US Government & Politics examines the functioning of the political system of the United States and introduces you to the institutional approach to studying politics. The main goal of our analysis will be to understand the (dys)functioning of the US political system through an examination of the way the institutional design affects politics and policy-making. Institutions comprise all the formal and informal rules of the game that determine the collective choices that are made in political systems: how are powers distributed, which electoral system is used, which rules exist for adopting legislation, which rights and liberties are conferred upon citizens? In the course of doing so students will acquire a thorough understanding of the functioning of the US political system as well as acquire an analytical toolkit that will enable them to analyze the functioning of other political systems as well.

In analyzing the US political system we will pay ample attention to the different electoral contests that take place both at the national (US House and Senate midterm elections) and at state level (gubernatorial races in several states). While many observers consider the current polarized political constellation and the rather unorthodox approach of Donald Trump to the presidency to be exceptional, a key goal of this course is to go beyond a fixation on how Trump behaves in office and uncover the more structural features of the US political system that explain its (dys)functioning.

This course is divided up in two parts. In the first part until the break we study the basic organization of the US political system and the involvement of key actors in and outside of government in this. This part of the course will consist of a combination of clicker assisted lectures with student input through Political science meets the news presentations as well as a discussions the built upon the material covered in class. Class sessions will make use of a variety of methods to cover the material, including in-class peer teaching using clickers, videos, in class exercises, brief presentations and discussions. Students also write three assignments that investigates government and politics in a specific state.

In the second part of the course we will delve deeper into key issues that merit further scholarly investigation. We select these themes on the basis of their social and academic relevance and on the basis of student interest. For every class session a scholarly article will be assigned that students read beforehand and on which they submit questions. The article will then be jointly analyzed and discussed in class on the basis of these questions. Students will write a 2,000-3,000 word paper that expands upon one of these themes.

SSC POLI 202 2018-II Course Outline.pdfSSC POLI 202 2018-II Course Outline.pdf