American Politics Minor

Overview for American Politics Minor

Study the basic principles and institutions of the American political order and their implications for current political practice. The strengths and limitations of American constitutionalism are emphasized throughout and contemporary political and policy questions facing the country are examined.

Notes about this minor:

  • This minor is closed to students majoring in political science.
  • Posting of the minor on the student's academic transcript requires a minimum GPA of 2.0 in the minor.
  • Notations may appear in the curriculum chart below outlining pre-requisites, co-requisites, and other curriculum requirements (see footnotes).

The plan code for American Politics Minor is AMPOLI-MN.

Curriculum for 2023-2024 for American Politics Minor

Current Students: See Curriculum Requirements

Required Courses
American Politics
This course examines the basic principles, themes and institutions of American politics. The course will approach the study of American politics from four interrelated topics: 1) American political values and constitutional foundations; 2) mass politics and political socialization; 3) political institutions; and 4) public policy. Current events will be discussed throughout the course in an effort to promote responsible citizenship. In addition to providing a basic overview of American politics, this course seeks to develop critical thinking, group dynamic and communication skills that are transferrable outside the classroom. Lecture 3 (Fall, Spring).
Choose four of the following:*
   Ethical Debates Amer Politics
This course examines past and contemporary political and ethical debates that have shaped, clarified and transformed the meaning of the foundations of the American democratic-republic. At every turn, political and ethical debates in American politics have focused on the meaning of the principles of equality and consent and the moral implications of individual rights. The course will address topics such as the moral foundations of the Founding, the moral character of the Union, the injustice of slavery in a regime dedicated to the principle of equality, justice and the Civil Rights movement, and the progressive critique of the Founding, the rise of the entitlement state and its critiques, as well as current political and ethical controversies. Special attention will be paid to the political speeches of those directly involved in the debates. Lecture 3 (Fall, Spring, Summer).
   Law & Society
This course focuses on the relationships between law and other social institutions, and examines the values and interests that are expressed in law and shaped by legal structures and processes. This course takes an explicit interdisciplinary approach to understanding law and is designed for those interested in a critical inquiry of the nature of law within a framework of a broad liberal arts education. Class 3, Credit 3 (F) Lecture 3 (Spring).
   State & Local Politics
This course is a study of politics and government on the state and local levels, as well as the relationships between these levels and the federal government. The first focus of the course is on the federal system of government, including the interdependence of the three levels of government. The course continues by examining the state level followed by a focus on local government. A final topic is policy-making, including revenues and expenditures, which again illustrate the interrelationship of the three levels. Lecture 3 (Fall).
   Artificial Intelligence and the Political Good
This course examines the political promises and challenges of artificial intelligence (AI) through the consideration of the technological trajectories and possible scenarios of advanced AI. Possible discussion topics may include: The compatibility of AI with the political principles of liberty, equality, and the pursuit of happiness to understanding what an AI arms race between countries might entail. Domestically, will the prospect of greater job automation produce mass unemployment with severe consequences? Globally, will the weaponization of AI make going to war easier? Questions like these are inherently political and the movement toward greater AI capabilities raises the more general question of whether humanity will be able to regulate, both domestically and globally, a technology that promises to surpass all technology that has gone before it. This course will seek to anticipate and prepare for the risks that advanced AI poses to domestic and global politics. The goal will be to think about how advanced AI can be prudentially oriented toward beneficial practices for the sake of the political good. Lecture 3 (Spring).
   Politics and the Life Sciences
This course examines the intersection between politics and the life sciences. The course will examine the biological approach to human behavior, paying special attention to the implications of biological explanations of behavior for political systems. Topics to be covered may include the biological approach to morality, law, and international conflict, as well as the political and policy implications of new research in the biological sciences including biotechnology. Lecture 3 (Fall).
Innovations in digital communication technologies have the potential to affect many aspects of politics and government. Beyond specific elements such as elections and delivery of government services, these developments have the potential to expand and redefine the nature of political participation and civic engagement, and to alter the structure of political power. This course examines the potential and promise of digital democracy, and attempts to separate hype from reality. Lecture 3 (Spring).
