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POL S 202 A: Introduction to American Politics

Meeting Time: 
TTh 1:00pm - 2:20pm
KNE 220
Scott Lemieux

Syllabus Description:


This syllabus is a living document! Please check frequently for updates.

Introduction to American Politics

Fall Quarter 2022

Scott Lemieux, Gowen Hall 114


Office Hours: T 2:30-3:30 

Virtual Office Hours: By appointment over Zoom,  available most weekdays 11-6

Teaching Assistants:

Julia Wejchert (Sections AA & AB)


Office Hours: T/Th 3:00-4:00 over Zoom

Kayla Morton (Sections AC & AD)


Office Hours: W 2:00-4:00 over Zoom

Lanyi Zhu (Sections AE & AF)


Office Hours: T 3:00-4:00 over Zoom, F 1:30-2:30 in person

Brian Huang (Sections AG & AH)


Office Hours: Th 3:00-4:00, F 11:30-12:30pm in SMITH 43 & over Zoom

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, and 3)develop their writing skills, including the ability to answer questions in a clear, concise manner.

Textbook: There textbooks for this class is  Lowi, Ginsberg, and Shepsle, American Government: Power and Purpose (16th core ed.) It is available online through the UW bookstore and all major online booksellers. An E-book can be ordered through the publisher here:

The course is structured so that while the earlier you have the main text the better you do not need to have your textbook until the day of section meetings in Week 2. If you need to allow a couple of extra days to secure a better price, that's fine!

General Requirements and Class Policies:

Assignments and Grading:  There will be two in-class mid-terms and one final exam.  All exams will be non-cumulative and weighted equally.  A study guide will provided roughly one week before the exam is due through Canvas.  The remainder of the grade will be calculated by your participation in section and any assignments given by your section leader.

3 Exams: 25% each

Section participation: 25%

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 a virtual "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.”  The supplemental readings can be found either at the hyperlink or in the "course readings" folder under the "Files" tab (these readings are marked with an asterisk.)

9/28 Class Introduction

I. The Founding and American Constitutional Development


Basic Political Science Approaches:  PP Ch. 1

Jake Grumbach and Christopher Warshaw, "In many states with antiabortion laws, majorities favor abortion rights."

Julia Azari, "Forget Norms. Our Democracy Depends On Values (Links to an external site.)"

Jamelle Bouie, "There's a Reason the Election of 1800 Still Sings Out to Us (Links to an external site.)"

10/6-13  Constructing the Constitution:  PP Ch. 2

Michael Klarman, The Framer's Coup, Ch.8*

10/18-20  Federalism and Separation of Powers:  PP Ch. 3

10/25-27 Civil Rights and Civil Liberties:  PP Ch. 4-5

Martin Luther King, Jr., "Letter From A Birmingham Jail"

Dara Lind, "Cops do 20,000 no-knock raids a year. Civilians often pay the price when they go wrong

Megan Ming Francis, CIvil RIghts and the Making of the Modern American State, ch.6.*


II The Formal Institutions of Government

11/3-8 Congress,  PP Ch. 6

The Enduring Debate, Reading 22*

Sarah Binder,"Mitch McConnell is Wrong. Here's the Filibuster's 'racial history." (Links to an external site.) 

Nate Silver, "The Senate’s Rural Skew Makes It Very Hard For Democrats To Win The Supreme Court (Links to an external site.)"

11/10-15: The Executive Branch, PP Ch. 7-8.

 The Enduring Debate readings 27, 28, 32, 33 (*)

11/17 Judiciary PP CH. 9.

Jason Willick, "Overturning Roe"

Archon Fung, "Dobbs and democratic legitimacy."

movie: "Supreme Revenge" 


III. Politics and Informal Institutions

11/29 Public Opinion PP Ch. 10, 

Geofrey Skelly, "Why Was The National Polling Environment So Off In 2020?" (Links to an external site.)

The Literary Digest survey of 1936

12/1 Elections PP Ch. 11

Ross Douthat, "A Case for the Electoral College"

Jesse Wegman, Let the People Pick the President, Ch. 3.*

12/6 Political Parties PP Ch. 12

12/8 Interest Groups PP Ch. 13

The Enduring Debate reading 59(*)


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: 
Social Sciences (SSc)
Last updated: 
May 4, 2022 - 10:04pm