Policy Making in America
This course provides a realistic introduction to how public policy is made in the United States today. It examines how people (voters, activists, wealthy individuals, lobbyists, politicians, bureaucrats, and judges), organizations (interest groups, firms, unions, foundations, think tanks, political parties, and the media) and political institutions (Congress, the presidency, the bureaucracy, and the judiciary) interact to create and implement public policy in the United States. The course combines social science theory, systematic empirical evidence, case studies, role-playing simulations, videos and documentaries, and skill-building exercises. Students learn facts and theories; but beyond that, they acquire tools of proven usefulness for practical political analysis. And, they get to practice using them in fun and sometimes challenging exercises.
Research Seminar: Courts
This course teaches how to read, understand, and critique contemporary empirical social science. This means thinking clearly about causality, systematic observational and experimental evidence, research design, and statistical inference. The substantive focus is courts, exploring controversial and topical themes such as: Does electing state court judges distort their impartiality? Are Supreme Court justices’ decisions political? Are judges racially biased in sentencing? Are police officers racially biased in arrests?
This course examines how presidents get, use, sometimes abuse, and invariably lose power. The premise of the course is simple but radical: presidential power depends on using each tool of presidential governance adroitly, while integrating them into a mutually supporting whole that “fits” the strategic context. Accordingly we focus on the nuts and bolts of each tool of governance – how each works and how it affects the president’s performance. The course employs the best available social science on each power tool, along with vivid and memorable case studies.
The Politics of Supreme Court Nominations
This course uses Supreme Court nomination politics to examine: how the Supreme Court works , how its composition has changed over time, and with what consequences; the decision of justices to leave the Court; the logic of Presidential selection of political appointees; the growth of interest groups and their use of political tactics in nomination politics; how congressional hearings work; when and how presidents go public, and with what effect on the media and public opinion; how the media covers political events like nominations, what drives the volume and tone of its coverage, and the effect of media bias on coverage; the drivers and dynamics of public opinion; the determinants of roll call voting in the Senate; and the implications of the Founder’s design for the “equilibrium” Court, that is, the long-run dynamics of the Supreme Court’s ideological composition.