Political Science | Intro to American Politics
Y103 | 3741 | Huckfeldt

Harold Lasswell once wrote a book called: Politics: Who Gets What,
When, and How.  That book title is a good definition for politics,
the process in which decisions are made allocating things we value.
This course is about politics in America -- the manner in which our
political system decides "who gets what, when, and how."
A number of actors and institutions are central to American politics,
and they will be considered during this course.  Some are well
recognized and formally defined in the United States Constitution:
the Presidency, the Congress, courts, and elections.  Others, such as
bureaucracies and political parties, have evolved over time.  They
are not mentioned in the Constitution, and many of the founding
fathers would be dismayed at the roles they now occupy.  Still
others, most notably pressure groups, are viewed unfavorably by many
contemporary commentators, as well as being virtually ignored in the
This course is about the American political process and the
institutions and actors that play a part in it, but it is not simply
a course about formal institutions and officeholders.  We will
examine the role of citizens in American democracy and the role of
the media within the political process.  Special attention will focus
upon the consequences of the political process for the formulation
and execution of public policies, and the impact of these policies
upon things we value -- freedom, equality, justice, and material
rewards.  Not only does American politics produce winners and losers,
it also addresses a wide range of important public issues that are
crucial to us all.
Students must: attend lectures and discussion sections, complete
reading assignments prior to class meetings, take three exams,
complete several short writing assignments, and complete a series of
in-class conference activities.