Zachary Courser, Ph.D.

Associate Professor of the Practice



Areas of Expertise

American Constitutionalism
American Culture and Politics
American Politics
Political Parties
Public Policy


Zachary Courser is Director of CMC's Policy Lab, a Fellow with the Bipartisan Policy Center in Washington, DC, and a visiting Assistant Professor of Government. His research agenda focuses on public policy, political parties, democracy, Congress, and populism. He is an expert on congressionally directed spending, having co-authored two reports with leading DC think tanks on the subject, and is currently working on a book entitled Empowering the Purse: How Earmarks Help Congress Do Its Job. In February 2023 he co-authored "Power Restored: Congressionally Directed Spending in the 117th Congress," analyzing the first two fiscal years of the directed spending and offering policy recommendations on how to improve the practice. In 2021 he co-authored "Restoring the power of the purse: Earmarks and re-empowering legislators to deliver local benefits" for the American Enterprise Institute on the need for reinstating congressional earmarking after a 10-year moratorium. He also has an active research agenda on voting access and the effects of vote by mail on turnout.

He is a contributor and editor of the volume Parchment Barriers: Political Polarization and the Limits of Constitutional Order (University Press of Kansas, 2018), the result of a year-long, multi-disciplinary research project examining the dynamics of polarization through an examination of conflicts over the American constitutional order. Prof. Courser has led several research partnerships for CMC’s Policy Lab with a variety of think tanks, including the Bipartisan Policy Center, RAND Corporation, American Enterprise Institute, and the Brookings Institution. He has also organized international conferences on topics such as populism and contemporary challenges to western liberalism from Russia.

He has experience working in Washington, DC, both on Capitol Hill and as the interim director of Claremont McKenna College’s Washington Program, and is a commentator on California and national politics on Southern California Public Radio. Before coming to CMC he served as the Program Director and Fellow for a London-based think tank, and taught in a master's program in American Politics at Science Po Lyon in France. He holds a master’s and doctoral degree in government from the University of Virginia, and a bachelor’s in government from Claremont McKenna College. He also holds a diplôme universitaire d’études françaises from the Université Lumière Lyon 2, Centre International d’Études Françaises.


M.A., Ph.D. Government, University of Virginia, 2008 B.A. Government, Claremont McKenna College, 1999

Research and Publications

Zachary Courser and Eric Helland, “The Impact of Statewide Vote-by-Mail on Partisan and Minority Participation in Elections,” working paper.

"Restoring the power of the purse: Earmarks and re-empowering legislators to deliver local benefits," co-authored with Kevin Kosar, American Enterprise Institute, 2021.

"Introduction" and "Parties Against the Constitution" in Parchment Barriers: Political Polarization and the Limits of Constitutional Order, Zachary Courser, Eric Helland and Ken Miller, eds. (Lawrence, KS: University Press of Kansas, 2018).

Losing Faith in Elites: The Roots of Protest in the Occupy and the Tea Party movements,” in Get in the Booth, Larry Sabato, ed. (New York: Pearson / Longman, 2012).

Protest Without a Party: The Tea Party as a Conservative Social Movement,” Society: vol. 49, iss. 1, p. 43-53 (New York: Springer, 2012).

"The Tea Party at the Election," The Forum: vol. 8 : iss. 4 (Berkeley, CA: Berkeley Electronic Press, January 2011).

Wal-Mart and the Politics of American Retail,” Competitive Enterprise Institute monograph.  (Washington, DC: CEI Press, 2005).

Zachary Courser, Michael Thorning, Franz Wuerfmannsdobler, “Power Restored: Congressionally Directed Spending in the 117th Congress and Recommendations for Improvement,” Bipartisan Policy Center, Washington, DC (February 2023).

Tuesday / Thursday 3-5p