POL S 202 A: Introduction to American Politics

Summer Term: 
Meeting Time: 
TTh 2:20pm - 4:30pm
SAV 158

Syllabus Description:

Political Science 202: Introduction to American Politics

University of Washington

Savery Hall 158, Tuesdays and Thursdays 2:20-4:30

Summer 2018, Full Term



Instructor: Stephanie Stanley, PhC.

Contact Info: stephs23@uw.edu

Office: Smith 31

Office Hours: Tuesdays and Wednesdays, 11:00-12:00

Course Website: https://canvas.uw.edu/courses/1206719

(Grades posted on catalyst.uw.edu)


Course Overview:


Do policies adopted by the government actually reflect the will of the people? Do political parties and elected officials truly represent the public? How do the institutions that comprise the US government work- or not work? This course will answer these questions and many others by examining the relationships among political institutions (Congress, the Presidency, and the Court System), linking mechanisms (parties, interest groups, and the media), and the mass public (social movements, public opinion, and political participation).


The first part of this course will discuss the implications of the American founding, explore the American founders’ rationale for governing institutions, and how those institutions have changed over time. The second part of the class will explore various linking mechanisms, how they operate, and the role they play in governance and policymaking. Next, we will discuss the effects the people have on politics as well as the various debates surrounding individual and group rights that persist today. Finally, we will use the ideas learned throughout this course to evaluate and understand our current political system in the wake of the 2016 presidential election.


A hybrid of lectures and class discussions will highlight key historical changes and critical debates that persist today within American politics. Grades for this course will be based on four components: course participation, a midterm, a short paper, and a final exam. All readings will be available online or sent via your university email. Readings will include historical pieces such as selections from the Federalist Papers, academic sources such as journal articles, as well as current news articles.


Course Conduct:


  1. Attend class ready to engage with course material and contribute to discussions.
  2. Always bring your reading, pen/pencil, and paper to every class.
  3. Do the required readings and be prepared to contribute to the class discussion. For full participation credit, you must come to class and engage in group work, class discussions, writing workshops, etc. on a regular basis. If speaking in front of others in class discussions is especially difficult for you, please let me know during the first week of the term so I can accommodate you as best as I can.
  4. If you will be late to class or have to leave early, please let me know before the class begins. Otherwise, please do your best to be on time.
  5. Be prepared for short written assignments or quizzes that may be given without advanced notice.
  6. You are responsible to contact fellow students for the classes you miss. If you cannot contact a fellow student, I am available to catch you up.
  7. Be respectful of others. It is important to remember that politics tends to be personal, and disrespect will not be tolerated.
  8. Cell phones are not permitted during class. Computers and tablets may be used during our discussion of class readings but not during lecture without permission.



Accommodations and University Policies:


Respectful Learning Environment


Instructors and students come from a variety of backgrounds with a wide array of life experiences. It is vital that we respect individual differences, divergent beliefs, and a variety of worldviews. Some of the course material may be at odds with your personal beliefs. Please approach the course content and others’ views with respect and sensitivity. Also, I want you all to feel comfortable expressing your opinions and thoughts during lectures and discussions, even if you do not think others agree with you. Having more than one perspective can contribute to a richer learning experience, as long as conversations remain respectful and civil.


Disabilities Accommodations


I am more than willing to accommodate students with a documented disability (physical, learning, or psychological). If you require special accommodations, please obtain the official paper work from Disability Resources for Students (https://depts.washington.edu/uwdrs) and forward it to me by the end of the first week of class. Please feel free to meet with me to discuss any accommodations, and rest assured that all of our conversations will remain confidential. 


UW Resources:


Political Science Writing Center: http://depts.washington.edu/pswrite/


Plagiarism Policy:

-Assignments in this course may be reviewed by VeriCite or other plagiarism detection software.

-If you copy any work (published, online, another student’s work, etc.) and claim it as your own you will receive a zero for the plagiarized assignment, and you will be reported to the university.

-The rule of thumb is if it is not your idea, you need to cite it! When in doubt, cite it!

-For a full explanation of plagiarism please see the link below.



UW’s Code of Conduct:



Class Make-Up Policy:


  1. If you can, please email me beforeclass to let me know you can’t make it.
  2. In order to make up the points you missed during class, type up a 100-word response to that day’s readings. Your response should include some of the following: summary, analysis, response, and/or questions on one or all of the readings.
  3. Email me your response within 24 hours of the class you missed. You may request more time depending on your circumstances.
  4. You are permitted up to two make-ups during the term. If your circumstances are special (long-term family emergency, personal injury, etc.), I will be more than happy to give you more make up opportunities given sufficient documentation.


***Please note that you are not requiredto complete any make up for the classes you miss. Make-ups, although highly recommended, are optional. ****


Course Requirements/ Evaluation:


Participation- 15%


Participation grades will be based on contributions to class discussions, involvement in class activities, group work, short in-class writing assignments, and other in-class work. Please note that a student cannot receive full credit for participating simply by attending class.


Midterm*- 25%


The midterm exam will be an in-class, essay-based exam and will require a large blue/green book and blue/black pens.


