Spring 2008
Fully Enrolled

SOCS 621
Prelude to Political Choice: American Politics & the 2008 Elections

Eisner,Marc A.

01/28/2008 - 05/10/2008
Wednesday 06:00 PM - 08:30 PM

Public Affairs Center 421

How does one make sense of contemporary American politics? The past fifteen years have witnessed an historic shift in the control of Congress, with Republicans claiming majorities in both chambers for the first time in four decades. Despite the fact that a Democrat, Bill Clinton, was president, and the economy was on a trajectory of sustained growth, the 1990s also witnessed the end of AFDC, a centerpiece of the welfare state constructed during the New Deal and the Great Society. Despite the popularity of Clinton, his presidency ended in impeachment. There was little to suggest that the new millennium would bring greater stability. The 2000 presidential election was decided by the Supreme Court. The first term of the new Bush administration was marred by a terrorist attack on New York and Washington DC, a recession, a war in Afghanistan, a preemptive war in Iraq, and a federal budget that has gone from surplus to unprecedented deficits. In part, as a response to the unpopularity of the war, Democrats reclaimed the Congress in the 2006 midterms. Will 2008 bring a return to unified Democratic control or will the Republican Party rise from the ashes?

The 2008 elections should be of great interest to any study of American politics and public policy. Given the narrow majorities in both chambers of Congress and the uncertainties of war, it could bring massive shifts in the partisan control of the federal government. Moreover, a number of significant policy issues face the nation, including the ongoing war on terrorism (and its domestic ramifications for civil liberties), the war on drugs, the need to salvage social security and Medicare in the face of unprecedented demographic shifts and liabilities, controlling illegal immigration, global climate change, looming budget deficits, and gay marriage. This course is designed to provide a context for understanding the upcoming elections and the stakes involved. It is the goal of this course to prepare participants to better understand the factors shaping American politics and the key dimensions of important policy dispute.

Students will be required to write short essays.

A syllabus for this course is available at:

Marc Eisner (B.A. University of Wisconsin; M.A. Marquette University; M.B.A. University of Connecticut; Ph.D. University of Wisconsin) is professor of government and Henry Merritt Wriston chair in public policy. He is author of six books, including Governing the Environment: The Transformation of Environmental Governance (Lynne Rienner, 2007), and is past president of the New England Political Science Association. Click here for more information about Marc Eisner.


Consent of Instructor Required: No

Format: Seminar

Level: GLSP Credits: 3 Enrollment Limit: 18

Texts to purchase for this course:
Matt Bai, THE ARGUMENT (Penguin), Paperback

Fiorina, Abrams & Pope, CULTURE WAR? (Longman), Paperback

Jonathan Rauch, GOVERNMENT'S END (Public Affairs), Paperback

Ryan Sager, ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM (Wiley), Paperback


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