Democracy in America                                               Instructor: Nicole Kooistra

POLS 150, Section 1                                                   Office: DU 476                      

Spring 2009                                                                 Office hours: MWF 11:00-11:50

Course Meeting Place: DU 246                                  Email:

Course Meeting Time: MWF 10:00-10:50                 Phone: (815) 753-1818 (office)


What This Course Is

POLS 150 Democracy in America studies American political and social institutions primarily through the political thought, writings and speeches of three categories of people:  1) the nation’s founders and the framers of the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution whose work structures the political controversies reappearing throughout subsequent generations; 2) office holders who bore responsibility for dealing with these controversies and who both changed and preserved constitutional institutions and democratic thought and practice; and 3) the influential non-office holders whose thought helped shape public opinion, social change and law, and provided insight into both the goodness and badness of American democracy.  Among the latter, Tocqueville’s commentary, still commonly regarded as the best ever written (160 years after its publication), gives this course its name and spirit.

Required Texts and Readings

1.     A POLS 150 Reading Packet.

2. Alexis de Tocqueville.  Democracy in America.  Trans. Harvey Mansfield and Delba Winthrop. Chicago:  University of Chicago Press, 2000. 

3.  Peter Lawler and Robert Schaefer, eds. American Political Rhetoric Fifth Edition. Rowman & Littlefield, 2004.    

4. Henry David Thoreau.  Civil Disobedience and Other Essays.  Mineola, NY:  Dover Publications, 1993.                                                            

Attendance Policy—Attendance at each class meeting is both expected and required. Being in attendance is defined as “being present when attendance is taken at the beginning of each class and remaining until class is dismissed.”  Two instances or either arriving severely late or leaving early without permission from the instructor will count as one absence.  Attendance is necessary for participation.  Therefore, after five absences, each class missed will drop one’s overall grade half a letter grade. So if, for example, you end up with an 82% in the course but have missed six classes, your overall course grade will go down to a 77%.  Rather than spending my time and yours trying to determine if an absence is excused I give you five absences to use however you deem fit.  I would recommend saving them for unexpected events such as illness, weather, or car problems.  If you know in advance that you will miss more than five classes for legitimate reasons (University excused absences, religious observances, etc.), you should talk to me as soon as possible or consider taking another class. 

 Classroom Etiquette-- In addition to coming to class on time, the instructor requests that students refrain from sleeping, text messaging, talking on cell phones, reading the newspaper, etc.  It is not acceptable for students to walk in and out of class to answer cell phones, take casual bathroom and smoking breaks, or attend to other personal matters.  Doing so will result in a reduction in the participation/attendance grade. Cell phones, pagers, or any electronic devices that make noise must be turned off during class unless the instructor has been notified beforehand of a special circumstance (e.g., sick family member, pregnant wife, special childcare situation, etc.). It is not acceptable to use an iPod, read a newspaper, use a laptop for anything other than taking class notes, or engage in other behavior that distracts one from the class proceedings once the session has begun. No one should talk while someone else is talking; this includes comments meant for a classmate rather than the entire group.  Overall, classroom dialogue and behavior should always be courteous, respectful of others, and consistent with the expectations set forth by the university

Class Participation—Proper participation in class is both required and rewarded.  As this is a course concerning the discussion of ideas, simple attendance without participating in discussion is insufficient.  The good student will not only be present and attentive in class, but will also actively participate in class discussion by answering questions about the assigned readings, raising questions, and volunteering thoughtful observations about the material.  Proper class participation also requires that the student behave with proper courtesy and regard for others’ comments.  Because most of our classes will involve reading and discussing passages from the assigned texts, the student should bring the appropriate readings to each class. 

Quizzes—I will give a weekly quiz each Friday at the beginning of class, starting in the second week of classes.  Each quiz will ask 6 questions pertaining to the previous week’s readings.  The quizzes are intended to test to see how well the student has mastered the readings from the previous week, after he or she has had a chance to read them, ask questions about them in class, reread them, and review lecture notes from class.  There will be 11 quizzes throughout the semester.  I will drop your lowest quiz grade.  You should save all of your quizzes, as several of the final exam questions will have appeared previously on them.  NOTE: I do not guarantee that you will be able to make up a quiz.  Whether or not a student’s excuse warrants a make-up quiz is solely at the discretion of the instructor, to be determined on a case-by-case basis.  “I didn’t feel like getting up” will never be an acceptable excuse. When the instructor grants permission to take a make-up quiz, you must take the quiz before the next class session, otherwise you forfeit your chance to make up the quiz.    

