The 2008 election year is unprecedented; never before in American history has the presidency been so within reach for a female or African-American candidate. Carnegie Mellon's Kiron Skinner — co-author of "The Strategy of Campaigning" and editor of "Turning Points in Ending the Cold War" — says it is the natural evolution of a maturing democracy.
"We have a political system that continues to open up opportunities to people," said Skinner, who is an associate professor of international relations and political science in the Department of Social and Decision Sciences and associate professor by courtesy at the Heinz School of Public Policy and Management. "It's a natural extension of what the Constitution framers had in mind, and it is also part of a worldwide spirit of the times."
In "The Strategy of Campaigning," she and her co-authors examine the political strategies of Ronald Reagan and Boris Yeltsin — two principle political figures of their time, both of whom managed to overcome defeat early in their political careers. Skinner offers even further insight into the two men, and into the events that ultimately led to communism's collapse, through her compilation of essays in "Turning Points in Ending the Cold War."
Both books, according to Skinner, basically tell voters to "look for the candidate who shows his or her hand."
She explains, "The political maneuvering that these candidates take is central to understanding how they would perform in office. Much of what these people are saying is what they are actually going to do once in office."
She noted Reagan as an example, adding, "Reagan laid out a clear economic agenda in his campaign that later became the Economic Recovery Act of 1981. It's an example of how proposals are more binding and may be path dependent."
Skinner has appeared on Book TV's "After Words" on C-SPAN2 to discuss "The Strategy of Campaigning." She was also recently interviewed by Sir David Frost on Al Jazeera English — a 24-hour English-language news and current affairs TV channel headquartered in Doha, Qatar.
For his show, "Frost over the World," Skinner offered insights into the U.S. elections and Super Tuesday.
"Any opportunity to help clarify the position of American politics is a great opportunity," she said.
Skinner is an expert on Ronald Reagan, and has written five books about him. She is a research fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University and serves as a member of the Chief of Naval Operations Executive Panel and the National Security Education Board.