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Center for Congressional and Presidential Studies

American University’s Center for Congressional and Presidential Studies (CCPS) serves scholars, students, policymakers and the public by propelling actionable research, providing public education and promoting a more reasonable democratic square.

Thurber Dialogues on Democracy

The Center for Congressional Presidential Studies is proud to announce, and very grateful to receive, a generous gift from Distinguished University Emeritus Professor Jim Thurber and his wife Claudia Thurber. Their gift will fund the Center’s Dialogues on Democracy (now the Thurber Dialogues on Democracy), an ongoing series of conversations with prominent thought leaders about how to strengthen democracy in the US and abroad. In 2021, their inaugural year, the Dialogues drew nearly 500 attendees per event, featuring Senator Cory Booker, House Majority Whip James Clyburn, author/journalist Anne Applebaum, and social scientists Robert Putnam and Shaylyn Romney Garrett. Thanks to the Thurbers’ benevolence, vision, and public-spiritedness, the Dialogues will now continue.

The inaugural Thurber Dialogue on Democracy of 2022 featured Rep. Adam Schiff for a conversation with Professor Jim Thurber on Thursday, March 31, 2022. This event, co-hosted by CCPS and KPU, was held via Zoom and the link to the recording of the event is available here.

Congressman Adam Schiff represents California’s 28th Congressional District. In his 11th term in the House of Representatives, Schiff currently serves as the Chair of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, which oversees the nation’s intelligence agencies. Schiff is on a leave of absence from the House Appropriations Committee, where he remains an ex officio member. He is also the author of Midnight in Washington: How We Almost Lost Our Democracy and Still Could.

The second Thurber Dialogue on Democracy will feature Rep. Hakeem Jeffries for a conversation with Professor Liz Suhay on Tuesday, April 19th at 7:00pm. This event, co-hosted by CCPS and KPU, was held via Zoom and the recording of the event is available here.

Hakeem Jeffries represents the diverse Eighth Congressional District of New York, an area that encompasses large parts of Brooklyn and a section of Queens. Serving his fifth term in the United States Congress, Rep. Jeffries is a member of the House Judiciary Committee and House Budget Committee. He is also Chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, having been elected to that position by his colleagues in November 2018. In that capacity, he is the fifth highest-ranking Democrat in the House of Representatives. He is also the former Whip of the Congressional Black Caucus and previously co-chaired the Democratic Policy and Communications Committee where he helped develop the For The People agenda.

The third and final Thurber Dialogue of Democracy will take place on Thursday, May 5th at 6:00pm via Zoom and will feature Harvard University political scientists Professor Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt. They will discuss their 2018 New York Times Best Seller, How Democracies Die, and broader themes of their work in recent events. This event will be moderated by American University Professor Laura Paler. RSVP here. Zoom link will be send the day of the event.

Steven Levitsky is a David Rockefeller Professor of Latin American Studies and Professor of Government at Harvard University. He is also Director of the David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies at Harvard. 

Daniel Ziblatt is Eaton Professor of Government at Harvard University and is director of the Transformations of Democracy research unit at the WZB Berlin Social Science Center in Berlin, Germany.

Prof. David Barker and Prof. Liz Suhay's new book, The Politics of Truth in Polarized America, is out now
December 2021

In American politics, the truth is rapidly losing relevance. The public square is teeming with misinformation, conspiracy theories, cynicism, and hubris. Why has this happened? What does it mean? What can we do about it? In this volume, leading scholars offer multiple perspectives on these questions, and many more, to provide the first comprehensive empirical examination of the "politics of truth" -- its context, causes, and potential correctives. With experts in social science weighing in, this volume examines different drivers such as the dynamics of politically motivated fact perceptions.

Combining insights from the fields of political science, political theory, communication, and psychology and offering substantial new arguments and evidence, these chapters draw compelling -- if sometimes competing -- conclusions regarding this rising democratic threat.

More information available here.

