I watched in horror as a mob ransacked Congress yesterday. My stomach churned. I could not pull myself away from the television. Emotionally, I went through many of the symptoms associated with grief and experiencing severe trauma. Intellectually, I realized that I was going through those symptoms but I also wondered whether my reactions were shared widely by my fellow Americans. My mind flashed back to November of 1963.

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I was in an international relations seminar in my first term in graduate school at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill when the department secretary rushed into…

Election 2020

In 1972, I was deeply involved in the George McGovern presidential campaign. I was assigned to the McManus Club in Hell’s Kitchen for the last few hours of Election Day.

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At the time, Hell’s Kitchen was a pretty rough neighborhood and Jimmy McManus was the last of the old-fashioned machine politicians on the West Side of Manhattan. He had his people stationed at the polling places who kept track of who had voted and who hadn’t, reporting this information back to Jimmy.

At 8 PM, Jimmy gave me a list of apartments in the old-law tenements near the docks. He…



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I was elected a District Leader in New York’s 69th Assembly District in 1977, my first electoral victory, and a rare tenured faculty member in office. I also was New York’s first openly gay elected official. This is what I did as a local party boss to make life a little easier for our constituents.

The 69th was a rambling district, running from West 97th Street down to 78th. The district had about 40,000 people, and was incredibly diverse: about 40% of the district was Jewish and about 40% was Black and Latinx. …


Trump, COVID, and Flying Saucers

President Trump often said that COVID-19 was a hoax, that it would go away, and that people should just go about their lives. Many people, most notably his supporters, believed him.

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Republicans, for example were less likely to wear masks. Then President Trump became infected, was hospitalized, and was given heroic, often experimental, treatments. Many people, including members of the U.S. Senate and of his administration, also became infected as a result of attending a White House ceremony at which they did not wear masks (and to which no Democrats were invited). …

Election 2020


Today is National Voter Registration Day.

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This reminds me of my first experience as an expert witness at a trial. In the spring of 1969 — my second year at Hunter College in New York City — my colleague Blanche Blank came up to me in the hallway outside the department office and asked me if I did the kind of statistical analysis that could be useful in a voter registration case. I replied that Profs. Don Matthews and Jim Prothro, my University of North Carolina dissertation advisors, had testified in many voter registration cases, usually about…




When I was an undergrad, I decided to organize a Brooklyn College chapter of Students for Kennedy at the start of the fall 1960 semester. We were warmly welcomed by the Kennedy campaign but the Dean of Students’ office was very wary of any sort of political organizing on campus in the wake of the Red Scare that had recently enveloped the campus. Anyway, I became President of our small but hardy group.

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I spent a lot of my time at Kennedy headquarters, a single floor in a Park Avenue building that was part of the Kennedy family…


Part 2

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After winning the primary, I had some flirtations with real political power. Mondale’s delegate hunter met me for coffee. He asked me what I thought of Geraldine Ferraro. I said, “What can I tell you? She’s out of the Queens machine.” He said, “Well, she’s the only one who gives us another 2% in the polling.” I don’t know if he got my message but I certainly got his.

The second was more interesting. We had gotten word that Mondale was having second thoughts about having a platform plank supporting gays in the military and we engaged…


Most political science only happens in publications and conferences. For me, being a political scientist has also meant experiencing politics up close. As we approach the presidential conventions, this is my story about how I landed at the 1984 Democratic National Convention in San Francisco, where, before the pandemic, I hoped to attend the APSA meeting this year. Get ready for a party hosted by Willie Brown where Jefferson Starship dueled with the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus for our attention.

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Part 1

Wanting to be a delegate to the Democratic National Convention

I was raised by very political grandparents…

Kenneth Sherrill

Professor Emeritus of political science at Hunter College, CUNY and Graduate School, CUNY. American politics, New York politics, elections, LGBTQ politics.

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