Departmental Speakers Program: Christopher S. Parker

University of Washington Political Science Professor Christopher Parker

Department members are invited to attend an upcoming talk by Professor Christopher S. Parker.

Christopher Parker (Ph.D., University of Chicago, 2001) is Professor of Political Science at the University of Washington. Most of his research takes a behavioral approach to historical events, bringing survey data to bear on questions of historical import.

Parker’s fields of interest include american politics, civil rights, minority and race politics, social movements, public opinion, and survey research methods.

Parker has held positions as Stuart and Lee Scheingold Faculty Fellow (2016), Visiting Professor at the University of Sydney, United States Studies Center (2014), and Robert Wood Johnson Scholar (2005-07). He also served in the U.S. Navy and Naval Reserve for ten years.

Read more about Christopher Sebastian Parker here.

Monday, 29 January 2018
Buchanan Penthouse
12:15 – 2:00 pm 

Lunch will be served from 12 noon. Please RSVP by Monday 22 January 2018


Talk: It’s NOT the economy, dumbass; It’s all about race

Christopher S. Parker
Professor of Political Science, University of Washington, Seattle

According to convention, if Trump is to be defeated, Democrats must win the working-class white vote. This is a mistake for two reasons. First, class-based appeals NEVER work for people of color. Second, economic anxiety isn’t the only reason why Trump won. After all, he won 48% of college-educated whites. (Likewise, in the recent Alabama race for the senate, Roy Moore secured 57% of college-educated whites. I don’t think these folks are economically insecure.) As long as some whites believe they’re losing “their” country, they won’t support Democrats. Instead, Democrats must mobilize communities of color based on the existential threat they perceive from Trump.


Parker’s Books

Professor Parker’s first book, Fighting for Democracy: Black Veterans and the Struggle Against White Supremacy in the Postwar South (Princeton University Press, 2009), won the American Political Science Association’s Ralph J. Bunche Award. The book takes a fresh approach to the civil rights movement by gauging the extent to which black veterans contributed to social change.

Fighting for Democracy shows how the experiences of African American soldiers during World War II and the Korean War influenced many of them to challenge white supremacy in the South when they returned home. Focusing on the motivations of individual black veterans, this groundbreaking book explores the relationship between military service and political activism. Christopher Parker draws on unique sources of evidence, including interviews and survey data, to illustrate how and why black servicemen who fought for their country in wartime returned to America prepared to fight for their own equality.

Parker discusses the history of African American military service and how the wartime experiences of black veterans inspired them to contest Jim Crow. Black veterans gained courage and confidence by fighting their nation’s enemies on the battlefield and racism in the ranks. Viewing their military service as patriotic sacrifice in the defense of democracy, these veterans returned home with the determination and commitment to pursue equality and social reform in the South. Just as they had risked their lives to protect democratic rights while abroad, they risked their lives to demand those same rights on the domestic front.

Providing a sophisticated understanding of how war abroad impacts efforts for social change at home, Fighting for Democracy recovers a vital story about black veterans and demonstrates their distinct contributions to the American political landscape.


Christopher S. Parker and Matt A. Barreto. Change They Can’t Believe In: The Tea Party and Reactionary Politics in Contemporary America. Princeton University Press, 2013.  

Parker’s second book, Change They Can’t Believe In: The Tea Party and Reactionary Politics in America (Princeton University Press, 2013), explores the beliefs, attitudes, and behavior of the Tea Party. This book won the American Political Science Association’s award for the best book in Race, Ethnicity, and Politics.

Are Tea Party supporters merely a group of conservative citizens concerned about government spending? Or are they racists who refuse to accept Barack Obama as their president because he’s not white? Change They Can’t Believe In offers an alternative argument–that the Tea Party is driven by the reemergence of a reactionary movement in American politics that is fueled by a fear that America has changed for the worse. Providing a range of original evidence and rich portraits of party sympathizers as well as activists, Christopher Parker and Matt Barreto show that what actually pushes Tea Party supporters is not simple ideology or racism, but fear that the country is being stolen from “real Americans”–a belief triggered by Obama’s election. From civil liberties and policy issues, to participation in the political process, the perception that America is in danger directly informs how Tea Party supporters think and act.

The authors argue that this isn’t the first time a segment of American society has perceived the American way of life as under siege. In fact, movements of this kind often appear when some individuals believe that “American” values are under threat by rapid social changes. Drawing connections between the Tea Party and right-wing reactionary movements of the past, including the Know Nothing Party, the Ku Klux Klan of the 1920s, and the John Birch Society, Parker and Barreto develop a framework that transcends the Tea Party to shed light on its current and future consequences.

Linking past and present reactionary movements, Change They Can’t Believe In rigorously examines the motivations and political implications associated with today’s Tea Party.


Parker’s third book, currently in progress, Haven’t We Seen this [Stuff] Before?: The Reactionary Right and the Origins of Contemporary Racial Politics, examines the forebears of the Tea Party, and how their resistance to progress resulted in the present political climate in which America remains mired in racial conflict.