POLS 408 Political Participation
Fall, 2006, Dusable 4 61
Professor Barbara Burrell
Room 115, Zulauf Hall
Office hours: Tuesday ,
(The first Weds. of each month I have a meeting from 1-3; will have office hours from 3-5 on Weds. that week)
Major Questions of the Course:
Who participates in political activities? Why do people participate?
What issues motivate people to get involved?
How do people attempt to influence the political process?
What difference does political participation make?
We will explore what political philosophers have had to say about political participation and look at what we know about actual participation. Our focus will be on political participation in American politics with as special emphasis on the 2006 election. Our vantage point for studying the 2006 midterm elections will be from the perspective of political candidates. Classes will include mini lectures and lots of student participation in class discussion.
Craig Rimmerman, The New Citizenship, 3rd edition, Westview Press
Paul S. Herrnson, Congressional
Elections: Campaigning at Home and in
The following schedule is a flexible one. We may move faster or slower depending on the depth of our discussions and new issues that arise during the semester.
August 29 Introduction
August 31 DVD – Street Fight,
the story of the 2002
September 5 Finish Street Fight and general lecture about major questions regarding political participation
Congressional Elections, Chapters 1-3
September 7 How are people participating in politics today and what issues are they becoming active about?
Assignment: Students should scan the news media for articles on people participating in politics during the previous week. Collect news stories and other efforts to influence public policy in the news media. Answer the following questions: who is participating, what activity are they engaging in, what is the issue they are involved about, who are they attempting to influence? You should make a list of your collection of activities in a column format with each aspect of the activity in a column.
This assignment is due in class on September 7th, 5% of course grade.
September 12, 14 What have political philosophers had to say about political participation?
Federalist Papers #10, # 51 – available on the Internet
Alexis De Tocqueville, Democracy in
Walter Lippman, The Phantom Public, Chapters 1 and 2, Blackboard
“Hey buddy, can you spare a vote—for me?” Blackboard
Michael Falcone, “What If They Held an Election and No One Ran?” New York Times,
October 3 Review and catch-up
October 5: Midterm examination
October 10, 12 Some challenges to traditional ideas about political participation
Benjamin Barber, “Neither Leaders Nor Followers: Citizenship Under Strong Democracy” Blackboard
October 17, 19 First Case Study: The Civil Rights Movement and the Voting Rights Act
Martin Luther King, Jr. “Letter from Birmingham Jail “ Blackboard and online
October 24, Invited speaker: John Laesch, candidate for Congress, 14th Congressional district, tentative
October 26 Campaign Finance
Congressional Elections, Chapter 1, pp. 12-17, Chapters 5, 6, 11
How much have your candidates raised and spent and how have they raised their money?
October 31 Campaign TV ads
We will watch and critique some of your candidates’ TV ads.
November 2 Election predictions
Paper due: Students should turn in a 1-2 page paper predicting the result of the election assigned to you. Students need to document the reasons for your prediction. This material can then be used in your final paper.
November 7 Election Day
November 9 Second Case Study: Women’s Community Activism
November 14 Third Case Study: Case Study:
This case involves the decision by the school board to mandate the teaching of intelligent design. This decision stimulated a great deal of controversy including a court case and new elections for the school board in 2005. Please go online and read some articles describing the events of this case before class. Begun in late 2004 and continued to early 2006.
Campaign Paper due: Final versions of students’ indepth campaign paper are due in class, November 14. Late papers will not be accepted.
November 16 Colloquium and lecture on the Midterm elections
Assignment is due on November 28.
November 28, Discussion of political rights and civil liberties from Freedom House.
Freedom House assignment due in class.
November 30 “The New Citizenship”
December 5, 7 Summing Up
Final Examination: Tuesday, December 12, Noon-1:50 PM
Do you have some answers to the questions posed at the beginning of this syllabus?
Each student will write an indepth case study of a competitive race for the U.S. Senate or House of Representatives. You will randomly select a race to focus on from a list that I will construct.
The research paper should address at a minimum:
The economic, social and political context of the district or state race you are covering.
Trace the activities and events of the campaigns through the fall campaign season.
Describe the campaign organizations of both candidates.
Examine the fundraising efforts of the candidates.
Explore media coverage of the race.
Watch debates, if any, on CSPAN if you have access to it.
What issues are the candidates stressing?
What role are the party organizations at different levels playing? What about the involvement of various interest groups?
Who gets endorsed by the local media and why?
Republicans are attempting to make the midterm elections turn on local issues while the Democrats are attempting to make the election national in nature as a referendum on the Bush administration. In what ways do you see your race shaping up in this manner?
Explain the outcome.
Develop an electronic relationship with a member of the campaign and a political reporter who is following the campaign to provide you with information about the campaign.
Through discussions with your colleagues in the class and following the national election process, you should be able to note distinctions in your campaign and make some comparisons across campaigns. You should conclude your paper with a reflection on the campaign process and what it suggests about political participation. The reflection part of your paper is very important in terms of how I will grade the exercise. You should put some special thought and effort into this part of your paper.
How long should the paper be? I would expect the paper to be at least 15 pages double-spaced pages, with no more than one inch margins and using a font no larger than 12 point. Your paper might be much longer. The important point is to cover the race in an indepth manner linking it to Congressional Elections and the idea of political participation in a democracy. Spelling and grammatical correctness are extremely important. Feel free to include material and stories about the campaign as examples or illustrations. I am looking for both quality and quantity.
In the weeks before the election we will look at the financing of your campaigns and the candidates’ advertising. Be prepared to contribute to this aspect of the exercise.
I do not plan to take attendance but I expect students to attend all classes and to come to class having done the reading assignments and to participate in class discussions. If you do not attend class every day, show that you have done the readings on time and contribute to class discussion, you will not get an A in the class no matter how well done your written assignments are. Since the class is not very large I should very quickly know who is attending and participating and who is not. Classes will consist primarily of mini lectures and questions for discussion. Since this class is a high level undergraduate and graduate class, I do not believe that I have to spell proper classroom behavior.
Political Activities assignment: 5% of course grade (10 points)
Freedom House assignment: 5% of course grade (10 points)
Midterm Examination 20% of course grade (40 points)
Campaign paper 50% of course grade (100 points)
Final examination 20% of course grade (40 points)
Under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, NIU is committed to making reasonable accommodations for persons with documented disabilities. Those students with disabilities that may have some impact on their coursework and for which they may require accommodations should
Center for Access-Ability Resources (CAAR) on the fourth floor of the
Undergraduates are strongly encouraged to consult the Department of Political Science web site on a regular basis. This up-to-date, central source of information will assist students in contacting faculty and staff, reviewing course requirements and syllabi, exploring graduate study, researching career options, tracking department events, and accessing important details related to undergraduate programs and activities. To reach the site, go to http://polisci.niu.edu