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.