2021 Gill Family Foundation Scholarship Award Winner: Divya Ramjee

Divya Ramjee headshot

We are pleased to announce this year’s winner of the Gill Family Foundation scholarship, which supports dissertation work using quantitative methods in the areas of American Politics, Comparative Politics, Public Administration, or Policy Analysis at American University: Divya Ramjee.

Ms. Ramjee is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Justice, Law & Criminology at American University in Washington, D.C., as well as an adjunct instructor at the School of Public Affairs (Department of Justice, Law & Criminology and Department of Government) and at the Washington College of Law. She is also a Senior Fellow at the Center for Security, Innovation, and New Technology and a Student Fellow for Washington College of Law's Tech, Law & Security program. Her research interests include cybercrime and cyber-enabled crime, cyber and tech policy, NLP and text analysis, and statistical methodology. She holds an MS from the Johns Hopkins University and BS' from the Ohio State University.

More information about this award is available here.

CCPS’s Taylor-Fillmore project awarded $102,750 in grants

November 2021

The National Historical Publications and Records Commission has awarded the Center for Congressional and Presidential Studies a $77,750 grant to support the Correspondence of Zachary Taylor and Millard Fillmore in 2022–23. The Taylor-Fillmore project is preparing a print and digital edition of the 12th and 13th presidents’ letters from 1844–53. CCPS faculty fellow Michael David Cohen serves as editor; CCPS fellow Amy Larrabee Cotz, as associate editor. For more information, see the NHPRC’s press release and detailed listing of grant recipients.

Two private foundations also recently awarded grants to CCPS for the Taylor-Fillmore project in 2022–23. The Summerlee Foundation announced a $15,000 grant as part of its Texas History Program. The Gladys Krieble Delmas Foundation announced a $10,000 grant as part of its Humanities Program.

American University’s New Perspectives in Studies of American Governance program awarded $200,000 grant

September 2021

With support from the Hewlett Foundation’s U.S. Democracy Program, the Center for Congressional and Presidential Studies at American University was recently awarded a $200,000 grant to promote New Perspectives in Studies of American Governance (NP). The NP program, in partnership with Purdue University, incentivizes emerging scholars to broaden the range of perspectives with respect to gender, race/ethnicity, capacity, and culture when pursuing insight into American governance at the federal level. 

Specifically, the NP includes a small grants program for scholars of Congress and the Executive branch, whose research examines new questions and/or does so from a broader point of view than has traditionally been the case in these fields. A call for proposals will be disseminated in coming months.

The Principal Investigators of this program include David Barker, Professor of Government and Director of CCPS, Bettina Poirier, Director of the Program on Legislative Negotiation and Senior Affiliate for WCL, and Valeria Sinclair- Chapman, Professor of Political Science, African American Studies, and Gender & Sexuality Studies at Purdue University. She is also Director of Purdue’s Center for Research on Diversity and Inclusion as well as its Legislative Internship Program.

American University’s Program on Legislative Negotiation, a joint endeavor of the Center for Congressional and Presidential Studies and the Washington College of Law, awarded $1.2 million dollar grant

August 2021

With a new round of support from the Hewlett Foundation’s U.S. Democracy Program, American University’s Washington College of Law (WCL) and Center for Congressional and Presidential Studies (CCPS) are expanding the Program on Legislative Negotiation (PLN).

The overarching purpose of this program is to create a culture of bipartisan negotiation in Congress and state legislatures via targeted training, educational initiatives, and scholarly research. The PLN will carry out four sets of specific activities over the three-year period covered by this grant, including Congressional staff trainings, experiential learning for students and professionals, new research and dissemination, and building a learning community.

The PLN will continue to be led by Director, Professor Bettina Poirier, a former high-level Capitol Hill staffer, with approximately 15 years of experience in senior roles in the House and Senate.

Professor Poirier will work closely with the Director of the Center for Congressional and Presidential Studies (CCPS), David Barker, who serves as a co-principal investigator on this joint WCL/SPA effort.

