Introduction to American Politics
CMC Government 20 Honors Fall 2019
Tuesday & Thursday 11AM-12:15 PM, Roberts North 104
Office Hours: Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday 1-2; Friday 11-12; and by appointment
Office: Kravis 232 Telephone: 909/607-4224
Daniel Patrick Moynihan observed: “Some . . . deny the existence of evil and others the existence of grace. The art of politics is to live with the reality of both.” With this comment in mind, we take a realistic overview of American politics. This course aims to:
In addition to providing general background on American politics, this course also emphasizes certain themes. One is the continuing relevance of the Declaration of Independence. Since 1776, Americans have argued about its meaning, particularly the phrase "that all men are created equal." Another is the central role of religion in America political life. Tocqueville said that religion is the first of our political institutions, and we shall ponder what he meant by that. A third is the meaning of citizenship and its connection to deliberation and community service. Finally, we will consider the idea of the role of mores and norms, the unwritten practices, habits, and attitudes that guide political activity.
Some of the readings are provocative. Do not assume that your professor agrees with everything in the readings, or that you need to do so. Because constructive disagreement sharpens thinking, deepens understanding, and reveals novel insights, I not only encourage it, I expect it. Feel free to challenge anything you read, but back up what you say. Bring light, not heat.
Classes will include lecture and discussion. Finish the readings
before class because our discussions will involve those readings.
We shall also talk about breaking news, so you must read a good news source
such as the
The following will make up your course grade:
The papers will develop your skills in writing, research, and political analysis. When grading, I do take the quality of writing into account, applying the standards of Strunk and White. If you object to this approach, do not take this course – or anything else that I teach.
The final examination will test your comprehension of the class sessions and readings.
In addition to the required readings (below), I may also give you handouts and web links covering current events and basic factual information. The final will cover this material.
Participation includes your activity in class and online. I will call on students at random, and if you often miss sessions or fail to prepare, your grade will suffer. In addition, you may volunteer comments and questions. This experience will hone your ability to think on your feet. I expect that you will post comments and other material online (see below).
As a courtesy to your fellow students, please arrive promptly and refrain from eating in class.
Carefully check the due dates for papers, as well as the date of the final exam. Arrange your schedule accordingly. Do not plan on seeking extensions or make-up work.
Plagiarism is not a victimless offense, because it hurts fellow students. Please study our Statement of Academic Integrity, which reads in part: "The faculty of Claremont McKenna College is firmly committed to upholding the highest standards of academic integrity. Each faculty member has the responsibility to report cases of academic dishonesty to the Academic Standards Committee, which has the duty of dealing with cases of alleged academic dishonesty."
Our class blog is at http://gov20h.blogspot.com. I shall post videos, graphs, news stories, and other material there. We shall use some of this material in class, and you may review the rest at your convenience. You will all receive invitations to post to the blog. (Please let me know if you do not get such an invitation.) I encourage you to use the blog in these ways:
To post questions or comments about the readings before we discuss them in class;
To follow up on class discussions with additional comments or questions.
To post relevant news items or videos.
Remember that the blog is on the open Internet. Post nothing that would look bad to a potential employer. If you want more confidentiality, post to the forum on the class Sakai page.
Alexander Hamilton, James Madison and John Jay, The Federalist Papers (New York: Signet, 2003 ).
Charles Murray, Coming Apart: The State of White America 1960-2010 (New York: Crown Forum, 2013).
William Strunk and E. B. White, The Elements of Style, 4th ed. (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1999).
Alexis deTocqueville, Democracy in America, trans. George Lawrence, ed. J.P. Mayer (New York: Harper Perennial Modern Classics, [1835/40]). Please use the Lawrence/Mayer edition, which has gone through several printings. Other translations have different wording, which would cause confusion.
Schedule (Subject to change, with advance notice).
In addition to the readings below, I may also supply you with various handouts and Internet links.
