Miller Center

Miller Center National Fellowship

Beginning in the 2017-2018 academic year, the National Fellowship Program, a longstanding initiative of the Miller Center, will fall under the leadership of the Jefferson Scholars Foundation at U.Va.. The Jefferson Scholars Foundation, created in 1980, currently offers the premier graduate fellowship and undergraduate scholarship at the University. To learn more about the National Fellows Program, including how to apply, click here.

Meet The Fellows

Laura Blessing - Politics, University of Virginia

Project: The New Politics of Taxation: The Republican Party and Anti-Tax Positions

Blessing photo

Laura Blessing is a Senior Fellow at The Government Affairs Institute at Georgetown University.

Blessing earned her PhD from the University of Virginia. While at UVa she taught courses on Congress, the Presidency, and Media and Politics for students at both UVa and Sweet Briar College.  After defending her dissertation she worked on Capitol Hill as an American Political Science Association Congressional Fellow.  She served as the legislative assistant for tax policy for Lloyd Doggett (D-TX), a senior member of the Ways and Means Committee.  She is currently working on a book on the politics of tax policy from the mid-century to today. Blessings' areas of expertise include the politics of tax policy, legislative politics, the legislative process, the state of partisanship, Congressional operation and history, and Executive-Legislative relations.

Blessing's dissertation investigated the development of our current tax politics.  In the mid-1950s to mid-1970s a balanced budget consensus and low levels of politicization were apparent.  Since then, these have changed, with profound consequences.  This transformation has been caused, not by ideological or economic factors, but rather by a national Republican party-building strategy.  This is evident in a number of different measures, both qualitative and quantitative, from roll call votes and party platforms to the coordination strategies of national party leaders.  The party has used an explicitly anti-tax strategy to win elections and build a powerful coalition of many otherwise disparate groups. 


Boris Heersink - Politics, University of Virginia

Project: Beyond Service: National Party Organizations and Party Brands in American Politics

Heersink photo

Boris Heersink’s dissertation focuses on the historical development of the Democratic and Republican National committees (respectively the DNC and RNC) during the 19th and 20th century.The (limited) existing literature on these institutions has argued that party organizations have developed from powerful 19th century local institutions (dominated by party bosses) which controlled candidate selection, into national institutions which hold no such powers and function as mere 'service providers' to party members. Additionally, political scientists have noted that this historical development in national committee activities has not been linear and that, while majority parties in the 20th century frequently ignored their national party organizations, minority parties invested heavily in theirs. He argues that we can best explain both phenomena by viewing the national committees as tools political actors use to promote or define their party's brand. From this perspective, we can explain both why the national committees dramatically expanded their activities in the late 19th and early 20th century, as well as explain why, in subsequent decades, minority parties have had more active national committees than majority parties. Additionally, he argues that this perspective forces us to reconsider the image of the national committees as largely irrelevant ‘service providers’: he argues that the services the committees provide serve a specific (and important) role to members of the party, and that, in executing this task of brand-building, the national committees have played a crucial role in the creation of parties that share a truly national set of policy preferences.

Selected Recent Publications

"Measuring the Vice-Presidential Home State Advantage With Synthetic Controls." American Politics Research 44, no. 4 (July 2016)

"GOP voters picked Trump. Party leaders aren’t falling in line. Here’s why that’s surprising." (with Jeffery A. Jenkins) The Monkey Cage, The Washington Post, May 10, 2016.

"This research shows that vice presidential candidates actually do win votes in their home states." (with Brenton Peterson) The Monkey Cage, The Washington Post, April 26, 2016.

"The Republicans' Rules Dilemma." The New West, April 24, 2016.

"Bernie Sanders thinks the Democratic primary process ‘distorts reality.’ Does history back this up?" (with Jeffery A. Jenkins) The Monkey Cage, The Washington Post, April 17, 2016.


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