Kevin O'Leary

Kevin O'Leary, a journalist and political scientist, is a research fellow at the Center for the Study of Democracy at the University of California, Irvine. 

Recent Articles

How the Blue Wave Swelled to a Tsunami in Orange County

What convinced the birthplace of modern American conservatism to send only Democrats to Washington?

Ever since California’s Orange County helped power the rise of Barry Goldwater and the Reagan Revolution, political observers have viewed it as the quintessential Republican stronghold. Such congressional representatives as Dana Rohrabacher and Robert Dornan personified the belligerent far right, the Orange County Register promoted a hard-edged libertarian worldview, and Republican lawmakers such as Christopher Cox, Darrel Issa, and Ed Royce wielded considerable clout on Capitol Hill. Named for orange groves long vanished, the suburban region south of Los Angeles was known for Disneyland, beautiful beaches, master planned communities, and a powerful conservative business class that exercised national political influence via the Lincoln Club, a high-rolling conservative fundraising group. Republican senators from across the nation made the pilgrimage to Orange County much as Democrats flocked to West Los Angeles and San Francisco to fill their coffers. But nothing lasts forever...

Alabama Senate Special Election Hinges on African American Turnout

Will the traditional method of turning out black voters in Alabama be enough to carry Democrat Doug Jones to victory?

(AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)
The question hovering over the Alabama Senate contest between Democrat Doug Jones and Republican Roy Moore is whether blacks will turn out to vote in sufficient numbers to give Jones a shot at victory in the December 12 special election less than two weeks before Christmas. The race is a dead heat going into its final week, according to the latest Washington Post poll , and national money has poured into the Democrat’s campaign since Moore was accused of sexual misconduct with teenage girls while working as a 30-something district attorney. As a result, the Jones campaign is “well resourced” to both pursue moderate white voters and fund a “robust base consolidation” operation among African Americans, says Montgomery-based Democratic pollster Zac McCrary. To become Alabama’s first Democratic Senator in two decades and the first Democrat elected statewide since 2008, Jones will need “a massive 20-plus margin in Birmingham and surrounding...

Could Alabama Be Next?

Doug Jones’s uphill battle against Roy Moore in the Alabama Senate race

Jeronimo Nisa /The Decatur Daily via AP Candidate Doug Jones chats with constituents before a Democratic Senate candidate forum at the Princess Theatre in Decatur, Alabama The hill country of northern Alabama holds one of the keys to next month’s special election that will decide if GOP Christian firebrand Roy S. Moore or Democrat Doug Jones joins the U.S. Senate in 2018. Nearly everyone agrees that Jones is a quality candidate and a man of integrity. In the early 2000s, as U.S. attorney he successfully prosecuted the last of the Birmingham Church bombers who killed four African American girls in 1963—a time when white Alabama stood firmly behind then Governor George Wallace trying to derail the civil rights revolution. The December 12 special election to fill the seat once held by Attorney General Jeff Sessions will be the first general Senate election of President Trump’s tenure. Progressives hope Jones can score an upset against Moore, whose extreme views of...

Trump and the Racial Politics of the South

The legacy of slavery and segregation creeps northward.

Joseph Rodriguez/News & Record via AP
This article appeared in the Summer 2016 issue of The American Prospect magazine. Subscribe here . For decades, Donald Trump has been known as a narcissistic, bombastic New York businessman who craves the media spotlight. However, if you unpack the dynamics of his support as a politician, Trump’s stunningly successful run to the top of the Republican ticket is less New York chutzpah and more Southern demagogue. Trump’s appeal to disaffected whites, especially working-class white men, evokes the racial politics of the white South. For a century and a half, a possible alliance between lower-income black and white Southern voters has been blocked by elites appealing to racial division. There is plenty of racism in the North, of course, though the South is the epicenter of this brand of right-wing populism. As the economic fortunes of working- and middle-class white men have faltered in the past generation, resurgent racism has filled the political vacuum. While anti-immigrant...

Time's Up

In the aftermath of September 11, a writer to The New York Times spoke for many New Yorkers when he wrote, "There is no more eloquent testimony to the mindlessness of term limits than the performance of Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani during this time of crisis. We mistake change for improvement, and New York City will be the poorer because of our unwillingness to let the voters decide when a leader should depart." An extraordinary crisis coupled with a gifted leader is a powerful argument against arbitrary limits in the executive branch. It was fortunate for the nation that President Lincoln could run for a second term in 1864 and President Roosevelt could run for a third term in 1940 and then a fourth in 1944. The nation's state legislatures present an even stronger argument against term limits. There, the pluses--greater diversity, more members with local government experience--can't make up for the damage done. The damage wouldn't be so great if the United States had a parliamentary...