POL S 355 A: The American Presidency

Meeting Time: 
TTh 2:30pm - 4:20pm
SIG 224
Becca Thorpe
Rebecca U. Thorpe

Syllabus Description:

Course description: 

This is a course about the institutional development of the American presidency, its place in our constitutional system, and the bounds of executive power in a democracy. Students will analyze the presidency using theories and concepts developed in political science and will be asked to think critically about different theories of presidential authority. The class will consider four general themes. First, we will examine the creation of the presidency and the ways in which the modern executive branch both upholds and thwarts the framers' goals. Second, we will evaluate the presidential selection process and the extent to which our current electoral system selects individuals capable of assuming the responsibilities of the office. We will then examine sources of presidential power, including the ways in which presidents promote their leadership and the political constraints that they encounter, with particular focus on the Obama administration. Finally, we will examine various contours of the policymaking environment, such as the president’s relationship with Congress and the courts, as well as different areas of domestic policymaking and national security/ warfare. 


Course Material

*Course reading packet (a collection of articles and essays available at for purchase at Professional Print & Copy, located at 4200 University Way NE)

*Andrew Rudalevige. 2006. The New Imperial Presidency: Renewing Presidential Power After Watergate. University of Michigan Press.

*Stephen Skowronek. 2011. Presidential Leadership in Political Time: Reprise & Reappraisal. University Press of Kansas. 2nd Edition. 

Recommended: Joseph Pika, John Anthony Maltese & Andrew Rudalevige. 2016. The Politics of the Presidency. CQ Press. 9th ed. 978-148337563



2016 Election Forecasts - 10% 

Essay Exam (midterm) - 35%

Debates (final week of class) - 35% 

Response Papers & Participation - 20% 



Catalog Description: 
The American presidency; its evolution, its occupants, and its place within the American system. Topics include presidential character, war, elections, impeachment, the economy, and the Constitution.
Department Requirements: 
American Politics Field
GE Requirements: 
Individuals and Societies (I&S)
Last updated: 
January 10, 2018 - 9:28pm