The Green Bag: Scholarly Support for Candidates is Nothing New

The practice of scholars assembling in support of political candidates has been around "since before most of us were born," Professor Ross Davies tells readers in an Inside Higher Ed article.

Editors of Davies' publication, The Green Bag law journal, uncovered an attempt by a group supporting Herbert Hoover to build support for the candidate through a public relations campaign designed to convince voters that the post-Depression economy was rebounding. Interesting responses from those tapped for comment ranged from support to criticism.

Davies told Inside Higher Ed that The Green Bag's retrospective look at the practice of academic politicking was inspired in part by the former's coverage of the academics lining up behind today's candidates for the 2008 presidency and other offices.

Professors for...Hoover? Inside Higher Ed, January 29, 2008. By Doug Lederman.

"Ross Davies, editor of The Green Bag and a professor of law at George Mason University, says the journal's look in the rearview mirror was inspired in part by Inside Higher Ed's coverage of the academics who have lined up behind presidential cazndidates in the 2008 and other recent elections--with the goal, Davies says, of exploring what those endorsements mean, and don't mean. 'We tend to think of this as being part of the punditocracy and see it as a recent phenomenon, but it has been around since before most of us were born,' he says.

"What would Obama's historians or Edwards's economists, or the Nobel Prize winners who endorsed John Kerry in 2004 'say if they thought about the roots of their own behavior?' The Green Bag asks in its essay, a PDF of which is available here. 'One view is that "groups of citizens, self-defined by occupation or ideology or ethnic group or religion or gender, have been doing this since the late 19th century," and scholars publicly plumping for presidential candidates are simply carrying on this important tradition, "in which voluntary associations thrive and take the obligations of citizenship seriously,"' as Georgetown's Michael Kazin explained of the historians' support for Obama.

"'But for good or ill this academic politicking also perpetuates a powerful 20th century tradition,' The Green Bag writes: 'the presentation of carefully selected academic opinions as expert consensus for the purpose of swaying public opinion.'"

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