Political Science

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Dennis Goldford

Professor of Political Science
Office Location: 208 Meredith Hall

Dennis Goldford has been at Drake since 1985. He received his B.A. in political science and philosophy from the University of Michigan, an M. Litt. (Master of Letters) in philosophy from Oxford University, and an M.A. and Ph.D. in political science from the University of Chicago. Prof. Goldford teaches in the areas of political theory and constitutional law.

Prof. Goldford has written The American Constitution and the Debate Over Originalism, published by Cambridge University Press in April 2005. Located at the intersection of law, political science, philosophy, and literary theory, this book is a work of constitutional theory that explores the nature of American constitutionalism and constitutional interpretation through a reconsideration of the longstanding debate between originalism and nonoriginalism. The American Constitution and the Debate Over Originalism traces that debate to a particular set of premises about the nature of language, interpretation, and objectivity, premises that raise the specter of unconstrained, unstructured constitutional interpretation that has haunted contemporary constitutional theory. The book presents a novel account of what it means to say that Americans are a people who constitute themselves as a people in and through the terms of a fundamental text.

Prof. Goldford has also written, with co-author Hugh Winebrenner, The Iowa Precinct Caucuses: the Making of a Media Event, 3rd ed., published by the University of Iowa Press in December 2010. This book chronicles how the caucuses began, how they changed, and starting in 1972 how they became fodder for and manipulated by the mass media. We argue that the media have given a value to the Iowa caucuses completely out of proportion to the reality of their purpose and procedural methods. In fact, the nationally reported “results” are contrived by the Iowa parties to portray a distorted picture of the process that nevertheless has come to take on a reality of its own. This third edition has been updated to include the election of 2000, which saw the first winner of the Iowa caucuses to reach the White House since 1976; the election of 2004 and the roller-coaster fortunes of Howard Dean and John Kerry; and the election of 2008 and the unlikely emergence of Barack Obama as a presidential contender.

Currently, Prof. Goldford's most recent book, The Constitution of Religious Freedom: God, Politics, and the First Amendment, was published by Baylor University Press in March 2012. This book asks the question, does a political order have the capacity to be neutral regarding religious belief, or does it always and necessarily constitute the establishment of a set of religious beliefs? If the latter is true, then what are the consequences for the American concept of religious freedom? In particular, the book addresses the question of whether the American political order constitutes a religious community with a religious identity and mission of its own, or is simply a political order that allows for diverse religious communities to exist within it without constituting a religious community itself.

Finally, Prof. Goldford is presently engaged in exploring, with particular attention to Tea Party movement constitutionalism, the questions of whether there is a principled, constitutionally coherent theory of the structure of the American union, and whether the current conflict over federalism and federal power can be fruitfully understand as a reassertion of the competing visions of the structure of the union held by Federalists and Antifederalists.

Prof. Goldford regularly participates on scholarly panels at the annual meetings of the American Political Science Association, the Midwest Political Science Association, and the Iowa Association of Political Scientists. He has served as a manuscript reviewer for various journal and book publishers in political science, and he provides political and election analysis for a wide range of local, regional, national, and international print and broadcast news media.

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