POL S 202 A: Introduction to American Politics

Meeting Time: 
MWF 11:30am - 12:20pm
SMI 120
Scott Lemieux

Syllabus Description:


Introduction to American Politics


Autumn Quarter 2017

Scott Lemieux, Office: Gowen Hall, Room 114

Email: slemieux@uw.edu

Office Hours: M-W 1-2, or by appt. 


TAs and Discussion Sections:

AG/AH - Tan Zhao, zhaotan@uw.edu

AE/AF - Stephanie Stanley, stephs23@uw.edu

AB/AD - Sebastian Mayer, sebmayer@uw.edu


Writing Link TA: Rush Daniel, daniej9@u.washington.edu


Objectives:  This course examines American politics through the lens of the development of political institutions and political culture.  We will study both the historical foundations of American government and constitutionalism and the ways in which they have changed over time.  Students will receive both a nuts-and-bolts introduction to American government and an immersion in primary texts that provide insights into American government and political thought.  It will also give student a set of critical tools with which to evaluate American institutions and political actors.  The primary objectives of the class are to 1)introduce students to basic concepts of political science, 2)give students a background in American history, government, and constitutional development, 3)develop writing skills, and 4)make students more comfortable engaging in classroom discussion.


Textbooks: There are two textbooks for this class:  Lowi, Ginsberg, and Shepsle, American Government: Power and Purpose (14th brief ed.), and Canon et al. The Enduring Debate (8th ed.) The books are available at the UW bookstore as well as all major online booksellers, and are available in e-book as well as print format. 


General Requirements and Class Policies:


  • Students are expected to come to class and complete the assigned readings prior to class. Lectures and discussion sections will assume that students have read the assigned readings. Students are also expected to participate in class discussions during sections. Attendance is necessary but not sufficient for obtaining participation credit.


  • Exams missed without prior agreement with the instructor or a documented family or medical emergency will not receive a grade, without exception.


  • Incompletes will only be given to students who have completed a substantial amount of the assigned work, and then only in cases of a documented family or medical emergency.


  • Plagiarism, cheating, and other forms of academic dishonesty will result in a grade of “F” for the given exam/assignment, and students will also be subject to the UW’s disciplinary procedures. All material submitted online may be subject to VeriCite or other plagiarism detection software.


  • Please inform an instructor if you have a disability that will require accommodation.



Assignments and Grading:  There will be two in class mid-terms and one final exam.  All exams will be non-cumulative and weighted equally.  There will also be a final paper assignment, details of which will be released during your discussion sections early in the quarter. The grade distribution is as follows:


Exams: 60%

Paper: 25%

Discussion Sections: 15%



Grading Rubric: Exams will be graded primarily based on content. Students will be expected to show mastery of the material in textbooks and lectures by answering questions accurately and concisely. The final assignments will be graded based on both content and style. Discussion section grades will be based on discussion as well as any brief quizzes/assignments given by your section leader.

Grade appeals process: 

  1. If you would like to appeal your grade, please wait 24 hours after receiving your assignment. After 24 hours have elapsed, submit a typed and printed appeal and that explains why you deserve a better grade and the graded assignment to the TA. Please note that your entire assignment will be regraded.
  2. Once the TA has reviewed your appeal, he or she will set up an appointment to discuss your appeal
  3. If you are still unsatisfied with your grade, the TA will take your assignment and appeal to the professor. Please note that the professor will not review your appeal until the TA has made an assessment of your appeal.
  4. Note that if you request a re-grade by the professor your grade may be lowered, raised, or left unchanged once you have submitted your grade appeal.
  5. All grade appeals must be submitted within one week of the graded assignment being handed back.


Class Schedule


Note:  Readings from Lowi et al. are marked with “PP”; Readings from Canon et al. are marked with “ED.”


As a rough rule of thumb, lectures will focus on PP readings and sections on ED, although you will be responsible for PP readings in section as well. In some cases, alternative readings posted online mau be substituted for ED readings.


3/26      Class Introduction


  1. The Founding and American Constitutional Development


3/28      Basic Political Science Approaches:  PP Ch. 1; ED Ch. 1 (reading 1 only) 


4/2-4, 9 Constructing the Constitution:  PP Ch. 2; ED Ch. 2.



4/11-13 Federalism and Separation of Powers:  PP Ch. 3; ED Ch. 3.


4/16-20 Civil Rights and Civil Liberties:  PP Ch. 4; ED Ch. 4.



Class Canceled Tuesday, 4/24 (No Sections)


  1. Institutions


4/25-27 Congress:  PP Ch. 5; ED Ch. 5.


4/30-5/4 Executive:  PP Ch. 6-7; ED Ch. 6-7.


5/7-11 Judiciary:  PP Ch.8, ED; Ch. 8.


Class Canceled Tuesday, 5/15 (No Sections)


III.       Politics, Informal Institutions, and the Public


5/16-21 Public Opinion and Elections:  PP Ch. 9-10; ED Ch. 9-10

5/23: class cancelled 



5/25-6/1 Political Parties and Interest Groups:  PP Ch. 11-12; ED Ch. 11-12  

NO CLASS MONDAY MAY 28, Memorial Day


FINAL EXAM 2:30-4:20 p.m., Wednesday, June 6

Catalog Description: 
Institutions and politics in the American political system. Ways of thinking about how significant problems, crises, and conflicts of American society are resolved politically. Offered: AWSpS.
Department Requirements: 
Introductory Courses
GE Requirements: 
Individuals and Societies (I&S)
Last updated: 
October 17, 2018 - 9:10pm