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Christopher Baylor is the author of First to the Party: the Group Origins of Political Transformation. He is a regular contributor to the American Political Development blog, "A House Divided," and has published in "Mischiefs of Faction," Studies in American Political Development, Fortune, and the Washington Post. He has taught at Wellesley College, and the College of the Holy Cross. He currently teaches at the University of California, Los Angeles, where he received his PhD.

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A House Divided (blog)


University of California, Los Angeles 2012

Media Appearances

"Is the Electoral College a Rubber Stamp or Protection against Demagogues." This Week in Politics, WNYC News.

Journal Publications

"Independent Politics: How American Disdain for Parties Leads to Political Inaction, by Samara Klar and Yanna Krupnikov." Political Science Quarterly 132 (1), 2017, 191-192.

"Group Agendas as the Root of Party Position Change." The Forum 15(4), 2017, 655- 665.

"First to the Party: The Group Origins of the Partisan Transformation on Civil Rights, 1940-1960." Studies in American Political Development 27 (2), 2013, 111-141.

Book Chapters

"The Possibility of a GOP Realignment" - Sides and Farrell, The Science of Trump (July, 2016)

Blog Posts and Op Eds

"President Trump is trying to reach across the aisle. Good luck with that" - The Monkey Cage at the Washington Post (October, 2017)

"A Key Reason the Founders Wanted the Electoral College: To Keep Out Demagogues and Bullies" - The Monkey Cage at the Washington Post (December, 2016)

"Is Trump the Last Gasp of Reagan's Party?" - The Monkey Cage at the Washington Post (May, 2016)

"Bernie Sanders Can't Win Without Party Elites" - Fortune (April, 2016)

"Is Donald Trump leading a realignment of the GOP? Maybe not" - The Monkey Cage at the Washington Post (March, 2016)

Dissertation Committee

John Zaller (chair), Scott James, Kathy Bawn, and Rachael Cobb (Suffolk University)


American Politics and Quantitative Methods

Research Interests

Presidents and Institutions
Interest Groups
Public Opinion and Voting Behavior
American Political Development
Campaigns and Elections

First to the Party: The Group Origins of Party Transformation

Click here for Table of Contents and Excerpt

New Book Project

Chris is currently examining the extent to which political parties are consistent with democratic ideals. While political scientists have long thought that political parties are essential to democracy, they can also encourage motivated reasoning and antipathy to outgroups. This book project hopes to weigh the advantages of parties as information shortcuts against their disadvantages, examining recent empirical findings about parties in light of their normative underpinnings.

Teaching Interests

American Politics
Political Behavior
American Political Development
The American Presidency
Public Policy
Political Parties and Interest Groups

Statement of Teaching Philosophy

Course Syllabus

Sample Upper Division Seminar Syllabus

Full Time Teaching Positions

Washington College
Wellesley College
College of the Holy Cross

First to the Party: The Group Origins of Party Transformation

Available now at amazon.com.

You can find my New Books Network interview about the book here.

The United States has scores of potential issues and ideologies but only two major political parties. How parties respond to competing demands for their attention is therefore central to American democracy. First to the Party argues that organized groups set party agendas by invading party nominations to support candidates committed to their interests. Where the nominees then go, the parties also go.

Using in-depth archival research and interviews with activists, I apply this proposition to the two most important party transformations of the twentieth century: the Democratic Party's embrace of civil rights in the 1940s and 50s, and the Republican Party's embrace of cultural conservatism in the 1980s. The choices made by the parties in these circumstances were less a response to candidates or general electoral pressures than to activist and group influences on nominations. Party change is ultimately rooted in group change, which in turn is ultimately rooted in the coalitional and organizational challenges confronting groups.

Click here for Table of Contents and Excerpt


Book Review in the Journal of Politics

“Comparing civil rights liberals and theological conservatives, Christopher Baylor reveals the institutional paths by which a stigmatized faction earns a seat at a major political party’s table. He shows how each group overcame rivalries to transform themselves, build new alliances, and force the political parties to accept them. First to the Party is a much-needed corrective to top-down views of political parties. The more you think you know about parties, the more you need to read this book.”—Samuel L. Popkin, University of California, San Diego, author of The Candidate: What it Takes to Win - and Hold - the White House

“Christopher Baylor’s unique argument that groups are the instigators of the process by which American political parties shift their positions on policy issues represents a challenge to existing accounts. First to the Party offers a new perspective on key questions about the influence of groups within parties and the general nature of representation in the United States.”—Christina Wolbrecht, University of Notre Dame, coauthor of Counting Women's Ballots: Female Voters from Suffrage through the New Deal

“In this important study, Christopher Baylor demonstrates how previously marginal groups can forge alliances that give them entry into a major party coalition. Marshaling an impressive array of evidence, Baylor provides critical insights into two pivotal developments in American politics: Democrats’ embrace of racial liberalism and Republicans’ alliance with Christian conservatives.”—Eric Schickler, University of California, Berkeley, author of Racial Realignment: The Transformation of American Liberalism, 1932–1965

“Who controls political parties? Christopher Baylor’s First to the Party offers a fascinating answer to this question. Drawing on in-depth historical research, Baylor argues that parties change when small factions build coalitions to target nominations. Flanked by these groups, leaders fall into place. Illustrated with fascinating case studies of labor in the Democratic party and the Christian right in the Republican party, Baylor’s study will become a key reading for scholars and political observers interested in the ups and downs of political parties.”—Fabio Rojas, Indiana University, coauthor of Party in the Street: The Antiwar Movement and the Democratic Party after 9/11

“Drawing on discerning research in a range of historical sources to illuminate how the Democratic Party came to embrace civil rights and the Republican Party came to embrace cultural conservatism, First to the Party adds significant new depth to the idea that groups are the prime agent of party transformation. Students of American politics in both political science and sociology will read it with interest and profit.”— Anthony S. Chen, Northwestern University, author of The Fifth Freedom: Jobs, Politics, and Civil Rights in the United States, 1941-1972

“Through detailed historical research, Christopher Baylor sheds new light on the two most critical cases of party transformation in modern American politics—civil rights and cultural conservatism—and adeptly uses each, along with two shadow cases, to advance his broader theoretical framework about the role groups play in party transformation. First to the Party is an important contribution.”—Daniel J. Galvin, author of Presidential Party Building: Dwight D. Eisenhower to George W. Bush


Chris Baylor
(cbaylor AT ucla dot edu)

Chris Baylor, PhD, Department of Political Science, College of the Holy Cross