AU President Sylvia Burwell has continued to express enthusiastic support for the PLN. AU is committed to ensuring its ongoing vibrancy well beyond the life of this grant.

Understanding Legislative Negotiation Conference

April 9, 2021 | 8:30am- 5:00pm
Via Zoom

American University’s Program on Legislative Negotiation, the Center for Congressional and Presidential Studies, and the Hewlett Foundation’s US Democracy Program, hosted the Understanding Legislative Negotiation Conference on April 9, 2021.
View Conference Program

New Perspectives and New Questions in Legislative Studies Conference

April 8, 2021 | 8:30am- 5:00pm
Via Zoom

American University's Center for Congressional and Presidential Studies hosted “New Perspectives and New Questions in Legislative Studies,” a virtual conference on April 8, 2021

Co-hosted by Valeria Sinclair-Chapman (Professor of Political Science, Purdue University), David Barker (Professor of Government and Director of the Center for Congressional and Presidential Studies, American University) and Bettina Poirier (Professor of Law and Director of American University’s Program on Legislative Negotiation), with support from the Hewlett Foundation’s US Democracy Program, this conference aimed to foster innovation and collaboration on new lines of legislative scholarship that reflect the broadening perspectives of American lawmakers (and the constituents they serve).
View Conference Program

A conversation with James E. Clyburn

James Clyburn, U.S. House Majority Whip (D-SC), reflects on his experience and offers his perspective on the Biden administration, the prospects for racial progress, and the state of U.S. democracy

American University Launches Program on Legislative Negotiation

Launch Event for Program on Legislative Negotiation The Program on Legislative Negotiation addresses the gridlock in Congress and in state legislatures.
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David Barker on One Nation, Two Realities

CCPS Director David Barker talked about his book, One Nation, Two Realities: Dueling Facts in American Democracy, and the current political stalemate between Congress and the White House.

Correspondence of Zachary Taylor and Millard Fillmore Project

This project locates and publishes letters, from 1844–53, of the twelfth and thirteenth U.S. presidents.
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Congress & the Presidency Journal

Congress and the Presidency: A Journal of Capital StudiesThis publication is an interdisciplinary journal of political science and history, published by American University, Center for Congressional and Presidential Studies since 1984. The journal is now being published three times a year. Congress & the Presidency features articles on Congress, the President, the interaction between the two institutions, and national policy-making.
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Contact Us

(202) 885-3491

Center for Congressional and Presidential Studies
Kerwin Hall, Room 235
4400 Massachusetts Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20016

Robert Putnam, Shaylyn Romney Garrett, Jim Thurber

Government & Politics ·

Can Today’s Polarized America Come Together Again?

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David Barker

Government & Politics ·

SPA Professor David Barker Tracks Support for Political Protests

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Campaign banner for Whig Party candidates in the national election of 1848, promoting Zachary Taylor and Millard Fillmore

Research ·

Grants Will Support Publication of Presidential Letters of Taylor and Fillmore

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European Public Affairs & Advocacy Institute students

European Public Affairs & Advocacy Institute

This unique course will introduce students to the art and craft of lobbying in the European Union.

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political signs

American University Magazine American

My Favorites: Rising Political Stars

Top 10 up-and-coming politicians

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Public Affairs and Advocacy Institute

Public Affairs and Advocacy Institute

The Institute features a two-week intensive course in major aspects of lobbying and political influence.

More about PAAI

James Thurber, middle, sits in the Campaign Management Institute classroom.

Campaign Management Institute

The Campaign Management Institute has become an internationally recognized curriculum in the art and science of campaigning.

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CCPS Video & Audio Clips

  • Setting Limits on Presidential Power Under the Trump Administration

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  • The Transition and the First 100 Days of the Trump Presidency

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Thurber Scholarship Endowment students

Thurber Scholarship Endowment

The James and Claudia Thurber Scholarship Endowment, established by former AU students and colleagues.

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