Policymaking in American Politics
Intensely partisan, profoundly divided, and facing historically low approval ratings by the public, the American government is deeply at odds over how best to overcome the obstacles currently facing the country. Weaving together historical context, current politics, and analytic concepts, this course explores the institutional explanations for our current quagmire but also considers the influence of outside groups, campaign finance, and popular movements. This course examines the strategic behavior of key players in American politics, showing that political actors, though motivated by their own interests, are governed by the Constitution, the law, and institutional rules, as well as influenced by the strategies of others. Particular issues such as health care and financial reform, the midterm elections, and racial profiling and immigration will be explored, using the lens of political polarization. The Presidency will be a particular focus, as will the lead-up to and results of the 2012 elections. Throughout the course we will consistently return to the country’s divide—among constituents and in government—to come to a deeper understanding of the role of politics in the policymaking process.