Papers—There will be 2 short essays assigned approximately a quarter of the way into the semester.  Essays will be accepted up to three (weekend days included) days after the due date; however, these essays will be docked one letter grade for each day they are late.  Please provide a word count on the first page of your essays.  The 1,000-word limit will be taken very seriously.  The instructor will not accept emailed copies of papers unless a hard copy is also dropped off at the political science office (Zulauf Hall 415).


Exams—There will be 2 examinations in this course—a midterm examination and a comprehensive final examination to be given on the date assigned by the university. Please see the class schedule below.  Students will be expected to bring bluebooks to both exams. Make-up examinations will be given only with adequate documentation that the absence was unavoidable. 


Grading—Final course grades are based upon the required written assignments, quizzes, and exams, as well as the regularity and quality of class participation, less any penalties due to absences. The grading scale is as follows: A=90%; B=80%; C=70%; D=60%; F=50% and below.  Only for extreme and well documented reasons will the instructor give an incomplete for the course.


Participation-30 points (5% of final grade)

Quizzes-120 points (20% of final grade)

Paper 1-60 points (10% of final grade)

Paper 2-90 points (15% of final grade)

Midterm-150 points (25% of final grade)

Final-150 points (25% of final grade)


Academic Dishonesty—Regarding plagiarism, the NIU Undergraduate Catalog states: "students are guilty of plagiarism, intentional or not, if they copy material from books, magazines, or other sources without identifying and acknowledging them.  Students guilty of or assisting others in either cheating or plagiarism on an assignment, quiz, or examination may receive a grade of F for the course involved and may be suspended or dismissed from the university."  The above statement encompasses a paper written in whole or in part by another; a paper copied word-for-word or with only minor changes from another source; a paper copied in part from one or more sources without proper identification and acknowledgement of the sources; a paper that is merely a paraphrase of one or more sources, using ideas and/or logic without credit even though the actual words may be changed; and a paper that quotes, summarizes or paraphrases, or cuts and pastes words, phrases, or images from an Internet source without identification and the address of the web site.  Plagiarism will not be tolerated.


Statement Concerning Students with Disabilities—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 notify the Center for Access-Ability Resources (CAAR) on the fourth floor of the Health Services Building. CAAR will assist students in making appropriate accommodations with course instructors. It is important that CAAR and instructors be informed of any disability-related needs during the first two weeks of the semester.


Department of Political Science Web Site—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



Course Schedule:

* The following schedule is meant to serve as a broad outline of the course.  The instructor reserves the right to make reasonable adjustments to the schedule if necessary.



Introduction: What is liberal education and how does the study of Democracy in America foster it?

Horace Mann, "Go Forth and Teach," July 4, 1842, in Reading Packet (RP) p. 173-174.

Martin Luther King, "The Purpose of Education," 1948, in RP, pp. 175-176.



I.  What is American democracy? (How American ideas of democracy have both changed and stayed the same over time.)

A.   Democracy in America before the Constitution. Tocqueville, Democracy in America  

(1833) (hereafter DA), pp. 27-45.



B.  The Declaration of Independence, in American Political Rhetoric (hereafter Lawler), p. 1-4.


1/19     MLK Day—NO CLASS



C.  At the Founding:

1.     How the Founders distinguished between two kinds of “popular governments”:  "democracy" and "republic." Federalist Papers (1787-88), #14 in Reading Packet (RP) p. 161, #63 in RP p. 60-61, #39 Lawler pp. 45-49.


1/23  Quiz #1 (Note: Hereafter there will be a quiz every Friday)

2.     The problem of “faction” in “popular governments: and the Founders’ solution. 

Federalist #10 in Lawler, pp. 15-21.  Federalist #51 in Lawler, READ ONLY pp. 37-38.



