This GitPage is intended to be the interactive syllabus for Pol 1: Introduction to American Politics for the 2017 Summer Session 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:
Course slidesets and readings corresponding to the meeting topic.
Course readings corresponding to the meeting topic. With the exception of the textbook readings (designated as the Kollman Text below), if you click on the reading links, you will be taken to a PDF of the reading.
Review sheets for the midterm and final exams.
Lecture: Bainer Hall 1130; Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday 12:10-1:50
Discussion Section: Olson Hall 106; Thursday 12:10-1:50
Office Hours: Kerr Hall 663; Wednesday 2:10-4:30
Course Materials: Canvas & GitPage
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:
How does James Madison’s “Republic”" provide the fundamental theory that justifies the representative framework which underlies the American political system and what are the role of citizens and elites within this “ideal”" framework?
How do individual citizens make political decisions, such as which candidate to vote for and what policies & political positions (preferences) to hold? What are the implications of how citizens make decisions for Madison’s framework and the function of democracy?
What incentives motivate how elected elites (politicians) behave within the institution (i.e. the Congress and the presidency) in which they serve and what are the implications of differing incentives across institutions for responsiveness (policymaking)? How does collective institutional behavior, such as gridlock, fit into Madison’s view of democracy?
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!
Note: Slidesets are posted as links in the meeting headers text.
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?
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 party theory challenge Madison’s republic? And, perhaps the most important question, is an informed electorate NECESSARY for Madison’s theory to work?
Meeting 10: Review for Midterm & Catch-Up.
Meeting 11: Midterm Exam (July 17, 2017).
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 wraps up with a discussion on collective institutional behavior. That is, 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?
Meeting 20: Review for Final Exam & Catch-Up.
Meeting 21: Final Exam (August 2, 2017).
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