Glen Browder Stays Focused on Political Reform
and American Democracy in Retirement
Reprinted here in its entirety.
|Glen Browder - JSU Emeritus Professor of American Democracy
Reprinted here in its entirety.
By Joey Kennedy
The Birmingham News
Glen Browder Still Working in Background
Glen Browder has collected plenty of prestigious titles over
his 64 years: professor, state representative, Alabama
secretary of state, U.S. representative. Now, he can add
Browder, longtime political scientist at Jacksonville
State University, is now the Emeritus (retired from active
service) Professor of American Democracy at the
university. He taught his final class last fall, though he
still maintains an office on campus.
"I'm officially retired," Browder says.
"But they haven't thrown me out yet. They're
still kind enough to give me a computer, printer and
telephone. I do a lot of writing and a lot of
Emeritus, perhaps. But Browder stays busier than many
"working" folks. Besides writing essays and
researching politics, he has a couple of key book projects
There's a biography on Browder in the works, due out
in 2008 from New South Books.
"I'm excited about the biography not simply
because it's the ego of having a biography,"
Browder says. "It's pretty important to me to get
the message out to young people that if they get their heads
on straight, they can do a lot of good work in politics and
That's Browder, all right. At whatever level of
public service, Browder was a government reformer and an
optimist. He didn't worry nearly as much about getting
elected or re-elected as he did about changing the political
landscape and traditional, entrenched attitudes. He won a
spot in the state Legislature in 1982 as a reformer; he was
elected secretary of state, the state's chief elections
officer, in 1987 as a reformer; then Browder advanced as a
reformer to Congress in 1989, after the death of U.S. Rep.
Browder's campaigns for political reform, especially
campaign finance reform, eventually cost him his political
career. He suffered his only election defeat in 1996 when he
ran for the Democratic nomination for the U.S. Senate.
"I hated raising money," Browder admits. "I
never could raise money. I always got elected on things
other than money. Then I really needed big money, and I
couldn't raise it."
After Congress, Browder returned to the classroom,
alternating between Jacksonville State and the Naval
Postgraduate School in California. Even now, in
"retirement," he stays focused on reform and
The second book project Browder is working on this summer
is tentatively titled "Stealth Reconstruction,"
also to be published in 2008. This book focuses on how black
and white public officials and political leaders engaged in
what Browder calls "the quiet, practical, biracial
politics" of the 1970s, '80s and '90s.
"A lot of people, when they think or write or talk
about the South, they talk about the heroic drama of the
civil rights movement (of the 1950s and '60s),"
Browder explains. "What they're missing is that
the South underwent a tremendous change in the '70s,
'80s and '90s that was under the radar. But it was
these stealth leaders ... (who) changed everyday politics in
Browder, of course, was part of that movement, as a
college professor, a political scientist and an elected
"This will be a controversial book," Browder
predicts. "Some people will resent it because they
think it detracts from the heroic drama of the civil rights
There's not a lot of stealth in how Browder views
"The more I've been out of politics, the less
political I have become," Browder says. "I really
think that the system is under such strain that it's
hard for anybody to make it work right. We have tortured the
system so much that we almost guarantee that whoever wins
control of the system is going to have great difficulty
Browder tells a joke about the third baseman who keeps
making so many errors, the baseball coach sits him in the
dugout and takes the field himself. The next ball hit
bounces right between the coach's legs, well below his
outstretched glove. The coach throws the glove down and
sprints up to the player: "You've screwed up third
base so much can't nobody play it."
That, says Browder, describes politics in America today.
Whether this great experiment in American democracy can
continue, Browder says, is still "to be
determined," but he is characteristically optimistic.
"At critical junctures, America seems to make the right
choice, whether it wants to or not," Browder says.
Let's hope the emeritus professor of American
democracy at JSU is correct. Joey Kennedy, a Pulitzer Prize
winner, is an editorial writer and editor of the Sunday
Commentary section for The News. E-mail:
See story at The Birmingham News Web site.
See Wikipedia entry on Glen Browder and also the Web site giving insights into his
career and philosophy: futureofamericandemocracy.org.
for news releases by using the request form at www.jsu.edu/newswire/request.