Poli 100: Introduction to American Government

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POLI 100: Introduction to American Government
Fall 2015

Tuesday and Thursdays 9:30-10:45 am

Dey Hall 404
Instructor: Jacob Smith (smithjf@live.unc.edu)

Office Hours: Tuesday and Thursday 11 am- noon; Friday 10:30 am-11:30 am

Office: Hamilton 300
Course Description

This is an introductory course on the origins of the American system of government, American political institutions, political behavior, and the policy process. We will also apply the theories and ideas we discuss in class to current events and problems facing American government. This course will consist of lectures from the instructor, class discussions and debates, and class activities.


Disruptive behavior (e.g. texting, surfing the internet, talking during lectures) is not allowed. Students are expected to do all of the readings in order to be able to fully participate in class discussion. Students are encouraged to use evidence from the readings to support arguments made in class. Students must be respectful of differences of opinion that may arise during class discussion. Students are encouraged to ask questions in class. If a question pertains to a topic covered in the reading, I will attempt to facilitate a discussion about the question before jumping in myself to provide an answer.

Students are responsible for all material in the readings and in lecture. Students who miss all or part of a class can speak to the instructor in office hours about the material that was covered in class. Students are also responsible for emails sent out to the class by the instructor through the Sakai page.
Required Texts

The following texts are required and can be purchased at UNC Student Stores:

  • Kernell, Samuel, Gary C. Jacobson, Thad Kousser, and Lynn Vavreck. 2014. The Logic of American Politics. 6th Edition. CQ Press.

  • Mayhew, David. 2004. Congress: The Electoral Connection. 2nd Edition. Yale University Press.

  • Toobin, Jeffrey. 2012. The Oath: The Obama White House and the Supreme Court. Random House.

  • I have also assigned some supplementary readings available as newspaper articles, e-books, or journal articles. Links for these readings are available on the syllabus. Please let me know if any of these links do not work.

Course Requirements

Papers (2) 40% Two 5 page papers, each worth 20% of the final grade, will be assigned during the semester. Paper topics will be made available to students three weeks before the papers are due. Students may use any citation style they choose on papers so long as they remain consistent throughout that paper.
Midterm 20% A midterm exam will be given in class on October 13, 2015. The exam will consist of a variety of question forms. A study guide will be given in class at least a week in advance.
Final Exam 25% A final exam will be given in the normal classroom during the period set by the Office of the Registrar. For our class, the exam is scheduled at 8 am on Tuesday December 8, 2015 (http://registrar.unc.edu/academic-calendar/final-examination-schedule-fall/). As with the midterm, the exam will consist of a variety of question forms. A study guide will be given in class before Thanksgiving Break.
Participation 15% Students will be evaluated based on their engagement in class discussion.

Students who would like to receive a high grade for the class participation portion of the recitation grade should actively and consistently participate in all aspects of class discussion including discussion about the class readings, in-class group activities, and discussions and debates. I will provide an estimate of where students are in terms of participation approximately half way through the semester. As a general rule, I do not give pop quizzes, but reserve the right to change that if participation lags substantially for multiple class periods.

Attendance Policy Attendance will be taken at the start of every class. Students who are more than 15 minutes late will be counted absent for that class. Students who arrive in class within the first 15 minutes, but after attendance has been taken, should speak with the instructor after class to make sure that they are counted as present. After two unexcused absences, students will be penalized 1/3 of a letter grade on their participation grade.
I am generally very accommodating in terms of excused absences as long as students communicate with me through email in advance of the start of class. Obviously, exceptions to this rule can be made in extreme, unplanned cases. In such cases, students should contact me over email within two days of the absence unless circumstances (e.g. illness) render such communication impossible; in such cases, students should contact me as soon as possible and no later than the date of the final exam. Students should not consider themselves excused until they have received an email reply from me excusing them. If I do not promptly reply to an email related to absences, please follow up with me.
Research Participation All students who enroll in Political Science 100 are required to participate in research studies conducted in the Political Science Department if such studies occur during this semester. The total time commitment to such studies will not exceed 3 hours, but may be significantly less than this amount. Studies are typically conducted via an online survey. You will receive a notice to participate in these studies at your official UNC email address. You should follow the instructions in these emails to complete the study requirements.
Failure to satisfy the research participation requirement will result in an incomplete that will be removed only upon satisfaction of the requirement. This requirement does not substitute for other course requirements, nor does it generate extra credit. In the event that you would rather not actively participate in an actual study, you have the option of satisfying the research participation requirement in a different way. This alternative assignment consists of writing a 4-page research paper to be graded Pass/Fail by Professor Isaac Unah, who manages the subject pool. You should alert the instructor by October 1, 2015 if you wish to complete the alternative assignment.
Electronic Devices Policy

