Political Scientist Rick Valelly '75 Helps Launch, and Re-Launch, The American Prospect

by Zach Epstein
Claude C. Smith '14 Professor of Political Science Rick Valelly '75
Claude C. Smith '14 Professor of Political Science Rick Valelly '75

When The American Prospect (TAP) launched in 1990, it featured a piece by then-M.I.T. professor Rick Valelly '75 about the political science of voter turnout on its cover. So when the publication was ready to re-launch after a fundraising effort this summer saved it from shuttering, they again turned to one of its inaugural writers.

Valelly's book review, "Ghosts of Ballots Past," is one of the first pieces featured in the redesigned Prospect.

"TAP is the one journal that mixes political analysis, policy analysis, a great website, good book and film reviews, and has a strong commitment to the health of organized labor," says Valelly, Claude C. Smith '14 Professor of Political Science. "There's no journal out there that has quite the same mix that TAP does."

Founded by journalist Robert Kuttner H'99, sociologist Paul Starr P'13, and former Labor Secretary Robert Reich, Valelly is thankful for the opportunity to write for The American Prospect's first issue.

"Substantively it was a great learning experience," he says. "I put a lot of effort into it and learned a great deal about the political science of voter turnout."

After being involved in the planning stages for Prospect's launch, Kuttner recruited Valelly to contribute his writing to the magazine. 

"Bob Kuttner, Paul Starr, and Robert Reich all wanted to put together a magazine that would be as influential for American liberalism as The Public Interest had been for the development of neo-conservatism - but also attract a wide reading audience," Valelly says.

Valelly has contributed regularly to The American Prospect since that first issue. The magazine is also known for providing a launching pad for many well-known journalists, including Jason Zengerle '96.

Valelly believes The American Prospect is particularly relevant to members of the Swarthmore community.  "I think Swarthmoreans are always worried about the health of American democracy," he says, "and TAP takes this theme very seriously and provides fresh ways of thinking about it."

Valelly, who received a Ph.D. from Harvard University in 1984, is an expert on American party politics, election law, voting rights, and the institutional development of the House and the Senate. He has been a research scholar at Harvard's W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for Afro-American Research, at the Center for the Study of Democratic Politics at the Woodrow School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University, and at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, D.C.