Coincident with my mid-career semi-shift back to academia, the Power Line editorial board has been pondering a new feature that will highlight the best 100 college professors in America: the Power Line 100. And we might as well begin today. We’ll concentrate on tenured faculty only, since an approving nod from Power Line could well end the career of any untenured professor who is unlucky enough to be spotted by us!
We’re not U.S. News and World Report, so we’re not going to rank the Power Line 100 according to some easily gamed bogus methodology. Our criteria for inclusion are simple: produce serious work that departs from the prevalent academic tendency toward trivialization or obscurity, combined with good classroom teaching that moves and inspires students in their field. One needn’t necessarily be a conservative to make the Power Line 100; in fact, there are several liberal academics on the prospect list, starting with one of our first winners today.
Needless to say a lot of our well known favorites—Harvey Mansfield, Glenn Reynolds, Richard Epstein, Diana Schaub, Jean Yarbrough, Peter Schramm, Charles Kesler, James Ceaser, etc—will make the list in the fullness of time, but I’m going to begin with my favorite dynamic duo: Marc Landy of Boston College and Sidney Milkis of the University of Virginia. I start with this pair because Marc and Sid are the co-authors of one of the better books on the presidency that I assign often in classes that cover the executive office: Presidential Greatness. It is refreshing when two political scientists can speak without embarrassment about human greatness, and point to the heights of political excellence rather than the reductive lowlands of social science. Landy and Milkis are also co-authors of one of the better general college textbooks: American Government: Balancing Democracy and Rights (though I hasten to add that at both the Ashbrook Center and out at Pepperdine, we never use textbooks; it’s primary sources for us, baby!).
Milkis considers himself a slightly left-of-center “progressive,” but many conservatives admire his work on Theodore Roosevelt, especially his book about the 1912 campaign, Theodore Roosevelt, the Progressive Party, and the Transformation of American Democracy.
Somewhere, if I can find it, I have a photo of Marc Landy, in deepest winter in rural Wisconsin after we’d hiked through the snow together to find the tiny one-room cabin where Aldo Leopold wrote A Sand County Almanac, chasing a large bird with such enthusiasm that he almost ran headlong into one of the larger tributaries of the upper Mississippi River. And there is some danger that before the Power Line 100 roster is filled out, several more of his Boston College colleagues are going to be spotlighted (this means you, Shep Melnick).
By the way, nominations for the Power Line 100 are open, and encouraged.