Sept 5: IntroductionThe Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s genius — he was, in a sense, the final Founder — was in understanding what the University of Pennsylvania’s Rogers M. Smith terms the “Declaration of Independence-centered view of American governance and peoplehood.” -- George F. Will
Sept 17, 19: Equality, Natural Law, and the Declaration"If all men are created equal, that is final. If they are endowed with inalienable rights, that is final. If governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed, that is final. No advance, no progress can be made beyond these propositions. If anyone wishes to deny their truth or their soundness, the only direction in which he can proceed historically is not forward, but backward toward the time when there was no equality, no rights of the individual, no rule of the people." -- Calvin Coolidge
READ STRUNK AND WHITE FIRST!
Sept 24, 26: Equality of Condition and American Civic Culture“I sought for the greatness and genius of America in her commodious harbors and her ample rivers—and it was not there . . . in her fertile fields and boundless forests and it was not there . . . in her rich mines and her vast world commerce—and it was not there . . . in her democratic Congress and her matchless Constitution—and it was not there. Not until I went into the churches of America and heard her pulpits flame with righteousness did I understand the secret of her genius and power. America is great because she is good, and if America ever ceases to be good, she will cease to be great.” -- Not Alexis deTocqueville http://teachingamericanhistory.org/library/document/speech-on-the-occasion-of-the-one-hundred-and-fiftieth-anniversary-of-the-declaration-of-independence/
Oct 1, 3: Constitutionalism["O]f those men who have overturned the liberties of republics, the greatest number have begun their career by paying an obsequious court to the people; commencing demagogues, and ending tyrants." -- Alexander Hamilton
October 8, 10: Congress and the Executive I
"I ask @SenJohnKennedy [R-Louisiana] if he would support lowering U.S. tariffs ... `Absolutely," he says at first, '… except on sugar. Sugar’s different. And crawfish and shrimp.'" -- Anshu Siripurapu
Oct 15, 17: Congress and the Executive II
"In a president, character is everything. A president doesn't have to be brilliant; Harry Truman wasn't brilliant, and he helped save Western Europe from Stalin. He doesn't have to be clever; you can hire clever. White Houses are always full of quick-witted people with ready advice on how to flip a senator or implement a strategy. You can hire pragmatic, and you can buy and bring in policy wonks. But you can't buy courage and decency, you can't rent a strong moral sense." -- Peggy Noonan
Oct 24: Law and the Courts
“What we can decide, we can undecide. But stare decisis teaches that we should exercise that authority sparingly. Cf. S. Lee and S. Ditko, Amazing Fantasy No. 15: ‘Spider-Man,’ p. 13 (1962) (‘[I]n this world, with great power there must also come — great responsibility’)." -- Justice Elena Kagan
Nov 5, 7: Parties and Elections
"At CMC, [Steve] Bullock was a PPE major, and he was actively
involved in campus government. Maybe he wasn’t dreaming of political
service as an undergrad, but that didn’t prevent him from running for
freshman class president. Even now, more than 30 years later, his
campaign is difficult for some to forget. One afternoon, in the fall of
1984, students encountered a small corral set up outside Collins Dining
Hall. The corral held a couple of sheep that Bullock had
borrowed—temporarily, of course—from the animal husbandry department of
nearby Cal Poly Pomona. It amused everyone, but Bullock’s target
audience for this stunt was his fellow freshmen. His campaign slogan?
`A Vote for Steve Will Be a Vote for Ewe.'" -- CMC Magazine
"As late as the 80s, California was democratic in a fundamental sense, a place for outsiders and, increasingly, immigrants—roughly 60 percent of the population was considered middle class. Now, instead of a land of opportunity, California has become increasingly feudal. According to recent census estimates, the state suffers some of the highest levels of inequality in the country. By some estimates, the state’s level of inequality compares with that of such global models as the Dominican Republic, Gambia, and the Republic of the Congo." -- Joel Kotkin
Murray, prologue, ch. 1-2
Dec 3, 5: Equality II
"Insulation! That was the ticket. That was the term Rawlie Thorpe used. 'If you want to live in New York,' he once told Sherman, 'you've got to insulate, insulate, insulate,' meaning insulate yourself from those people." -- Tom Wolfe, in Bonfire of the Vanities
Murray, ch. 3-9
Dec 10, 12: Equality III and Concluding Thoughts
Murray, ch. 10-17.
FINAL EXAM: TUESDAY, DECEMBER 17 AT 9 AM
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