Electronic devices, including laptops or cell phones, are not allowed during recitation. If you have an important call you are waiting for (e.g. family emergency, job-related call) please put your cell phone on vibrate and step out of the room when you get the call.

Please speak to me if you require the use of a laptop during class for educational purposes. If a laptop is needed for class activities, I will communicate the necessary information in advance over email.
Grading Scale

  • A (93-100); A- (90-92)

  • B+ (87-89); B (83-86); B- (80-82)

  • C+ (77-80); C (73-76); C- (70-72)

  • D+ (67-70): D (60-67)

  • F (0-59)

  • If a final grade is near a cutoff at the end of the semester, I will generally round to the nearest integer, but will also take into account a student’s performance of the course of the semester.

Grade Grievances

Grading standards are meant to be high, but fair. If however, you would like to make a request a regrade on a paper there is a time window. Students must wait at least 24 hours (a cooling off period) and not more than two weeks (a statute of limitations) to submit a regrade request. For the second paper, all requests must be submitted before the final exam. Students should then submit a one page memo to me over email stating why they disagree with the grade that was given. I will then schedule a time to meet in person after I have a chance to read the memo. This policy does not apply to students who want to discuss why they got a certain grade and how they can do better who are not disputing the final grade that was given.


You are responsible for keeping a copy of all written assignments for the course. This ensures that we will not run into problems with lost assignments. You are also responsible for keeping copies of the assignments once they are handed back. Sometimes errors do happen, and a grade may not be recorded for you. If this happens you must be able to produce the graded paper to verify that the assignment was completed and that the grade is correct.

Incomplete Grades/ Make-ups

A final grade of “incomplete" will only be given in this course under exceptional circumstances and is solely at the discretion of the instructor. Assignments turned in late will be penalized one-third of a letter grade per day late. As a general rule, make-ups for exams will not be given. Students who must miss exams because of scheduled activities of an official University student organization, a religious holiday, or a verifiable illness should contact the instructor in advance of missing an exam so that alternative arrangements can be made.

Academic Dishonesty

Academic dishonesty—violating the standards of integrity all students pledge to adhere to as a condition of enrollment at UNC— shall result in a failing grade on that assignment and will also result in being referred to the Honor Court. Students with questions about what qualifies as academic dishonesty should as the instructor and can also consult the Honor Court Website at http://honor.unc.edu. Students may use any citation style they choose on papers so long as they remain consistent in that paper.

Student Accessibility

Any student with a documented condition who needs to arrange reasonable accommodations should contact the instructor and Accessibility Resources (https://accessibility.unc.edu/). Accessibility Resources can be reached by phone at 919-962-8300 or by email at accessibility@unc.edu.

Contact Policy and Office Hours

Students are encouraged to attend office hours or contact me via email with any questions about the course. I am also available by appointment if one is unable to meet during the times listed on the syllabus.

Please feel free to also contact me over email. I will respond promptly and will do my best to respond the same day to emails; however, do not expect an immediate response to a late evening email sent the day before an exam or before when a paper assignment is due.
Please Note: I reserve the right to make changes to the syllabus as necessary. Students will be promptly informed of any changes that are made to the syllabus.
Schedule of Required Readings
August 18: Class Introduction
No readings, Discussion of class procedures and class activity.
August 20: The Constitution
Kernell, Samuel et al. 2014. The Logic of American Politics, Chapter 2, pp. 41-72.
Tocqueville, Alexis de. 1835. Democracy in America. Chapter 2, Part 1 only, pp. 69-86

(Available as a Downloadable E-Book at http://site.ebrary.com.libproxy.lib.unc.edu/lib/uncch/reader.action?docID=10805240.)

