American Politics

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103. Introduction to American Politics.

Who gets what and how? This course answers that question by introducing the major institutions and actors of the American political system, including the Constitution, parties, interest groups and the legislative, executive and judicial branches of government. The course also examines the cultural, ideological and economic contexts in which American politics occurs, as well as the mechanisms and possibilities of political change.

290,  Research Seminar.

Research Seminars cover topics related to American Politics (290), Comparative Politics (291), Political Theory (292), and International Politics (293). The specific topics of these seminars vary depending on the interests of faculty and students. Recent topics have included China’s Rise, Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, Presidential Elections, Comparative Environmental Politics, and the Politics of Inequality. The seminars are designed to acquaint students with research problems, strategies and techniques relevant to the field. This course is required for all government majors and should be completed in the sophomore or junior year. Students may take only one research seminar. Also offered through Asian Studies.

302. The American Legal System.

This class explores the workings of the courts at all levels of the U.S. legal system. The primary goal of the course is to increase and broaden your understanding of what happens in courts, why it happens, and how courts fit into the larger political system. Much of our attention will focus on actors in the legal system (lawyers, juries, interest groups and especially judges) as we consider how their behavior is shaped by and in turn shapes our legal and political institutions and environments. In taking this course, you will be asked to weigh in on contemporary debates surrounding the legal process and to grapple with some of the difficult normative questions associated with American courts. Prerequisite: Junior or senior standing. Required as preparation for Government 307.

303. Political Parties, Interest Groups and Voting Behavior.

Two mechanisms try to organize ordinary citizens so that government may be responsive to people’s needs: parties and interest groups. One of their aims has been to organize citizens into rational, effective voting blocs. This course looks at how parties and interest groups work and at whether or not they are fulfilling their purpose. Prerequisite: Government 103.

307. Constitutional Law

This course examines the constitutional jurisprudence of the United States Supreme Court and how their decisions have shaped the contours of the relationship among political institutions and between the individual and the state. Among the areas of law explored will be presidential powers, the powers of Congress, freedom of speech, press and religion, equal protection, federalism, the right to privacy, the right to bear arms, and voting rights. While working toward a fuller understanding of Supreme Court jurisprudence the course also aims to develops students’ capacity for logical and legal reasoning. Prerequisites: Government 302 and junior or senior standing.

309. Congress

An institutional and behavioral examination of the legislative process in Congress, with attention to current policy issues. Prerequisite: Government 103 and junior or senior standing.

310. The U.S. Presidency.

An examination of the functions of the presidency, with stress on the development of the executive branch in response to political needs and opportunities. Prerequisite: Government 103 and junior or senior standing.

314. Politics and the Media.

Most Americans learn most of what they know about politics from the media. But critics charge that the media’s picture of politics is distorted. This course explains how the picture is distorted and why. In addition to news media, the course will look at the political and social messages of primetime television, Hollywood film and the advertising industry.

316. Ethics in Business and the Professions.

This seminar looks at the relation between public policy and ethical dilemmas in the arenas of corporate life and professional service. The course asks students to examine the sorts of moral dilemmas they can expect to encounter in their chosen fields of work and takes a case-study approach to such topics as employee rights, information disclosure, Affirmative Action, sexual harassment and whistleblowing, and the roles that public policy should — or should not — play in relation to these issues.

Special Topics Courses

Presidential Elections