Paper*- 20%


The paper will be a short analytical paper (4-6 pages) based on topics discussed in the course. More information will be provided on the response paper after students take the midterm exam. Late papers will be docked .5 on the 4.0 grading scale for each day the paper is late.


Final*- 40%


The final exam will follow the same format of the midterm exam, although it will include more questions. This exam will be cumulative and will take place on the last day of class.


*Please bring a blank large blue or green book with all of its pages intact and blue or black pens to class on the day of the exams. Unless you have an excusable absence and the required documentation, no make-up exams or extensions on papers will be granted.




Grading Policy:


I will be grading your work this term, and I am willing to explain the reasoning behind your grade should you have any questions. If you wish to appeal your grade formally, you should follow this process:

  1. Wait at least 24 hours after you receive your graded assignment before you file an appeal.
  2. Within a week of receiving your grade, provide a written statement specifically describing why you believe you did not receive a fair grade. Then I will reassess your assignment. Note that your grade may be raised, lowered, or left unchanged.
  3. We will then meet and discuss your grade and outcome of your re-grade in person.


Writing Credit


This course has a writing credit option. If you would like to get writing credit for this course, you must notify me by 5 pm on June 28, 2018 to make the necessary arrangements. Students who opt into the writing credit must meet the following requirements:


1) 10-page research paper, with a rough draft and final draft. Students are expected to apply the feedback from the rough draft to their final draft.

2) Two papers of at least 5-pages or three papers with one of at least 5 pages. Students are expected to apply feedback from the first paper to (a) subsequent paper(s).


Course Schedule:


The first 50-60 minutes of class will include a lecture, and then, following about a 10-minute break, the rest of class will focus on a discussion of the assigned readings.


Unit 1: The Founding and Political Institutions


Week 1: Introduction and American Founding (June 19thand 21st)


Tues: No readings 

Thurs: Federalist # 51 (http://avalon.law.yale.edu/18th_century/fed51.asp)

Centinel 1,

Dolbeare and Medcalf, “The Dark Side of the Constitution”


Week 2: Article I: Congress (June 26thand 28th)


Tues: Federalist #57 (http://avalon.law.yale.edu/18th_century/fed57.asp)

  1. Douglas Arnold, “Can Inattentive Citizens Control Their Elected Officials?”

Thurs: Martin Gilens, “Policy Consequences of Representational Inequality”


Week 3: Article II: The Presidency (July 3rdand 5th)


Tues: Federalist # 70 (http://avalon.law.yale.edu/18th_century/fed70.asp)

Neustadt: “from Presidential Power

Jones, “Perspectives on the Presidency”


Thurs: John Yoo “War Powers Belong to the President” (http://www.abajournal.com/magazine/article/war_powers_belong_to_the_president)

Ian Eland “Excessive Presidential War Power” (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/ivan-eland/excessive-presidential-war-power_b_6692044.html)

Robert F. Turner, “Civil Liberties in the War on Terror” (http://uvamagazine.org/articles/civil_liberties_in_the_war_on_terror)

Van Bergen, “The ‘Unitary Executive’ and the Threat to Democratic Government”


Week 4: Article III: The Courts (July 10th)


Tues: Federalist # 78 (http://avalon.law.yale.edu/18th_century/fed78.asp)

Roosevelt “Originalism and the Living Constitution”

Thurs: No reading, Midterm scheduled


MIDTERM July 12, 2018 (in class)


Unit 2: Linking Mechanisms


Week 5: Elections and Political Parties (July 17thand 19th)


Tues: Michael Bailey, “The Two Sides of Money in Politics”

Ken Goldstein et al, “Even the Geeks are Polarized”


Thurs: Aldrich, “from Why Parties?”

Rae, “Be Careful What You Wish For”

Debating the Issue: Should the United States Encourage Multi-Party Politics?


Week 6: Interest Groups and the Media (July 24thand 26th)


Tues: Melinda Burns, “K Street and the Status Quo,”(https://psmag.com/social-justice/k-street-and-the-status-quo-20015)

Gary Andres, “Campaign-Style Advocacy: A Broader View of Lobbying”


Thurs: Markus Prior, “News vs. Entertainment,”

Bennett, “News Content and Illusion: Four Information Biases that Matter”


Unit 3: The People


Week 7: Citizenship, Voting, and Public Opinion (July 31stand August 2nd)


Tues: Smith “Multiple Traditions Thesis”

Sobel Smith, “Voter ID Laws”

Mycoff et al, “Voter ID Laws”


Thurs: Bartels “The Irrational Public”

Stimson et al, “Dynamic Representation”

Popkin, “The Reasoning Voter”


PAPER DUE August 2, 2017 (in class and online)


Week 8: Social Movements, Civil Rights, and Civil Liberties (August 7thand 9th)


Tues: Dufour, “Mobilizing Gay Activists”

Wilkinson, “Tactics of Protest”

Thurs: MLK’s “A Letter from a Birmingham Jail,” Malcolm X’s “The Ballot or the Bullet,”


Week 9: Civil Liberties, cont. (August 14th)


Tues: Rauch, “In Defense of Prejudice”

Thurs: No reading, Final Exam scheduled

FINAL EXAM August 16, 2018 (in class)


*News articles and other online sources may be added to the weekly readings*

*The course schedule is subject to changes at the discretion of the instructor*

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