POL S 355 A: The American Presidency

Meeting Time: 
TTh 2:30pm - 4:20pm
GWN 201
Scott Lemieux

Syllabus Description:

POL S 355: The American Presidency


Winter 2018

Instructor:  Dr. Scott Lemieux


Office hours: T-Th 1:30-2:30 and by appointment

Office location: Gowen 114


TA: Stephanie Stanley


Office Hours: Tues and Wed 1-2, and by appointment

Office location: Smith 31




The presidency has made every man who occupied it, no matter how small, bigger than he was; and no matter how big, not big enough for its demands. – Lyndon Johnson


“A politician thinks of the next election, a statesman thinks of the next generation.”

  • James Freeman Clarke


 “The office of president is a bastardized thing, half royalty and half democracy, that nobody knows whether to genuflect or spit.” – Jimmy Breslin


“No man will ever carry out of the Presidency the reputation which carried him into it.”


Course description


This course will examine the development of the American presidency. We will start by examining the formal powers of the presidency and then examine how the power of the president has changed over time (even as the formal powers of the office remain largely unchanged.) We will examine such issues as the presidential nomination and election process, how leadership patterns recur throughout history, how the presidency has influenced civil rights, how the president works with other branches, and the foreign policy powers of the presidency. 


Course books


The books for the course are available for purchase at the University Bookstore and all major online booksellers:


Pika, Maltese, and Rudalevige, The Politics of the Presidency, 8th ed.


Stephen Skowronek, Presidential Leadership in Political Time: Reprise and Reappraisal, 2nd ed.


George Edwards, The Strategic President: Persuasion and Opportunity in Presidential Leadership 

Andrew Polsky, Elusive Victories: the American Presidency at War



You should also keep up with the national news, and you may want to read political science blogs, which provide short and timely content from a scholarly perspective. A few I recommend:


The Monkey Cage at Washingtonpost.com – Andrew Rudalevige does most of their executive branch blogging, but they have guest posts as well.

The Upshot at nytimes.com

Presidential Power Blog, by Matthew Dickinson, professor of political science at Middlebury College

Mischiefs of Faction on Vox.com

FiveThirtyEight.com – data journalism site


High-quality news sources with a conservative editorial tilt:


Wall Street Journal

National Review

Weekly Standard

The Economist

Real Clear Politics


High-quality news sources with a liberal editorial tilt:


The New York Times

Washington Post

The Nation

Los Angeles Times

The New Republic


Other electronic resources you might find helpful:

The American Presidency Project, www.presidency.ucsb.edu

The Miller Center at the University of Virginia, www.millercenter.org


General Requirements and Class Policies:


  • Students are expected to come to class and have completed the assigned cases prior to class. Lectures will assume that students have read the assigned readings.  
  • This course will comply fully with the Americans With Disabilities Act and all relevant university procedures. If you require accommodation because of a disability please consult the university’s procedures here: http://depts.washington.edu/uwdrs/


  • 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.



Exams, assignments and grading:


There will be two in-class exams and a take-home final exam. Each will constitute 33.3% of the grade. Students can earn a bonus of up to .3 on the 4.0 scale by making contributions to class discussions.


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, 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.




Course Schedule


Note: Readings listed here may be supplemented/replaced with readings put on the course’s Canvas site as events warrant.



1/4 Class Introduction



1/9-11 The Constitutional Presidency


U.S. Constitution, Article II


Pika et al., Ch.1, 5


Alexander Hamilton, Federalist 69-71 Available at: https://www.congress.gov/resources/display/content/The+Federalist+Papers


1/16-18 Presidents, Elections, and Race


Pika et. al, ch. 2


Jill Lepore, “How To Steal An Election: The Crazy History of Nominating Conventions,” The New Yorker, July 4, 2016


Ta-Nehisi Coates, “The Black Family in the Age of Mass Incarceration,” The Atlantic, October



Megan Ming Francis, Civil Rights and the Making of the Modern American State ch.3 (excerpt will be posted on Canvas)


Dara Lind, “19 Maps & Charts That Explain Voting Rights in America,” Vox, August 6, 2015



1/23-2/1 Presidential Leadership, Communication and Reputation


Pika et. al, ch. 3-4


Edwards, The Strategic Presidency


Ezra Klein, “The Unpersuaded,” The New Yorker March 19, 2012


Matthew Yglesias, “This is the ultimate semi-arbitrary ranking of American presidents,” Vox.com, Februrary 16, 2015.


Shanto Iyengar, “The Media Game: New Moves, Old Strategies” (under "Files" on Canvas)


2/6 First in-class midterm


2/8-13 The Presidency in Political Time


Skowronek, Presidential Leadership in Political Time


Julia Azari, “Trump's presidency signals the end of the Reagan era,” vox.com, December 1, 2016

Scott Lemieux, “Is Donald Trump the Next Jimmy Carter?,” The New Republic January 23, 2017


2/15-20 The Presidency, the Regulatory State, and the Judiciary


Pika et. al ch. 6-7


Keith Whittington, "Interpose Your Friendly Hand": Political Supports for the Exercise of Judicial Review by the United States Supreme Court.” American Political Science Review 99.4 (2005): , 99, 4, 583-596


2/27 Second in-class midterm


3/1-9 The Presidency and Foreign Policy


Polsky, Elusive Victories

Youngstown Sheet & Tube Co. v. Sawyer, 343 U.S. 579 (1952)

Korematsu v. United States 323 US 214 (1944)


Mark Graber, “Counter-stories: Maintaining and Expanding Civil Liberties in Wartime.”


Final take home exam posted on Canvas March 9, due March 12 at 6 PM



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: 
October 7, 2018 - 9:06pm