D.   Jeffersonian Democracy. Thomas Jefferson, Agriculture vs. manufacturing as ways of social life (1782), RP, pp. 161-162. First and Second Inaugural

Addresses (1801, 1805) in RP, pp. 3-11. “On Citizenship" in RP, pp. 33-35.



E.  Tocquevillian Democracy

            1. Equality of conditions.  DA "Introduction" pp. 3-6, 45-53, 479-482.



2. Majority Rule. DA, "The Principle of the Sovereignty of the People in America" pp.

 53-55.  "The Omnipotence of the Majority in the United States and its Effects" pp. 165, 235-245.

            3. Liberty. DA, pp. 42-44.

            4. Rights. DA, “The Idea of Rights in the United States" p. 227-29.



F. Slavery and Democracy

            1. Thomas Jefferson, Notes on the State of Virginia (1784), Lawler, pp. 247-8.

            2. William Lloyd Garrison, (1843) in RP p.11.

3. Frederick Douglass, speech at Rochester New York July 5, 1852, "The Meaning of

 July Fourth for the Negro" in RP pp. 12-24.



Paper Topic Assigned

4.  Abraham Lincoln, "Reply to Douglas at Chicago, Illinois," July 10, 1858 in RP pp.


5. Abraham Lincoln, "Address Delivered at the Dedication of the Cemetery at

    Gettysburg," (1863), Lawler, 186.                 


G. Economic Democracy: The Progressives, the New Deal, and the Great Society

1. Theodore Roosevelt, "Two Noteworthy Books on Democracy," (1914) in RP, pp.25-


2. Franklin D. Roosevelt, "Commonwealth Club Campaign Speech," (1932), Lawler pp.




3.  Franklin D. Roosevelt, "Message on the State of the Union ("The Economic Bill of

Rights") (1944) in RP pp. 28-29.

            4.   Lyndon Johnson, "The Great Society" (1964) in Lawler pp. 206-208.



H. Civil Liberties Democracy

            West Virginia v. Barnette (1943) in RP pp. 30.

I.   Civil Rights Democracy

           Martin Luther King, "I Have a Dream" speech (1963) in RP pp. 30-33.



II. What political institutions enable American democracy to exist?

A.   Voting: If “everyone” must have a right to vote in order to be a democracy, when did

America become a democracy?

1.     Who did the original Constitution provide could vote? and for what offices? The Constitution, For Congress: Art. I, Sec. 2, Cl. 1 and Sec. 3, Cl. 1 in Lawler pp. 405.  For President: Art. II, Sec. 1, Cl. 2, Lawler p. 411; The Supreme Court? Art. 3, Sec. 2, Lawler p. 412-13.

2.     What are voting and elections for? How important did the Founders think the right to

vote is? Federalist Paper #52, in RP p. 38-39.

            3.   Who should have a right to vote?  Federalist Papers #39 in Lawler pp. 45-46



            4.   What is "universal suffrage"?

a)      "Chancellor Kent on Universal Suffrage", speech to the New York      

Constitutional Convention of 1821, in RP pp. 39-43

b)     DA, "Universal Suffrage" pp. 53-55, 187, bottom of 229-230.


2/18     Paper Due

     5. Voting and Equality (of social conditions) and voting. Review DA, pp. 45-53, 479-82.

            a)   Extending the right to vote to women.

1)    The argument from rights: "The Seneca Falls Declaration of Sentiments and Resolutions," July 19, 1848, in RP pp. 44-47.

2)    The argument from practical considerations: Jane Addams, "Why Women

Should Vote," (1910), in RP pp. 47-49.

3)    Is voting a right of democratic citizenship? Minor vs. Happersett (1875), in

RP pp. 49-52.

4)    U.S. Constitution Amendments XIV, Section 1 (1864) and XIX (1920) in

Lawler, p. 419, 421.



                  b)  Extending the right to vote to blacks.

                        1)  United States Constitution, 15th Amendment (1870) in Lawler p. 420.

                        2)  Lyndon Johnson, “Address on Voting Rights” (1965), in RP pp. 52-58.

c)  Extending the right to vote to 18 year olds. United States Constitution, 26th

     Amendment (1971), Lawler, p. 425.

