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US Political Systems

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Georgetown University Government 008, Section 6 US Political Systems Clyde Wilcox ICC 679 703-255-1546; fax=255-5858 Office Hours: T-Th 1-2 and by appointment [email protected] www.georgetown.edu/wilcox Carin Larson, Teaching Assistant ICC 679 Office Hours: M, 10-11 and by appt [email protected] Shauna Shanes, Teaching Assistant Midnight Mug Cafe - 2nd floor of Lauinger Office Hours: W, 2-3:30. [email protected] In this course we will examine US political institutions and processes. Many of you have studied this basic material before, but in this class we explore American politics through several sets of contrasting frameworks. *First, we will compare the theory and practice of American politics. In theory, the US Senate is an institution that deliberates and consults, in practice several important pieces of legislation in the past few years were drafted by the majority party without any input by the minority. We will also sometimes consider the contrast between the normative ideal and the empirical reality of American politics – how do we think that politics should work, and how does it work. *Second, we will compare explanations for politics offered by Washington insiders with those of political scientists. Washington insiders frequently stress the intrigue and personalities of politics. Political scientists acknowledge the importance of individuals, but seek to explain politics through broader generalizations. *Finally, we will use the knowledge that many of us have gained by following American politics for several years, but also examine the US political system in comparative politics. Many elements of US politics are fairly unique, and others have been copied in part by other countries. How do American political parties differ from those in Europe? How do Bush’s powers differ from those of Putin in Russia, Museveni in Uganda, or Fox in Mexico? Throughout the course I will invite you to consider the politics of the possible. Current institutional arrangements need not last forever, current political practice can change if we make it change. What institutions need reform? How might we improve the working of the system?We will pay special attention to politics as it unfolds this semester. During the term the Senate will consider President Bush’s nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court, and it is likely that a new justice will sit on the Court in the fall. Congress may consider Bush’s proposal to create private Social Security accounts. The government will consider problems of mounting debt, rising oil prices, the ongoing struggle in Iraq, and other issues. Bush is now a second term president, with the lowest popularity at the start of this class of any president at this time in a 2nd term except for Richard Nixon. He will try to regain the initiative, while others in his party and the Democrats begin to line up to run for president in 2008. Grades Grades will be based on the following: 2 of 3 Online Midterms 20% In Class Midterm Exam 20% In Class Final Exam 20% Paper 20% Blogs 20% On-line midterms will be based primarily on class readings. In-class midterms will be based on readings and lecture material. You will write in a political blog at least three days each week. In your blog, you should post some reflections concerning American politics. Your reflections can be based on the readings, the course discussions, current events, whatever is connected to American politics. The purpose of this blog is to get you to think and write regularly about politics; to make it part of your (almost) daily routine. I especially recommend that you incorporate the knowledge and insights from the class into your blog. Did the course material help you understand something better? Did what you see on TV not match up with what you’ve read? Shauna, Carin and I will be reading your blogs and sometimes posting. I encourage you to read what the other students are saying, too, and to write responses to their postings. Your blogs will be evaluated on consistency and thoughtfulness. At least one blog should include a link to a resource – a newspaper article, web site, or other source. Details about where you’ll post your blogs will be distributed in class. I will also post resources that might spur conversation. For example, in the discussion on the Constitution, I will post links to the U.S. Constitution, and to the European Union Constitution. By reading the US Constitution and browsing the European Constitution you can get a feel for just how brief and general ours is. Would we do this differently if we were starting over today?Books: The following texts are available for purchase at the bookstore. Kernell and Jacobson, The Logic of American Politics Kernell and Jacobson, Principles and Practice of American Politics Dahl, On Democracy Manuel and Camissa, Checks and Balances? In addition, students should keep up with current politics and current events. The Washington Post is a great newspaper, and is delivered cheaply to dorms and apartments. You can read it and other national quality newspapers online. The Washington Times is a conservative paper, not quite in the same league as the Post, but it does have a distinctive perspective. Some national news sites have good politics coverage. We will discuss current political issues in class, usually at the start of class. We will have guest speakers at various points in the term. I will try to announce them at least a week in advance, and they will be posted on Blackboard. You are allowed to ask hard questions of speakers, but do so politely. Speakers are not paid, so next year’s class will depend on your good manners. Topics and Readings (We will cover this material in order, but some topics will end up taking more than a week, and some less) A.) The Context of American Politics 1.) Studying American Politics Kernell, Ch 1, Reader, Section 1 2.) The Constitutional Design Kernell, Ch 2, Reader, Section 2 Dahl, Ch 10 3.) Federalism Kernell, Ch 3, Reader, Section 3 4.) Democracy Dahl (entire) B.) Inputs to the Political System 5.) Public Opinion Kernell, Ch 10, Reader, Section 10 6.) Voting and Elections Kernell, Ch 11, Reader, Section 11 7.) Political Parties Kernell, Ch 12, Reader, Section 12 8.) Interest groups Kernell, Ch 13, Reader, Section 13, review Section 1, 1 9.) Media


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