All students will write a 5-6 page essay (double-spaced). Students should follow the instructions at the end of this syllabus. Choose one of the following topics:
1. US Constitution. Write an essay on this question: “Has the wisdom of the framers of the Constitution in promoting a ‘more perfect union’ been overrated?” To answer this question, you will have to consider the answers provided by Thurgood Marshall and William Reynolds (on the course website), the views of Scott Abernathy in Chapter 2 ofAmerican Government, and the contrasting views of Sanford Levinson and Suzanna Sherry (on the course website).
2. Presidential Power and Congress. Both President Barack Obama and President Donald Trump have complained about the difficulty in getting their own legislative initiatives adopted by the US Congress. Explain why this pattern is no surprise, and what Presidents can do, nonetheless, to have at least partial success. You should utilize the analysis inAmerican Government, especially in Chapters 9 and 10, and the article by Roger Davidson, “Congress and the Presidency (on the course website).
3. Congressional Behavior. Utilizing the ideas of David Mayhew in The Electoral Connection (on the course website), examine the web site of your member of the U.S. House of Representatives, and describe the evidence of the member engaging in advertising, credit-claiming (especially particularized benefits), and position-taking (as Mayhew defines these terms). Also, identify the committees to which the member is assigned, how those memberships might help the member serve the interests of their district.
4. Politics and Social Change. Write an analysis of the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, based on the film All the Way (shown in class), chapters 4, 7, 8, 9, and 10 in American Government, and the Robert D. Loevy article on the Civil Right Act (online). How did such a controversial bill ever get through Congress?
5. 5. The Judiciary. The exercise of judicial review has always been controversial in American politics. Explain why this is the case, using the American Government textbook (especially Chapters 4 and 12) and the article by Mark Pulliam, “The Quandary of Judicial Review.” And consider whether or not the Supreme Court has too much power in American government.
6. Student Choice (Professor Approval Required). You may propose an alternative topic, but it must relate to the course material. Send an e-mail to me about it, stating what you would like to write about and why, and we will explore the possibilities.
1. Scott F. Abernathy, American Government: Stories of a Nation, Brief Edition (CQ Press: 2016) 978-1544307367
2. Renee B. Van Vechten, California Politics: A Primer, Fifth Edition (CQ Press: 2018) 978-1506380353