest in the culture wars and polarization arena was on the anti-Christian fundamentalist factor in American politics and how it has become an important determinant in voting behavior. The results, published in Public Opinion Quarterly, American Politics Research, The Public Interest, and in more popular journals, garnered considerable attention and are widely cited in the academic literature.

Most recently, Tracy had been researching media portrayals of conservative Christians and secularists. His data revealed that there has been a paucity of stories identifying seculars with the Democratic Party compared with the Christian Fundamentalist-Republican Party nexus.

Tracy was a good friend and colleague who took his departmental responsibilities very seriously. He would stop by colleagues’ office to chat about academic issues, current politics, and topics of a more general nature. We will miss him, and extend our condolences to his wife Natasha and his family in Ohio.

Links to Tracy Bolce’s publications can be found at his Google Scholar page.

Ted Jelen

Dear Religion and Politics Section Members,

Many of you may already have heard the sad news, but we wanted to let all section members know of the passing of Prof Ted Jelen. Prof Jelen was a giant of the field and a hugely influential and vibrant force in the APSA Religion and Politics section. His loss will be acutely felt by many of us. We will be sending flowers and condolences to the family on behalf of the section.

More will follow soon regarding plans to commemorate Prof Jelen’s life and contribution. If you have ideas or suggestions, please do not hesitate to contact the exec.

In sadness,

Erin

Section Journal – November 20, 2017

Book Reviews

A Matter of Discretion: The Politics of Catholic Priests in the United States and Ireland.

By Brian R. Calfano, Melissa R. Michelson , and Elizabeth A. Oldmixon. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2017.

Laura S. Hussey


Faithful to Secularism: The Religious Politics of Democracy in Ireland, Senegal, and the Philippines.

By David T. Buckley. New York: Columbia University Press, 2016.

Nukhet A. Sandal

2018 APSA Annual Meeting – Boston

Theme Statement for the 2018 Annual Meeting
Program Chairs:
Henry Farrell, The George Washington University
Anna Grzymala-Busse, Stanford University

Democracy and Its Discontents

The theme for this year’s meeting of the American Political Science Association is Democracy and Its Discontents. These are challenging times for democracy. In many established democracies, the aftermath of the 2008 and the 2011 economic crises is opening up new spaces for new challengers and popular grievances. The complex relationship between national systems of rule and a global economy is leading to greater tensions both within democracies and between them. Existing rules and party systems are under strain as new cleavages emerge, with populism, nativism, and illiberalism all jostling for popular support, as well as new experiments in representation. Developed democratic systems are experiencing greater discontent among voters. Global flows of people, capital, and investment undermine national identities and institutional arrangements. At the same time, there are challenges to the legitimacy of international institutions that are seen as limiting economic and democratic choices.

The United States faces particular questions, as economic inequality, identity politics, and polarization dominate political debates. The presidential victor, for the second time in sixteen years, won office without a majority of the popular vote. Emerging and relatively new democracies too are undergoing upheaval, as some leaders turn away from traditional norms of liberal democracy based on contestation between plural forces towards an illiberal model, in which leaders and ruling party are entitled to reshape domestic rules to their own benefit. Informal norms of democratic behavior, such as opposition rights, accountability, and transparency are being violated across several democracies. Non-democratic countries too are being affected, both because there is no longer much of an expectation that they will become democratic over time, and because their own policies and options are affected by the changes in democratic states elsewhere. All this poses political theoretic questions as well as empirical ones.

The current dilemmas of democracy provoke scholars to work across different sub-disciplines and specializations to understand these changes. For example, how do we understand the impact of international factors such as migration, automation, and changes in economy on domestic political party systems? The recent turn in several countries towards illiberalism is in part a product of parallel evolution under similar pressures, but is also plausibly the consequence of cross-national influence, as actors in one context learn from another. How do security arrangements, predicated on coordination among democratic nations, survive the erosion of liberal norms? What are the consequences of regime shifts for social policy, welfare, courts, or the media?

Taking a page from scholars of competitive authoritarianism and illiberal democracies, can we fruitfully think about recent political developments in the United States as regime backsliding? How are political parties, civil society, and interest groups responding? What is the role of the center-left and the center-right here? Which comparative and historical parallels provide the greatest insights in examining the discontents of democracy? How do informal norms depend on and interact with formal institutions such as courts, parliaments, and central banks?

Equally, understanding the dilemmas of national democracies requires an attention to theoretical issues as well as empirics. Is the legitimacy of democracy in crisis, or is this simply a transitory phase? Which institutional equilibria, regimes, and political configurations are especially likely to be fragile, and which are resilient? How ought we to think about the role of demagogues and anti-liberal rhetoric? Are there other plausible models for institutions of representation and decision making that might lead to better democratic outcomes?

As Chairs for the 2018 Conference, we welcome proposals that address the discontents of democracy from a variety of theoretical and methodological perspectives. We particularly welcome proposals that work across subfields and approaches to address the new questions that are emerging, and work that looks to bring disciplinary debates and public dialogue into closer alignment with each other.