The United States Constitution. 1787. Available on pp. 703-709 of The Logic of American Politics.
August 25: The Constitution
Madison, Hamilton, and Jay. 1787-88. The Federalist Papers. Numbers 10, 12, 15, 23, and 51. (Available online at http://thomas.loc.gov/home/histdox/fedpapers.html.)

August 27: Federalism
Howe, Amy. 2015. In Historic Decision, In historic decision, Court strikes down state bans on same-sex marriage: In Plain English, SCOTUSblog (Jun. 26, 2015, 1:07 PM), (Available online at http://www.scotusblog.com/2015/06/in-historic-decision-court-strikes-down-state-bans-on-same-sex-marriage-in-plain-english/.)
Madison, Hamilton, and Jay. 1787-88. The Federalist Papers. Numbers 44, 45, and 46. (Available online at http://thomas.loc.gov/home/histdox/fedpapers.html.)
Kernell et al. The Logic of American Politics. Chapter 3, pp. 87-101.
Tierney, John. 2014. Which States are Givers and Which are Takers. (Available online at http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2014/05/which-states-are-givers-and-which-are-takers/361668/.)
Also, please skim Fairfield, Hannah and Adam Liptak. 2014. A More Nuanced Breakdown of the Supreme Court (Available at http://www.nytimes.com/2014/06/27/upshot/a-more-nuanced-breakdown-of-the-supreme-court.html?abt=0002&abg=1.)
September 1: Civil Rights
Douglass, Frederick. 1852. “The Meaning of July Fourth for the Negro.” Available online at http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/aia/part4/4h2927t.html.)
Kernell et al. 2014. The Logic of American Politics. Chapter 4, pp.129-167.
September 3: Civil Rights
Capehart, Jonathan. 2015. “From Trayvon Martin to ‘Black Lives Matter.’” The Washington Post. (Available online at http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/post-partisan/wp/2015/02/27/from-trayvon-martin-to-black-lives-matter/.)
Graham, David A. 2015. “The Past Goes on Trial in North Carolina.” The Atlantic. (Available online at http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2015/07/nc-voting-case/398447/.)
Kernell et al. 2014. The Logic of American Politics. Chapter 4, pp. 167-180 and Amendments 11-27, pp. 710-714.
September 8: Civil Liberties
Kernell et al. 2014. The Logic of American Politics. Chapter 5, pp. 185-225.
Snowden, Edward. 2015. “Edward Snowden: The World Says no to Surveillance.” New York Times. (Available online at http://www.nytimes.com/2015/06/05/opinion/edward-snowden-the-world-says-no-to-surveillance.html?_r=0.)
Toobin, Jeffrey. 2013. “Edward Snowden is No Hero.” The New Yorker. (Available online at http://www.newyorker.com/news/daily-comment/edward-snowden-is-no-hero.)
September 10: Congress
Kernell et al. 2014. The Logic of American Politics. Chapter 6, pp. 231-255.
Fenno, Richard. 1976. “United States Representatives in Their Constituencies: An Exploration.” American Political Science Review 71(3): 883-917. (Available online at http://www.jstor.org/stable/1960097?seq=1#page_scan_tab_contents.)
September 15: Congress
Mayhew, David. 1974. Congress: The Electoral Connection. Chapter 1, pp. 7-77.
September 17: Congress
Kernell et al. The Logic of American Politics. Chapter 6, pp. 255-295.
Mayhew, David. 1974. Congress: The Electoral Connection. Chapter 2, pp.81-106.
September 22: Congress
Mayhew, David. 1974. Congress: The Electoral Connection. Chapter 2, pp.106-180.
Watch video clip from PBS NewsHour with Judy Woodruff “Is Washington’s Partisanship “Even Worse than it Looks?” (Available at http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/politics-jan-june12-congress_05-03/)
September 24: The Federal Budget
Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. Policy Basics: Introduction to the Federal Budget Process (Available at http://www.cbpp.org/files/3-7-03bud.pdf)
Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. Policy Basics: Deficits, Debt, and Interest (Available at http://www.cbpp.org/files/policybasics-deficits3.pdf)
Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. Policy Basics: Non-Defense Discretionary Spending (Available at http://www.cbpp.org/files/PolicyBasics-NDD.pdf)
Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. Policy Basics: Where Do our Tax Dollars Go?

