Politics in the United States (Introductory, undergraduate) - Spring 2018
This course provides an overview of the political processes and institutions of American government. In years past, I might have tried to convince you that this endeavor isn’t as boring as it sounds. These days, “boring” isn’t a word that many of us use to describe American politics. But “confusing” might be. So my goal in this class is to help illuminate our current politics by examining how the American political system has developed and operates today. Lectures, readings, and discussion will address the Constitution, federalism, public opinion, the media, civil rights, Congress, the presidency, the courts, and campaigns and elections, among other topics. Throughout the course, we will focus on how these features of American government help explain stories in the news and current public policy debates, some of which involve the Trump administration, racial and gender equality, congressional gridlock, and the upcoming 2018 midterm elections.
Women and Political Leadership (Upper-level, undergraduate) - Fall 2017
In 1776, Abigail Adams asked her husband to “remember the ladies,” as he drafted the Constitution. Echoing one of the fundamental grievances of the Revolution, she warned: “We will not hold ourselves bound by laws in which we have no voice or representation.” More than 200 years later, women remain severely underrepresented in America’s political institutions. In this course, we will address why so few women hold public office, and what women’s under-representation implies for democratic governance.
Two themes will guide our analysis of the impact of women’s political leadership. First, we will focus on fundamental gender differences that affect the various steps of the political process. Do men and women differ in terms of the factors that encourage them to engage the political system? Can we identify gender differences in rates of electoral success, voter perceptions, or types of media coverage candidates garner? Do women and men advocate different political agendas and issue preferences? Are there differences in the manner in which women and men conceptualize politics and think about leadership? Second, we will address the representational implications of any gender differences we uncover, concentrating not only on substantive policy, but also on the non-policy benefits that might be conferred when more women have political power.
Election 2016 (Upper-level, undergraduate) - Fall 2016
The United States has more elections that any other country in the world. Citizens vie for and vote for more than 500,000 elective positions, varying from local water board member, to state superintendent of education, to president of the United States. In a democracy, free and fair elections serve as the principal means by which citizens influence their elected officials and the policies the government pursues. Thus, campaigns and elections are a fundamental part of democratic governance in the United States.
This course examines U.S. presidential and congressional campaigns and elections, with special emphasis placed on the 2016 cycle. How do political scientists study and understand electoral politics? What generalizations can we make about candidates, parties, campaigns, the media, the electoral context, rules of the game, and voters? How do these components and players interact? Do theory and practice converge? We will rely on analyses from political scientists, journalists, pundits, candidates, and voters as we embark on an in-depth study of electoral politics.