MY LIFE AND AMAZING ADVENTURES
(attending a caucus training session
at Coe in 1992;
from the Cedar Rapids Gazette archives)
I grew up in Wheaton, Illinois. My sister,
Susan Dudek, and my brother, Mark Nesmith, still live in that
area. I attended Wheaton Central
High School and graduated in 1977.
I graduated from North Central College in
Naperville, Illinois in 1981. My main pursuit there was radio
station WONC, where I did shows
with names like "The Bruce Nesmith Extravaganza" and "Brucemania". You
may go and check their web site (and listen to WONC on RealAudio!) but
only if you promise to attend Coe instead!
I worked briefly as a news announcer at WBOX in Bogalusa, Louisiana before turning
to the relative sanity (?!) of professional academia.
I received my Ph.D. from the University of Illinois in 1987,
under the direction of the redoubtable and extremely helpful Professor
Lester G. Seligman. My first full-time job was at Western Illinois University. I have
been at Coe since 1989.
My current research, collaborating with Paul J. Quirk of
the University of British Columbia, evaluates the performance of
presidents and Congress in a number of public policy cases. My one and
only published book is The New Republican Coalition: The Reagan
Campaigns and White Evangelicals, published by Peter Lang in 1994. Quirk
and I co-authored a chapter in The
Elections of 2008, published by CQ Press, and have a chapter on
presidential advising in Governing
at Home, published by Kansas University Press in 2011.
I am a member of the American Political Science Association,
though I rarely am able to attend the annual meetings. On the other
hand, I am not a member of the Midwest
Political Science Association, but attend their meeting in Chicago
almost every spring.
I volunteer at Garfield School in Cedar
My guest appearance on Iowa Public Radio's Politics
I am a frequent commentator on WMT Radio (600am) and local television,
and have been quoted in newspapers regarding:
I read in 2013:
- party identification data (Gazette,
- Monica Lewinsky (Gazette, 3/4/99)
- the Republican Party (Gazette, 3/14/99)
- George W. Bush (NY Times, 6/11/99)
- negative campaigning (Gazette,
- Orrin Hatch and the Mormon Church
- the 22nd Amendment (Gazette, 2/27/01)
- Cedar Rapids city elections
elections and the war (USA Today, 10/9/02)
- Midwestern values (Gazette, 8/6/04)
- Cedar Rapids's proposed charter
- John G. Roberts, Supreme Court nominee (Gazette, 7/19/05)
Vilsack's presidential campaign (KGAN, 2/23/07)
McCain's presidential campaign (Gazette, 7/14/07)
State of the Union address (1/24/12)
visit to Cedar Rapids (7/10/12)
Cruz's visit to Iowa (10/25/13)
Aiken: Senate Diary, January 1972-January
1975 by George D. Aiken. An independent Republican most famous
for saying in the 1960s the US should declare victory in Vietnam and
leave. This "diary" is weekly summaries of the last three of his 34
years in the Senate. He's got crusty-but-loveable down pat. Fair,
somewhat insightful, but on the detached side given what was going on
at the time.
Introduction to Supermodernity by Marc Augé. Before he was a famous author, Babel was a
writer attached to the Soviet army in the 1920 war against Poland.
Mostly in the form of notes, which surely helped him recall events for
use in future writing, the diary is most notable for its documentation
of cruelty by the Soviets.
Tubes: A Journey
to the Center of the Internet by Andrew Blum.
Peter A. Carlin. scores
the effects of suburbanization (isolation of children, reliance on cars
for everything, impoverishment of public places, obesity, waste), and
predicts its demise due to scarcity of resources. His arguments, first
presented in his 1993 book The
Geography of Nowhere, aren't unique but are made with
distinctive rhetorical force viz. labels like the "fossil fuel fiesta,"
"happy motoring program," "national automobile slum," "parking
lagoons," and "nature Band-Aids."
Midland Sky by Thomas Dean.
Lower East Side
Memories: A Jewish Place in America by Hasia R. Diner. Describes
the reality of medieval life and thought, stressing the credibility of
visions, the omnipresence of religion though cynicism about clerics was
widespread, the complex tangle of political authority, and the
inability of government in large part to administer justice… chapter 8
details the era’s harshly cynical attitudes towards women… to what
extent does all this affect the seemingly legalistic argumentation of
such like Aquinas, John of Salisbury and Giles of Rome? To what extent
should it have done?
The story of Ridley "Bit" Stone, raised on a
commune in upstate New York and later (after the commune dissolves) a
photographer, educator and single father. The author manages complex
character development, maintenance of tension between idealism and
reality, and lyrical prose. I was particularly intrigued with the
character of Handy, the founder and leader of the commune...
idealistic, charismatic and yet barely able to live with himself.
Culture of Place by bell hooks.
A short, uncomplicated book of scenes from
throughout the life of Marie, raised Catholic in Brooklyn during the
1920s and 1930s. The nonlinear presentation makes you
think--what?--that she is/we are the same people throughout our lives?
that closely-related events in our lives can occur many years apart?
that we are all products of times and places and may not make sense to
people from other times and places even if we're in the same family?
The book jacket lists a website for a reading group guide, and indeed
you could chew on this little book for quite awhile.
Much of its social commentary
has dated, but its central message not only endures, it seems to have
inspired a movement. Oldenburg argued than that America was suffering
from the loss of casual gathering places, such as the neighborhood
taverns, corner stores, soda fountains and coffee shops that had
been been a key part of American life prior to World War II, and are
still found in much of Western Europe. He coined the phrase third
place, referring to the "great variety of public places that host
the regular, voluntary, informal, and happily anticipated gatherings of
individuals beyond the realms of home and work" (p. 16). The loss of
third places, Oldenburg goes on, has led to higher levels of individual
stress including heretofore-unheard-of childhood depression,
crime, marital stress and divorce, and the loss of public/community
life that engages and sustains us.
Set in a southwest Iowa town in
the 1950s, but most of the book is the inner life of the main
character, an aged pastor. Intending to leave a message for his young
son to read after he dies, he is snapped out of reflections by an
unexpected and awkward visit. Fascinating look at the inner life of one
who has learned a lot about people and still loves them.
journalist stationed in Paris chronicles the events of May and June
1940, then gets out just ahead of the advancing Nazi army. Excellent
depictions of how everyday life goes on, until it doesn't. Interesting
thought that a united Europe could have nipped Hitler's ambitions in
the bud, but the Europe depicted here was so riven on national and
class lines that it was easy pickings.
Books I read in 2011-2012
Books I read in 2010
Books I read in 2009
Books I read in 2008
Books I read 2005-2007
Be it ever so humble, there's no place like Home!
last update 12/12/13