This GitPage is intended to be the interactive syllabus for Pol 1: Introduction to American Politics for the 2017 Fall Quarter. The full syllabus for the course can be found above. Class logistics, the theoritical framework for the course, and course readings can be found below. Under each meeting header, you will find:

Class Time, Office Hours & Course Materials

Lecture: Hickey Gymnasium 290; Tuesday & Thursday 8:00-9:20
Discussion Section/Term Paper Period: Hickey Gymnasium 290; Thursday & Thursday 9:30-9:50
Office Hours: Kerr Hall 663; Tuesday 10:00-12:00 & by appointment
Course Materials: Canvas & GitPage

Course Objective: How do we study & assess American democracy?

This course offers an introduction to the systematic and meticulous study of American politics. Building on the scientific foundation of political science, this course is designed to provide an understanding into the behavior of citizens and institutions operating within the national framework of American government. The main question motivating the course is a simple, yet complex one: how well does the American political system live up to the ideals of a representative democracy? Recognizing that representative democracy requires engaged citizens and responsive institutions, the motivating question of the course hinges on understanding:

These thematic questions may seem daunting, but this course will give you the necessary framework to perform careful political and social science analysis to gain leverage on these questions. This course will provide not only an understanding of how to think of the quality of American democracy but also how to engage in careful social science analysis. This course emphasizes the tools you need to assess political behaviors, practices, and institutions based on theory and evidence. Welcome to the class!

Course Road-Map & Materials

Note: Slidesets are posted as links in the meeting headers text.

1. Madison’s Republic: Foundation of American Democracy

Section Objective: Madison’s theory of representative democracy, outlined in Federalist 10 & 51, outlines the justification for the American constitution and our representative form of government. This section provides an understanding of the motivation underpinning a representative form of democracy, centered around Madison’s argument about human nature, how representatives behave in political life, and the consequences of Madison’s argument on political change. Ask yourself, is Madison’s Republic democratic relative to other forms of democracy and how well does this theory explain the American system today?

  1. Meeting 1: Course Overview & ``First-Attempts’’ at American Democracy
  2. Meeting 2: The Problem of Human Nature: Self-Interest, Factions, & Collective Action
  3. Meeting 3: Madison’s Theory: Self-Interest & Ambition as the Solution

2. Citizen Political Behavior: Functioning as Critical Principals

Section Objective: It’s clear that Madison’s Republic posits an important role for citizens in a representative democracy. This section highlights how citizens function as principals of their elected representatives (i.e. agents). This section provides an understanding of which type of citizens participate in politics, what the incentives are to be “disengaged” from the political process, how well elections work, and what role parties play (if any) in helping citizens make political decisions. Pay close attention to some key questions. What are the implications of the “disengagement” incentive for the functioning of Madison’s Republic? Do elections help citizens make a more “representative” form of government and how do we know when they do? How does the pluralist theory challenge Madison’s republic? And, perhaps the most important question, is an informed electorate NECESSARY for Madison’s theory to work?

  1. Meeting 4: Variation in Citizen Participation: Resources and Free-Riding Incentive
  2. Meeting 5: Developing Political Preferences: Citizen Self-Interest
  3. Meeting 6: Overcoming Limited Information: How Citizens use Short-Cuts to Act
  4. Meeting 7: Electoral Dynamics: The Role of Campaign & Valence Context in Voting Choice
  5. Meeting 8: An Alternative to the Madisonian Model of Representation: Pluralism & By-Product Representation through Interest Groups
  6. Meeting 9: Does Pluralism Provide Equitable Representation? Critiques of the By-Product Model
*Download Midterm Review Here.*

  1. Meeting 10: Review for Midterm & Catch-Up.

  2. Meeting 11: Midterm Exam (November 2, 2017).

3. Post-Election: How Institutions Function within the Framework

Section Objective: This section turns our focus from citizens, the principals in a representative democracy, to elected representatives, the agents. This section focuses on two institutions, the Congress and the Executive, and assesses the incentives they have to be faithful agents for voters and whether they provide accurate political representation. This section begins with how Party Theory provides a framework of representation and policymaking. Pay close attention of how Party Theory differs with Madison’s conception of district-centered representation. This section wraps up with a discussion on collective institutional behavior. Critical questions for this section focus on comparing & contrasting Madison’s model of representation, Pluralism (By-Product Theory), and Party Theory. Speaking to institutions, think about how do the differing electoral incentives found in Congress and the Presidency inherently create a status quo bias? How does polarization exasperate this bias, what types of citizens get represented, and is the system in need of reform in light of Madison’s theory?

  1. Meeting 12: Parties in the Electorate: Helping Citizens Make Political Decisions at a Trade-off (Party Theory I)
  2. Meeting 13: Parties as Organizations: Implications of the American Party System & Procedural Cartel Theory (Party Theory II)
  3. Meeting 14: Congressional Incentives & “The Textbook Congress”: Representation & Getting Re-Elected
  4. Meeting 15: Change in Representation: Are Citizens Represented in the System?
  5. Meeting 16: The Presidency: At-Large Constituency & Presidential Representation
  6. Meeting 17: Executive-Legislative Bargaining: Inherent Status-Quo Bias
  7. Meeting 18: Polarization: Implications for Policymaking & Accountability
  8. Meeting 19: Reform Needed? Potential Reforms from Comparative Systems
*Download Final Exam Review Here.*

  1. Meeting 20: Review for Final Exam & Catch-Up.

  2. Meeting 21: Final Exam (6:00PM, December 14, 2017)

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