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POLISCI 120C - American Government: An Institutional Approach

Section Summary

In this course, we discuss both how the rules that govern elections and the policy process determine political outcomes. It explores the historical forces that have shaped American political institutions, contemporary challenges to governing, and prospects for change. Topics covered include partisan polarization and legislative gridlock, the politicization of the courts, electoral institutions and voting rights, the expansion of presidential power, campaign finance and lobbying, representational biases among elected officials, and the role of political institutions in maintaining the rule of law. This course fulfills the Writing in the Major Requirement for Political Science majors--the workload and requirements of this intensive course helps develop writing skills.

Note: Material and information provided on this site is not a substitute for the original course content. All objectives, key terms, and summaries are suggested study aids to be used in conjunction with the main lecture slides and core textbook.

Week 1 - The "Dysfunctional Legislature" Argument

Section Objectives

  • Explain and utilize a causal inference framework to construct, discuss, and critically analyze research arguments.
  • Discuss the potential causes of political dysfunction, described in Mann and Ornstein (2012).
  • Assess how party polarization may manifest itself in both parties and the broader public.
  • Introduce congressional rules and the role they play in policy agenda promotion or obstruction.