Political Science | American Presidency
Y318 | 8492 | Emily Hilty
A defining characteristic of the American political system is the
presidency. While established by the Founders, this constitutional
institution has evolved significantly over its history. In fact, the
presidency as it exists today may well be unrecognizable to those that
created it in the first place. To that end, we will begin the course
by examining the formulation of the executive through the
constitutional debates that occurred during the founding period. We
will use this as a point of departure for reflections on changes to
the presidency over time and, more broadly, the implications of these
changes for American democracy. This discussion will end in a
detailed study of the duties of the president, as articulated by the
From this foundation, we will proceed to the executive’s relationship
with the branches of the government: Congress, the Judiciary, and even
how the President interacts with the rest of the executive branch.
Following this institutional exploration, we will examine how the
President acts with regard to the people in general. Conceptualizing
the President’s relationship with the electorate requires study of
both presidential elections and the media. Understanding of these
relationships will necessarily lead to consideration of the informal
powers of the President. At this point, we will explore how the
presidency has changed over time, both formally and informally. In
doing so, we will additionally investigate briefly the presidency and
international politics. The course will conclude with a reflection
upon the nature of the American presidency, past and present, and our
assessment of the institution itself.
This course focuses on the American Presidency as an institution, not
on specific individuals who have held the office, although it will be
necessary at times to cultivate knowledge of certain Presidents and
key moments in history. After this course, you should have a thorough
understanding of the presidency, both historically and in its modern
incarnation, and how this institution fits into American government.
Requirements for the course include short response papers at the end
of each unit (2-3 pages) and a final research paper (6-8 pages).
Participation and in-class assignments will also constitute a portion
of your grade.