In a tie with Niall Ferguson, my favorite contemporary academic historian to make a successful mainstream crossover is Victor Davis Hanson. They're both considered conservatives by academics; I'm not sure what that means, but I heartily approve of both gentlemen.
Judge for yourself: Hanson's latest piece is an excellent defense of Classical education (this one's for you, Santos). Ferguson's book, The Ascent of Money (Fenhop), was recently the topic of conversation on C-Span's Book TV's After Words program: Here's a link.
And maybe best of all, click here to watch V.D. Hanson talk about "Where the University Went Wrong." [I tried to embed this, but it didn't work right -- apologies]
And what the hell?--how about one for Mxrk: This guy is a senator (finally!!!).