            6. Are any principled limits on the right to vote consistent with democracy,

                in terms either of rights or of practice?

                  a)   DA, pp. 187-193.

                  b)  “The Motor-voter Act” (1994) Carol Moseley-Braun in RP pp.59-60.      



            7. Who/what should voters have a right to vote for (directly)?

a)     The Constitution's answer:  they should be able to vote for their

representatives, but not directly for laws. and RP pp. 60-61.

1)  Why was the Senate originally selected by state legislatures and why was

that changed by the 17th Amendment? Federalist Papers #63, Lawler pp.84-86.

2)    Why is the President elected through the "Electoral College" rather than through "direct popular election?" U.S. Constitution, Article

II, Section 1, Clauses 2-4 and Amendment XII in Lawler p. 411-412, 418-19.

3)    Why is the Supreme Court appointed rather than elected? Federalist Papers

#78, Lawler, pp. 120-1, 124-5.



b)    The Progressives: voters should be able to legislate directly (initiative &

referendum) because representation has failed.

1)  Theodore Roosevelt, “The Heirs of Abraham Lincoln” (1913) in RP pp 154-


2)    Theodore Roosevelt, “The Recall of Judicial Decisions” (1912) in RP pp.61-

68.  --Important Terms: fixed terms of office, recall, initiative, referendum, "terms limits"       

c)     Constitutionally, who elects which federal offices?  The Constitution, Art. I, Sec.

2, Cl. 2 and Sec. 3, Cl. 3. Art. II, Sec. 1, Cl. 3 & 5, in Lawler 405-6, 411-12.



B. Representation, political parties and interest groups

1.  The Founders' Concern: the danger of "faction" and how representation is supposed to mitigate it Federalist Papers #10 in Lawler pp. 18-21 (read only the second half of #10); #57, pp.79-81; #71, pp. 87-88;  #52 in RP pp. 38-39.

2.   Tocqueville on democratic representation. DA, p. 165.

3.     The distinction between "great parties" and "small parties". DA, 166-72.

3/4  Catch up and review for Midterm.

3/6  MIDTERM EXAM                                                                                                                                 





C.  Separation of Powers                                                                                                                                             1.  What is separation of powers and why is it necessary? Federalist Papers #47 in Lawler    pp.21-27.                                                                                                                                    

2.     What is separation of powers supposed to do?                                                                                         

a)  To secure liberty and protect us from tyranny.                                                          1) Federalist Papers #48, #51, #71 in Lawler pp. 27-31, 34-36, 87-89.      

                        2) Justice Brandeis in Myers v. U.S. (1926) in RP 89-90.


3/18 Paper 2 Assigned

      b)  To make possible an energetic executive "independent" of the legislature.

                        1)  Federalist Papers #37, in RP pp. 90-92 (combining stability and energy).

                        2)  Federalist Papers #70 in Lawler 86-87.

                        3)  Foreign Affairs. DA, pp. 217-20.

c)  To make possible an independent judiciary to enforce the Constitution and


1) Federalist Papers #78 in Lawler pp. 120-26.

2) Thomas Jefferson "Against Judicial Review"(1815), RP pp. 92-93.



D. Federalism: What is it and why do we have it?

1.   The Constitution, Article I, Secs. 8 & 9. Lawler pp. 409-10. Amendment X, in Lawler,

     p. 418.

2.  The distinction between "federal" and "national." Federalist Papers #39 in Lawler

pp.46-49. Important terms: "the federal government," "the national

      government," "the general government," "sovereignty," "division of sovereignty."



3.   DA, pp.57-58; What does Tocqueville think is the advantage of the federal system for

democracy? pp. 53-58 & 235, note 1.  Important terms: decentralization, federalism, federal government, national government.

4.     Ronald Reagan, “The State of the Union Address” (1982) in Lawler pp.60-62.

5.     Garcia v. San Antonio (1985) in Lawler, pp. 62-66.


E. Religion as a political institution.

      1.  DA, pp. 42-43; 274-88; 417-19.         

2.  United States Constitution, 1st Amendment (1791), Lawler p. 416.



3.  George Washington, "Farewell Address" (1796) in Lawler pp. 43-44.  "Thanksgiving

Proclamation" (1789) in RP p. 93-94.