(Available at http://www.cbpp.org/files/4-14-08tax.pdf)

Please look over the Center for a Responsible Federal Budget Simulator in Preparation for an in-class activity. (Available online at http://crfb.org/stabilizethedebt/.)
September 29: The Presidency
Kernell et al. 2014. The Logic of American Politics. Chapter 7, pp. 304-318, 320-327, and 337-341.
Neustadt, Richard. 1960. Presidential Power. Chapters 2 (part) and 3 (all), pp. 9-11 and 33-57. (Available online at http://www.heinonline.org.libproxy.lib.unc.edu/HOL/Page?handle=hein.presidents/prdtpwr0001&collection=presidents.)
Paper 1 Due in Class
October 1: The Presidency
Kernell et al. 2014. The Logic of American Politics. Chapter 7, pp. 328-337.
Klein, Ezra. 2014. “The Green Lantern Theory of the Presidency, explained.” Vox. (Available at http://www.vox.com/2014/5/20/5732208/the-green-lantern-theory-of-the-presidency-explained.)
Fournier, Ron. 2014. “How Obama Became the Superhero of Excuses.” National Journal. (Available at http://www.nationaljournal.com/politics/how-obama-became-the-superhero-of-excuses-20140521.)
Neustadt, Richard. 1960. Presidential Power. Chapters 4 and 5, pp. 58-107. (Available online at http://www.heinonline.org.libproxy.lib.unc.edu/HOL/Page?handle=hein.presidents/prdtpwr0001&collection=presidents.)
October 6: The Presidency and The Bureaucracy
Kernell et al. 2014. The Logic of American Politics. Chapter 7, pp. 328-337 and Chapter 8 pp. 347-390.
October 8: The Judiciary
Kernell et al. 2014. The Logic of American Politics. Chapter 9, pp. 393-420.
Segal, Jeffrey A. and Albert D. Cover. 1989. “Ideological Values and the Votes of Supreme Court Justices.” American Political Science Review 83(2): 557-565. (Available online at http://www.jstor.org/stable/1962405?seq=1#page_scan_tab_contents.)
Toobin, Jeffrey. 2012. “The Oath: The Obama White House and the Supreme Court.” Prologue, pp. 1-17.
October 13: Midterm Exam in Class
Bring a pencil or pen; I will provide a copy of the exam to write on.
October 15: Fall Break- No Class
October 20: The Judiciary (and Presidency)
Toobin, Parts 1 and 2, pp. 21-141.
October 22: The Judiciary (and Presidency)
Toobin, Part 3, pp. 145-203.
October 27: The Judiciary (and Presidency)
Toobin, Parts 4, 5, and Epilogue, pp. 207-299.
October 29: Public Opinion
Cluverius, John. 2013. “The Real Story on Support for Government Spending.” The Monkey Cage (Available online at http://themonkeycage.org/2013/02/the-real-story-on-public-support-for-government-spending/.)
Kernell et al. 2014. The Logic of American Politics. Chapter 10, pp. 435-478.
Noonan, Peggy, 2012. “Monday Morning.” The Wall Street Journal (Available at http://blogs.wsj.com/peggynoonan/2012/11/05/monday-morning/)
Silver, Nate. 2012. “The Simple Case for Saying Obama is the Favorite.” The New York Times. (Available at http://fivethirtyeight.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/11/02/nov-1-the-simple-case-for-saying-obama-is-the-favorite/?_php=true&_type=blogs&_r=0)
November 3: Elections (Happy Election Day!)
Kernell et al. 2014. The Logic of American Politics. Chapter 12, pp. 552-558.
Marx, Greg. 2012. “How to Understand the “Invisible Primary.” Columbia Journalism Review. (Available online at http://www.cjr.org/campaign_desk/how_to_understand_the_invisibl.php?page=all.)
Redlawsk, David, Caroline Tolbert, and Todd Donovan, Why Iowa? How Caucuses and Sequential Elections Improve the Presidential Nominating Process (all of Chapter 3, Available at: http://www.whyiowa.org/Why%20Iowa%20Chapter%203.pdf.) We will have mock Iowa caucuses in class, so please pay close attention to the rules discussion in this reading.
Watch at least the first fifteen minutes of the October 13, 2015 Democratic Primary Debate and at least the first fifteen minutes of the October 28, 2015 Republican Primary Debate. (Links to be sent out later. If there are any notable moments in either debate, I may change the assignment to have you watch those.)
November 5: Elections/Public Opinion
Guest Speaker: Tom Jensen from Public Policy Polling.
Take a look at the “About” section on the PPP webpage. (Available at http://www.publicpolicypolling.com/aboutPPP/about-us.html.)
November 10: Elections
Kernell et al. 2014. The Logic of American Politics. Chapter 11, pp. 481-521.
McArdle, Megan. 2013. “Why I Think the GOP will have Control in 2017.” (Available at http://meganmcardle.com/2013/07/12/why-i-think-the-gop-will-have-control-in-2017/.)
Silver, Nate. 2013. “The White House is Not a Metronome.” FiveThirtyEight. (Available at http://fivethirtyeight.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/07/18/the-white-house-is-not-a-metronome/)
November 12: Political Parties
Kernell et al. 2014. The Logic of American Politics. Chapter 12, pp. 525-552 and 559-573.
Lipset, Seymour Martin. 1996. “What are Parties For?” Journal of Democracy 7(1): 169-175 (Available online at https://muse.jhu.edu/journals/journal_of_democracy/v007/7.1br_aldrich.html)
November 17: Political Parties

