How and why do everyday Americans get involved in public life? Whose voices are heard – and whose are not? Why does political engagement matter? I examine these questions by looking at topical reform movements (e.g., for gun violence prevention); at pivotal social groups (e.g., women); and at key support structures (e.g., policy-minded donors).

What’s new? American democracy is facing dire challenges, but women are quietly spearheading a great political reformation. Nearly a century after winning the right to vote, they have a rich tradition of public-spirited collective action upon which to draw, as I discuss in this essay. In this modern Gilded Age, elite leadership will matter enormously, too. A forthcoming symposium in Interest Groups & Advocacy (co-edited with Jeff Berry) examines whose interests wealthy philanthropists represent. Might they be donors for democracy? Some earlier work in this vein: Are Foundations Part of ‘The Resistance’? (with Jeff Berry), HistPhil, May 26, 2017; In an Anti-Elite Age, Policy Plutocrats Remaking Society (LSE blog, April 1, 2017); PS Symposium on Philanthropy & Political Science, July 2016 + reactions from Inside Philanthropy & the Washington Post MonkeyCage blog. If you’re interested in these questions, please join the APSA Related Group on Philanthropy, Policy, and Power – all scholars (even outside poli sci) are most welcome (email me).



I teach American politics courses at Duke in the fall semester and run the Duke in DC “semester away” program for undergraduates in the spring. My courses cover the politics of the policymaking process; democratic participation and inequality; philanthropy and public policy; and practical applications of policy theories. My courses typically ask students to produce research for a “real world” organization. I also advise student theses at the undergraduate, master’s, and doctoral levels. I’m their teacher, but more so, they are mine. 

*In Fall 2018, I will be on leave as a visiting fellow at Stanford University’s Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society.


With privilege comes responsibility: to engage with policymakers, journalists, civic groups, and private citizens. I am honored to give public talks, assist journalists, contribute to my community, bring practitioners into my classroom, and support student work on “real world” dilemmas. I’m an active member of the Scholars Strategy Network, the American Political Science Association, and the League of Women Voters.

Books by Kristin Goss

Gun Debate