4.  James Madison, “[Repentance and Thanksgiving] Proclamation,” November 16, 1814, RP, 94-

     95.  Abraham Lincoln, “Proclamation of Thanksgiving” (1863), RP, 95-96.



III. Persistent questions about the meaning of liberty and equality in American democracy.



A. Religion as a political problem.

1.    Thomas Jefferson, "A Bill for Establishing Religious Freedom," (1786) in RP pp. 96-


3.     Thomas Jefferson, Letter "To Nehemiah Dodge and Others, A Committee of the

Danbury Baptist Association, in the State of Connecticut," (1802) in RP pp. 98.


4/1    Paper 2 Due

            4.  Justice Hugo Black, Everson v. Board of Education (1947) in RP pp. 99-104.

5.  Ronald Reagan, "Remarks at an Ecumenical Prayers Breakfast," August 23, 1984 in

     RP pp. 105-108.



B. Women and Democracy in America

1.  Tocqueville's view of women's equality and its consequences for democracy.  DA pp.

     274-75, 278-9, 563-565, 567-576.

            2.  A contemporary view of women's equality and its relation to democracy. "Change:

     From What To What" Keynote speech by Barbara Jordan to the Democratic National

     Convention, July 1992 in RP pp. 108-110.



C.  Citizenship:  What makes one an American?  Proposition 187 and the recent immigration


1.  Being born here or being naturalized. United States Constitution, 14th Amendment,

     Lawler p. 419-20.

            2.  Dedication to the proposition that all men are created equal.

a)  The Declaration of Independence, Lawler 1-4.

b)  Abraham Lincoln, Reply to Douglas at Chicago, Illinois, July 10, 1858 in RP  


c)  Dred Scott v. Sanford (1856), Opinion of the Supreme Court by Chief

     Justice Taney, in RP 121-128.




d)  Abraham Lincoln, “Speech on the Dred Scott Decision” June 26, 1857 in RP

pp. 128-130.  Fredrick Douglass, “The Meaning of July Fourth for the Negro,” July 5, 1852 in RP pp.  11-13, 20-21; Frederick Douglass, “Speech on the Dred Scott decision,” May 11 1857, RP 131-136. 




e)  Stephen A. Douglas, Speech from the fifth debate at Galesburg, Illinois,

     October 7, 1858 in RP pp. 113-116.

                        f)  Abraham Lincoln, Reply to Douglas at Galesburg, October 7, 1858 and Speech

                             at Ottawa, Illinois August 21, 1858 in RP pp. 117-120.



D.  Affirmative Action: Should constitutional rights belong to individuals

            or to groups?

            1.  Robert Goldwin, "Why Blacks, Women, and Jews are not mentioned in the

                 Constitution," (1987) in RP 76-85.           



2.  President Bill Clinton, “Mend It Don’t End It” (1995) in RP 163-168.

            3.  Ward Connerly, “With Liberty and Justice for All” (1996) in RP 168-172.

4.    Rep. J. C. Watts (2000) in RP, 173.



E. Law-abidingness: Should I obey the law?

1.  Remember the Declaration of Independence? Can a political system founded on the

     right of revolution successfully require law-abidingness? Or is   

     lawlessness built into the foundational principles of American political life?

            2.  What is law abidingness? Is disagreement with the Supreme Court disobedience to the             

law? Lincoln, "Speech on the Dred Scott decision," June 26, 1857 in RP pp. 128-130.

Frederick Douglass, "The Dred Scott Decision" May 11, 1857, in RP p. 131-136.

            3.  Why do/should we obey the law?

                        a)  Because it is self-imposed. DA, pp. bottom of 229-231.

                        b)  Out of enlightened self-interest. DA, pp. 225-227.



c)  Out of public spirit. Abraham Lincoln, "The Perpetuation of Our Political       

                 Institutions," (1838) in RP pp. 137-142.



4.     Civil Disobedience: Is law abidingness sometimes neither good nor a duty?

a)Martin Luther King, Jr., "Letter from the Birmingham Jail" (1963) in RP pp. 143-153.



b) Henry David Thoreau, “Civil Disobedience.” 

4/29  Catch up and Review for Final.




FINAL EXAM Monday May 4 10:00-11:50 A.M.