Pol 166: American political system


How do we do politics in the United States? 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 formal institutions of government, but also on the ways that citizens interact with one another and other levels of government, and how those interactions affect policy at all levels.

To that end, interwoven with the discussion of formal politics will be an exploration of a particular moment in American history: the mid-1960s conflicts over civil rights. While there were many actors in those conflicts (and recognizing that the push for civil rights began long before and has lasted long after the 1960s) we will focus on the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), how and why they emerged, how those activists organized themselves, and how they related to others both pushing for and against civil rights.

While we are looking at SNCC for many reasons, the main reason is to consider the power relationship between citizens and those who would rule them. Note, of course, that not all who seek to rule are a part of the government—power in a democracy is widely, if unevenly, distributed— and that, crucially, the government that may be used to oppress may also be used to liberate.

Required readings (available at Lehman bookstore or online):
AG: Glen Krutz, et al, American Government 2e. (You can either read it in html or pdf; all references will be to the pdf page numbers)
APP: A Partial Politics, available on Blackboard
FM: Freedom Movt readings: links available, below

Attendance, 30 pts . . . 15%
Quizzes, 60 pts . . . 30%
Midterm Essay, Due November 5, 40 pts . . . 20%
Final Essay, Due December 19, 70 pts . . . 35%
Note: you will be given a separate handout for the essay assignments.
No extra credit will be available.

Attendance is mandatory, and will be taken at the outset of each class. It is expected that you participate in every class session. Lectures will cover both the course readings and additional materials. 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.

The quizzes will be short in-class closed-book fill-in-the-blank tests and cover a chapter or two. Quizzes will usually be held at the beginning of the class on Tuesdays; specific dates will be announced in the prior class. The midterm and final essays, on the other hand, are scaffolded papers designed to get you to think about the connection between citizen actions and government functions.

Regarding tablets/computers: You may use for notes as long as WIFI IS TURNED OFF; please stow cell phones.

Regarding food and drink in the classroom: Something to drink is fine, something to eat is not.


Days 1-2: Introduction: Politics, democracy and political culture
Aug 27-29: APP | AG chs. 1-3; Declaration of Independence (Appendix A)

Days 3-5: Foundations
Sept 3-10: AG, chs. 1-3; Constitution, Federalist Nos. 10 & 51 (Appendices B&C) ; begin AG ch 13

***No class Thursday, Sept 5: Monday schedule***

Days 6-7: Institutions: The courts
Sept 17-19: AG, finish ch 13; begin ch 4

Days 8-9: Political society: Civil liberties & civil rights
Sept 24-26: AG, finish ch 4; begin ch 5

***No classes Tuesdays, October 1 & 8: High Holidays***

Days 10-11: Civil rights: Freedom Movt
Oct 3-10: AG, finish ch 5;

Days 12-13: Freedom movement, interest groups
Oct 15-17: AG, ch 10;

Days 14-17: Media & public opinion
Oct 22-31: AG, chs 6 & 8;

Days 18-19: Institutions: The presidency, bureaucracy, & foreign policy
Nov 5-7: AG, begin chs 12, 15, & 17 . . . . . . . .  . . . . . . . . . . Midterm Essay Due

Days 20-21: The presidency, etc., cont.
Nov 12-14: AG, finish chs 12, 15, & 17

Days 22-23: Political society and institutions: Parties & elections
Nov 19-21: AG, chs 7 & 9;

Days 24-26: Institutions: Congress, Domestic policy
Nov 26-Dec 5: AG, chs. 11 & 16;

***No class Thursday, November 28: Thanksgiving***

Day 27-28: Claiming a right to be free
December 10-12:

Final Essay: due December 19