F11 FYI/Pol 166 the American Political system
Is the United States a democracy? This is the question which will animate this course on American government. As an introduction, this course will focus heavily on the federal government, its various branches, and its functions; by the end of the semester you should have a solid understanding of the basics of American governance. Yet this is not just a course on the structure of national politics, but also on their purpose: why do we have the government and politics we have, and to what end?
Hence the question on if the US is a democracy—and whether the answer matters. There is the ongoing concern about representation and the role of citizens in their own governance. Furthermore, the so-called red-state/blue-state divide provides a bounty of material for arguments over cultural and religious pluralism. Then there is the issue of the great unmentionable in American politics: class. As much as we have interrogated ourselves over race and sex, and however much we discuss welfare or taxes, we have mostly avoided class. Finally, there is the matter of who this ‘we’ is: Does it contain all Americans? is it a fiction of elite opinion-makers? some mixture of the two, or something else altogether? These many states of America are defined as ‘United’; how much pluralism can we stand—or do we need—as a 21st century democracy?
Required readings (available at Lehman bookstore or online):
AND: Morris Fiorina, Paul E. Peterson, Bertram Johnson, and William G. Mayer, America’s New Democracy, 6th ed., ISBN 978 020 580 6737
CM: Correspondents of The New York Times, Class Matters, ISBN 978 080 508 0551
You are also strongly encouraged to read a daily newspaper and/or online political magazine, and to bring issues raised in these media into class discussions.
Midterm Exam 1, October 13 25%
Midterm Exam 2, November 22 25%
Final Exam TBA 35%
Attendance & participation: 15%
Exams will cover both reading and classroom material. The midterms will be comprised of two parts: an open-book take-home essay (due on the day of the exam) and a closed-book in-class objective test; the final exam will be in-class and include both objective and essay portions. The two midterms cover only the material in those sections; the final exam is comprehensive.
It is expected that you participate in every class session. We will focus on course readings on Tuesdays, while Thursdays will be given over to discussions and simulations. Try to complete the readings before the Tuesday class, and certainly by the Thursday session: You will be better prepared both to ask questions about the readings and to participate.
Days 1-2: Introduction: Democracy and political culture
August 30-Sept 1: Introduction; AND Declaration of Independence, chs. 1-2
Days 3-4: Constitution; Democracy and political culture; federalism
September 6-8: AND chs. 2-3, The Constitution; Federalist nos. 10 and 51
Days 5-6: Congress
September 13-15: AND ch. 10
Days 7-8: Presidency
September 20-22: AND ch. 11
Days 9-10: Judiciary & bureaucracy
September 27-October 6: AND chs. 12-13
***COLLEGE CLOSED—NO CLASS September 29***
***FRIDAY SCHEDULE—NO CLASS October 4***
Days 11-12: Roots and branches
October 11: finish structures of government
October 13: MIDTERM EXAM 1
Days 13-14: Democracy and political culture, cont.
October 18-20: AND chs. 4-5; CM chs. 1-3
Days 15-16: Democracy and political culture, cont.
October 25-27: AND ch. 6; CM chs. 4-10
Days 17-18: Democracy, political culture, and policy
November 1-3: AND ch. 16
Days 19-20: Parties, Elections, and Participation
November 8-10: AND chs. 7-9
Days 21-22: Parties, policies, culture
November 15-17: CM 11-12
Day 23—November 22: MIDTERM EXAM 2
***THANKSGIVING—NO CLASS November 24***
Days 24-25 Civil Liberties & civil rights
November 29-December 1: AND chs. 14-15
Days 26-27: Civil Rights & civil liberties
December 6-8: AND chs. 14-15, CM chs. 13-14, “Encounters with Class”
Day 28: Democracy, politics, and democratic politics
December 13: Wrap-up and review
Final Exam: TBA