Congress - the people's branch - is famously unpopular. Roughly 9 out of 10 Americans DISapprove of its job performance! Yet, over 90% of House members and 80% of Senators are reelected each term. Many factors help to explain this paradox. However, one important one is that candidates, including those currently serving (incumbents), often seek public office by criticizing government and Congress in particular. Although this strategy seems to work to get them elected, it also makes it more difficult for the same members to work together to produce constructive policies while in office.
“Playing politics” can be a helpful way to better appreciate what Congress does and the challenges its members face in developing policies that serve the broader public interest. In this class, roughly 50% of class time will be devoted to a student-run simulation. Nearly all of the graded assignments are simulation-related, though most ask for connections between required readings and simulation activities. There are many ways for students to contribute to this experience. Floor speeches and voting make up only a small part of what Congress does on a day to day basis.