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Eastern's Balcerski emerges as media expert on presidential politics

Published on January 06, 2021

Eastern's Balcerski emerges as media expert on presidential politics


Eastern Connecticut State University History Professor Tom Balcerski has become a frequent contributor in the national conversation on presidential politics this election season. A presidential historian, his expertise and opinion has been highly sought by local and national media as society grapples with a historic presidential election.

Balcerski's 2020 media outbreak coincided with the summer publication of his latest book "Bosom Friends: The Intimate World of James Buchanan and William Rufus King," which explores the curious friendship of Buchanan (1791-1868), a bachelor from Pennsylvania and the 15th president of the United States, and King (1786-1853), a politician from Alabama.

Over the ensuing months, as the drama of the 2020 election unfolded, Balcerski was featured extensively in the media, from CNN to C-SPAN.

Balcerski “I wanted to contribute my voice to the national dialogue happening about the 2020 presidential election,” said Balcerski. “Historians spend years studying our topics, so in our current historic moment, I think we can help provide much needed context to understanding current events.”

Balcerski is an expert on the history of American politics and has appeared in numerous newspaper articles and over the airwaves across the nation. As of this writing, since arriving at Eastern in fall 2015, in addition to his latest book, he has published one scholarly monograph, six peer reviewed articles, 17 book reviews, and 22 shorter pieces for popular audiences. During this same time, he has given 12 public lectures, participated in 17 conference papers panels, and appeared on 19 radio programs, television shows and podcasts.

Starting in 2019, Balcerski became a regular contributor to major media outlets. He brought his historical perspective to bear through a series of articles, numbering 10 so far, written for CNN. These pieces — often the most read on — aim to place current events, particularly pertaining to presidential politics, in the context of American history. For example, he considered President Donald Trump’s recent pardon of Michael Flynn in light of pardons issued by Presidents Gerald Ford and Bill Clinton.

“Part of the motivation was to model for our students how to write for a public audience,” Balcerski said, “so I assigned students to do the very same things I was doing — writing op-eds using historical context. Seeing students engage with current events was very rewarding to me.”

Historical perspective also guided Balcerski’s two opinion pieces written for the “Made by History” section of the Washington Post.  He has also written articles for the Smithsonian Magazine and New Jersey Monthly Magazine. The Financial Times of London, Newsweek, Time Magazine, NBC, the Advocate, the Greenwich Times, Politico and dozens of Twitter accounts also have consulted him for stories.

Since arriving at Eastern, Balcerski has made every effort to translate his scholarship into teachable moments for a wider public, including appearances on C-SPAN. In fall 2015, C-SPAN3 American History TV filmed an episode of “Lectures of History” drawn from his research into the culture of the antebellum Congress as part of his American History class.

In January 2020, CSPAN featured his research on alcohol and tobacco in the 19th-century Congress as part of an interview series about historians presenting at the American Historical Association annual meeting in New York.

Balcerski on CSPAN
Balcerski presents on the antebellum Congress for a "Lectures in History" episode on C-SPAN.

In November 2020, C-SPAN3 American History TV asked Balcerski to appear for a second time on “Lectures in History” — this time conducted virtually over Microsoft Teams — on the topic of his book about the relationship of Buchanan and King.

Recorded interviews about his research activity have been featured on podcast episodes such as the Deviant’s World, the Age of Jackson, the Presidencies Podcast and Number One Observation Circle about President-Elect Joe Biden. Numerous blogs in the field of history have also interviewed Balcerski about his research.

Beyond these pre-recorded appearances, Balcerski has brought his historical expertise to bear on the challenges facing American society in real time. He has given live televised interviews offering historical context of various aspects of our political moment for NBC Connecticut, BBC World News, CBC News (Canada), TRT World (Turkey), Asahi Shimbun (Japan) and WGN America.

When President Trump fell ill with COVID-19, for example, he noted similar episodes of illness experienced by Presidents Grover Cleveland and Dwight Eisenhower. He has also spoken on radio stations such as WLS-AM 890 Chicago, NewsTalk 103.7 FM and Sirius XM POTUS Politics, to discuss the presidential election of 2020 and to provide historical analogies to the ongoing presidential transition.

“I just feel lucky to have a voice in this important national conversation,” said Balcerski. “Historians can and should bring their expertise and analysis to the table. From there, the public is better able to proceed.”

Written by Dwight Bachman