Sidney M. Milkis

White Burkett Miller Professor of Politics, and Faculty Associate, Miller Center of Public Affairs, University of Virginia
Areas of Expertise:
  • Government Agencies
  • Public Sector Reforms
  • Revitalizing U.S. Democracy
  • Social Movements

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About Sidney

Milkis’s scholarship and teaching investigates the historical development of executive power, party politics, social movements and the relationship among these dimensions of American politics and government. He is especially interested in how the expansion of national administration has affected partisan politics and political participation. Because his work tends to focus on big issues and he writes accessibly, he has been asked to do many media events and give many public lectures. He also was an expert witness in the McCain Feingold campaign finance case, which ultimately was resolved by the Supreme Court.



Theodore Roosevelt, the Progressive Party and the Transformation of American Democracy (Kansas University Press, 2009, paperback 2011).
Explores progressivism’s historical roots, made even more relevant by the renewal of progressivism signaled by the election of Barack Obama and the sharp partisan conflict over his domestic reform program. Named a Progressive Book of the Month and was the subject of public lectures at several think tanks, including the Center for American Progress, the American Enterprise Institute and the Hudson Institute.
The American Presidency: Origins and Development, 1776-2011, 6th Edition (with Michael Nelson) (Congressional Quarterly Press, 2011).
Discusses important aspects in the history and development of the office and role of the president in America. Winner of the 1991 Benjamin Franklin Award for history, politics, and philosophy.
"How Great was the Great Society?" in A Companion to Lyndon B. Johnson, edited by Mitchell B. Lerner (Wiley-Blackwell, 2012).
Reviews the work of historians and political scientists in a synthetic treatment of the Sixties to reconsider the Great Society as a major stage in American political development – and concludes that the rise and fall of Lyndon Johnson’s War on Poverty sheds considerable light on the inequality that plagues contemporary American politics.
"The Politics of the Policymaking State" in Living Legislation: Political Development and Contemporary American Politics, edited by Jeffery Jenkins and Eric Patashnik (University of Chicago Press, 2012).
Explores how constitutional boundaries have been expanded by the growth of federal programs since the New Deal and examines the effect of a “policy-making state” on the rule of law, self-government, and equality.
"What Happened to Post-Partisanship? Barack Obama and the New American Party System" (with Jesse Rhodes and Emily Charnock). Perspectives on Politics 10, no. 1 (March 2012).
Examines the responsibilities Obama has faced in assuming the received tasks of modern presidential leadership and a polarized political system.
"‘Rallying Force’: The Modern Presidency, Social Movements, and the Transformation of American Politics" (with Daniel Tichenor and Laura Blessing). Presidential Studies Quarterly (September 2013).
Analyzes the important but tense relationship between the modern presidency and social movements. Focusing especially on Lyndon Johnson's uneasy but critical relationship to the Civil Rights movement and Ronald Reagan's enlistment of the Christian Right into the Republican Party, we trace the emergence of a novel form of politics since the 1960s that joins executive prerogative, grass roots insurgency, and party polarization.
"The Presidency and American Political Development: The Advent – And Illusion of an Executive Centered Democracy" in The Oxford Handbook of American Political Development, edited by Robert Lieberman, Suzanne Mettler, and Richard Valelly (Oxford University Press, forthcoming).
Explores how an historical approach to the study of the presidency sheds light on how presidents have influenced the rise and fall of political orders in American history; how presidential power has been affected by the emergence of “big government” during the first six decades of the twentieth century and the rancorous political contest over its authority that has ensued since; and how the establishment of a presidency-centered democracy forged on the New Deal political order has affected representative constitutional government.

In the News

Sidney M. Milkis quoted on President Trudeau in William Watson, "If Trudeau Wants to Do Politics 'differently,' He Should Do Less Politics" Financial Post, April 26, 2018.
Sidney M. Milkis quoted on the Progressive Era in Daniel Horowitz, "Romney’s Utah Setback Proves Nominating Conventions Could Fix the Senate" Conservative Review, April 23, 2018.
Sidney M. Milkis quoted in Julia Azari, "Can a Maverick Candidate Save the Republican Party?" Vox, March 2, 2018.
Sidney M. Milkis quoted in John York, "Trump’s Budget Takes a First Swing at Bloated Bureaucracies. Here’s What More Needs to be Done." The Daily Signal , February 15, 2018.
Sidney M. Milkis quoted in Jean Kelly, " The Unique Invention of the American President" Voice of America, January 22, 2018.
Sidney M. Milkis quoted on Trump’s deployment of what they call “executive-centered partisanship” in Dan Balz, "How Trump is Really Changing Things" The Washington Post, November 25, 2017.
Sidney M. Milkis quoted on campaign finance in Jill Ornitz, "Here’s Why the 2016 Republican Presidential Primary Could Make History" ABC News, August 1, 2015.
Sidney M. Milkis quoted on presidential vetoes in William Bigelow, "Obama's Keystone XL Veto is a Harbinger of Vetoes to Come" Breitbart, February 24, 2015.