Abramowitz, Alan and Morris Fiorina. 2013. “Polarized or Sorted? Just what’s Wrong with Our Politics, Anyway?” The American Interest. (Available online at http://www.the-american-interest.com/2013/03/11/polarized-or-sorted-just-whats-wrong-with-our-politics-anyway/.)

Broder, David. 1972. “The Party’s Over. The Atlantic. (Available at http://www.theatlantic.com/past/politics/policamp/partysov.htm)
Broder, David. 2007. “A Polarized and Polarizing Congress.” The Washington Post. (Available at http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/08/03/AR2007080301949.html?nav=rss_print/outlook)
Jacobson, Gary. 2015. “Obama and Nationalized Politics in the 2014 Midterm.” Political Science Quarterly. 130(1):1-25. (Available online at http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/polq.12290/abstract.)
November 19: Interest Groups
Kernell et al. 2014. The Logic of American Politics. Chapter 13, pp. 577-613.
Schmitt, Susan and James V. Grimaldi. 2005. “The Fast Rise and Steep Fall of Jack Abramoff.” The Washington Post. (Available online at http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/12/28/AR2005122801588.html.)
November 24: The Media
Gonyea, Don. 2015. “Jon Stewart Changed How Young People View the News, Politics.” NPR. (Available online at http://www.npr.org/2015/02/11/385537476/jon-stewart-changed-how-young-people-view-the-news-politics) (If you want, you can listen to a recorded version of this story.)
Kernell et al. 2014. The Logic of American Politics. Chapter 14, pp. 617-661.
Paper 2 Due in Class
November 26: Thanksgiving Break- No Class
December 1: Review and Catch-up
Read over the study guide and come to class with any questions you might have.
December 8: Final Exam at 8 am in Dey 404.

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