DHPS professor builds profile as expert political analyst
Has commented on major media outlets about Florida politics
When CAHSS Department of History and Political Science Professor Charles Zelden, Ph.D., appeared on local South Florida news to discuss the contested 2000 Presidential election, he never expected it would lead to nearly two decades of political analysis.
It was the contested election between Al Gore and George W. Bush that popularized terms like “recount” and “hanging chads,” and Zelden found himself discussing the topic on the news alongside colleagues like Associate Professor Timothy Dixon, J.D., and Professor Gary Gershman, Ph.D./J.D.
“I could describe things in terms viewers could understand,” Zelden said.
Zelden said the election led to him researching voting rights, which culminated in the 2008 book Bush v Gore: Exposing the Hidden Crisis in American Democracy. A second edition was released in 2010.
“Bush v Gore wasn’t about broken voting machines, it wasn’t about chads, it was about a broken electoral system,” he said. “My main goal was to make it understandable, so people read this and understand what happened, and why.”
Zelden continued to explore the intersection of politics, the judiciary, and elections in books such as The Supreme Court and Elections (2009) and Thurgood Marshall: Race, Rights and the Struggle for a More Perfect Union (2013). During subsequent elections, Zelden continued political analysis in South Florida media and built up contacts at TV and newspaper outlets.
In the last few years, Zelden began getting media calls from outside Florida, which culminated in 2018 with appearances on CNN and quotes in outlets like USA Today, the Associated Press and Vox. The topic: the heated Florida gubernatorial race between Democrat Andrew Gillum and Republican Ron DeSantis. In an echo of 2000, the election led to a recount in Broward County, with DeSantis ultimately declared the winner. Zelden also commented on the U.S. Senate race between Sen. Bill Nelson and then-Gov. Rick Scott, as well as a constitutional amendment to restore voting rights for former felons.
“I haven’t been this busy since the 2000 election,” Zelden said.
With Florida now being the third most populated state and consequential elections decided by thin margins, Zelden expects that he will continue to provide analysis at a steady rate in the future. He is also at work on a biography tentatively titled The Judge Intuitive: Joseph C. Hutcheson, Jr., Southern Federal Judge, as well as a project on gerrymandering. Zelden teaches undergraduate courses in government and history, and he now also teaches in the graduate National Security Affairs and International Relations program.
“I’ve got a wide range of classes I teach that are outgrowths of the work I’ve done,” Zelden said.