American politics continually fascinates and occasionally appalls foreign observers yet is often oversimplified or misunderstood. This course provides students with an introduction to American political culture, the U.S. constitution and the main institutions and processes of the U.S. political system including the Presidency, the Congress, the judiciary, the bureaucracy, federalism, political parties, interest groups, and the electoral system. Throughout the course students examine both enduring and new issues in American politics.
Unit One: The Context of American Government and Politics
1.1. Introduction: the internal environment, the changing international role of the U.S., American political culture (individualism, anti-statism, egalitarianism, and populism), American exceptionalism, and religion in American politics and culture.
1.2. The U.S. Constitution: the nature of the original constitutional compromise, the separation of powers, historic constitutional amendments, and constitutional change.
1.3. The federal system: evolutionary development and contemporary state-federal relations.
Unit Two: The Major Institutions of the National Government
2.1. The Presidency: the office and the person, presidential power and constraints, and the evolving character of the presidency.
2.2. The Congress: the structures, roles, and operations of, and relations between, the House of Representatives and Senate; the role of parties in the Congress; the relationship with the Presidency; and the Congressional Budgetary Office.
2.3. The judiciary: the structure of and appointments to the federal judiciary; judicial review; the functioning of the Supreme Court; judicial activism and restraint and civil rights and civil liberties.
2.4. The bureaucracy and policy making: the budgetary process, the role of the presidency, Congress and the bureaucracy, and domestic and foreign policy.
Unit Three: The Process of American Politics
3.1. Interest groups: characteristics of American interest groups; the art of political lobbying; and interest groups and democracy.
3.2. Political parties and elections: the evolution and decline of American political parties; the structure of the electoral system, the role of states in the national electoral system, the national convention, the Electoral College, and campaign financing.
Unit Four: The Enduring Issues of American Politics
4.1. The nature of American democracy: the founding dream; the criticisms of American democracy; evaluating American democracy (e.g., cultural divisions and policy debates).
4.2. Civil rights, race, and gender: the continuing issue of race in American politics; American feminism; and concepts of equality, affirmative action and language issues.
4.3. Civil liberties: freedom of expression; freedom of religion; and political, legal, and property rights.
4.4. The U.S. political economy: the nature of the American economy; government regulation; government subsidization of industry; and poverty in America.
4.5. The U.S. role in international politics: the evolution of U.S. involvement in the international system, and the linkage between domestic and foreign policy determination.
Methods of Instruction
The course will employ a variety of instructional methods to accomplish its objectives, including the use of formal lectures, structured group work by students, and in class discussion of assigned material. Additional readings may be assigned for each unit of the course and placed on reserve in the library. Where appropriate, audio-visual materials will be used.
Means of Assessment
The course evaluation will be based on course objectives and in accordance with the policies of Douglas College and the Department of Political Science. A minimum of 40% of the student’s course grade will be assigned to examinations, a minimum of 30% will be assigned to the various components of a formal research essay, and a maximum of 30% will be based upon components such as quizzes, short essays, participation, and class presentations. Specific evaluation criteria will be provided by the instructor in course outlines.
An example of an evaluation scheme:
Midterm Exam 20%
Seminar Presentation 20%
Research Essay 30%
Final Exam 20%
At the conclusion of the course the successful student will be able to:
1. identify various approaches to the study of American politics;
2. describe American political culture, institutions and processes of the American government: the U.S. constitution, Presidency, judiciary and bureaucracy; federalism; the U.S. electoral and party system; and interest groups;
3. evaluate the strengths and problems associated with American political processes including the electoral system;
4. indentify both new issues in American politics such as cultural divisions and enduring issues such as race;
5. analyze critical issues in American politics;
6. undertake further study of American politics.
Below shows how this course and its credits transfer within the BC transfer system.
A course is considered university-transferable (UT) if it transfers to at least one of the five research universities in British Columbia: University of British Columbia; University of British Columbia-Okanagan; Simon Fraser University; University of Victoria; and the University of Northern British Columbia.
For more information on transfer visit the BC Transfer Guide and BCCAT websites.