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Eli Merritt

Research Assistant Professor

Professor Merritt's areas of research include American political history, the intersection of demagogues and democracy, demagoguery in the media, and the role of ethical leadership in the preservation and maintenance of constitutional democracy. He is writing a book entitled Disunion Among Ourselves: A Political History of the American Revolution, which explores the politics of the Continental Congress during the war. The book reveals that the chief obstacle to achieving independence in the 1770s and 1780s was not the might of the British army and navy but regional chauvinism and the centrifugal forces of disunion which constantly threatened to break apart the United States's first government. 

In addition to writing Disunion Among Ourselves, Merritt researches and writes about contemporary American politics. One area of focus is the vulnerability of democracies to enervation and sabotage by demagogues. He has argued that the preservation of a healthy constitutional democracy in the United States hinges on whether Americans heed a golden rule of this free form of government as taught by democracy experts like Plato, Aristotle, Thucydides, Livy, Edward Gibbon, Alexis de Tocqueville, Lincoln, and the framers of the U.S. Constitution. That rule is that demagogues, especially those occupying high national office, are to the body politic of democracy what cancer is to the human body. Demagogues, like cancer, must be kept out, or removed; otherwise over time they eviscerate critical organs and devastate the democracy.

Representative publications

  • "Would the Founders Convict Trump and Bar Him From Office?" New York Times, 2021.
  • "Trump's Place in History? He is the Supreme American Demagogue," Los Angeles Times, 2021.
  • "How to Remember the Founders," New York Daily News, Opinion, 2020.
  • "Why Demagogues Were the Founding Fathers' Greatest Fear," Los Angeles Times, Opinion, 2019.
  • "The Constitution Must Be Our 'Political Religion': Remembering Lincoln's Words," Seattle Times, Opinion, 2019.
  • "Sectional Conflict and Secret Compromise: The Mississippi River Question and the United States Constitution," American Journal of Legal History 35 (1991).
  • View Curriculum Vitae