Brown Bag Lecture with Kinder Research Fellow Curt Nichols


The Kinder Forum on Constitutional Democracy kicked off its Political Science Brown Bag Lecture Series on Friday, February 27, 2015, with Kinder Research Fellow Curt Nichols providing an overview of his current book project. Dr. Nichols focused on the American Governing Cycle (AGC) in his talk, a concept that is central to his recent research on the factors that affect presidential leadership. In breaking the AGC into three stages–periods of political stability, periods of compromised government, and periods of political rejuvenation–Dr. Nichols noted that many presidents simply do not have the context to do the great things that the electorate expects of them. With regards to the first stage of the AGC, Dr. Nichols discussed how the stability produced by the very nature of the United States’ multi-dimensional constitutional order makes it difficult for presidents to alter the status quo. If the separation of powers denies them the means to institute significant change, the two party system, he explained, de-incentivizes change for members of both the majority and opposition. As the cycle progresses, however, the period of decay and compromise that follows from stability provides presidents with the context to rejuvenate governance by assembling a new majority coalition and institutionalizing a new governing order. Still, Dr. Nichols explained, this period of rejuvenation often comes with its own set of complicating factors, ranging from concurrent threats, such as the Civil War or Great Depression, to reckoning with the failures of prior presidents.

Prof. John Petrocik offered comments on Dr. Nichols’ research, after which the floor was opened up to a Q&A.

Curt Nichols is an Assistant Professor of Political Science at Baylor University. He completed his Ph.D. in Government at the University of Texas-Austin, where he wrote his dissertation, The Governing Cycle and the Dynamics of New Party Formation, under the direction of Jeffrey Tulis. Dr. Nichols has authored or co-authored articles that have appeared in The Forum, Justice System Quarterly, Polity, American Politics Research, and Presidential Studies Quarterly, among other journals. He joins the Kinder Forum as the 2014-15 Research Fellow in Political Science