   Rhetoric & Political Deliberation
Often political deliberation requires reasoning about indeterminate subjects of public import, which do not permit us to arrive at incontestable conclusions. Even where there is compelling evidence the conclusions of political deliberation usually require rhetorical assistance. Rhetoric reflects an appreciation that the simple truth and scientific facts do not suffice in all circumstances, that citizens sometimes have to be persuaded and led through persuasive speeches to reach reasonable decisions in public life. This course examines the role of rhetoric in political deliberation through a consideration of some of the most politically important speeches in American and international politics. The course will also consider the political use of rhetorical devices as well as the differences between deliberative, epideictic and forensic rhetoric. As a writing intensive course, students will practice the writing conventions associated with the discipline and their skills in editing, revising, and reviewing their writing and the writing of their peers. Lecture 3 (Fall or Spring).
   Political Parties and Voting
Political parties are a crucial part of the democratic process, as are elections. Parties and elections serve as a critical link between citizens and their government, as parties and candidates promote policies favored by voters. This course studies parties, their history, their future and their role in the democratic process. Overall emphasis is on the degree to which parties perform or fail to perform as a link between citizens and government. Lecture 3 (Fall).
   The Congress
This course examines the role of the Congress in American government. Topics studied include elections, party organization, committees, interest-group activities and executive-legislative relations. Lecture 3 (Spring).
   The Presidency
A study of the role of the presidency in the American political system. Among the topics considered are the nomination and election processes, the evolution, expansion and limitation of presidential power, factors in decision-making and the various leadership functions performed by the president. Lecture 3 (Fall or Spring).
   American Foreign Policy
A study of the formulation and execution of American foreign policy, including the examination of the instruments, procedures, and philosophies shaping the development of foreign policy. Lecture 3 (Fall or Spring).
   Medicine, Morality, and Law
This course provides health sciences and other students with a background in the changing face of medical ethics over the last two hundred years. The course combines medical history, historical and contemporary biomedical ethics, philosophy of science, and political theory to create a framework for understanding the complexity and depth of the practitioner/patient relationship. At the end of the course, students will explore and interrogate the way in which the practical, ethical, legal, and political framework of modern American medicine supports or challenges foundational medical principles like patient autonomy and the Hippocratic Oath. Resources include works by William Osler on humanistic medicine as well as other foundational medical thinkers, classic works in bioethics, and historical and narrative accounts of the consequences of medical abuse. Examples of possible texts include archival documents related to the eugenics movement in 20th century America, letters and testimony from survivors of the Tuskegee Syphilis Study, and contemporary texts and court cases that interrogate the connection between medical practice and human values and meaning. Lecture 3 (Fall, Spring).
   Politics and Public Policy
A study of the politics of the policy process covering these basic questions: How do public problems get to the agenda of government? How does government formulate policy alternatives? How does government legitimate public policy? How does government implement public policy? How does government evaluate public policy? Lecture 3 (Fall).
   Political Leadership
The fundamental proposition of this course is that political leadership makes a crucial difference in the life of a nation. The course will examine how leadership may serve as either a constructive or destructive force in the pursuit of some shared, national goal or purpose. The course will consider a diverse range of leaders and their respective styles and types of leadership. Each leader will be studied in terms of his or her historical context, the means and ends each employed in the pursuit of political goals, and the particular qualities both virtues and vices each embodied as a political leader. Lecture 3 (Fall).
   Anarchy, Technology & Utopia
This course examines the way in which new technologies challenge and provide alternatives to traditional political structures and functions. The course discusses the moral status of the state through the lens of anarchic political thought, with an emphasis on the concept of consent. Themes of anarchic thought are then discussed in light of how new technologies decentralize power and challenge traditional state goals, such as regulation or state secrecy. Technologies to be discussed include social media platforms and nongovernmental, digital currency, as well as decentralized energy sources like solar and wind. The ethical and moral implications of these new technologies, the harms and benefits they present, and their use as challenges to the moral status of the state are all central themes. Lecture 3 (Biannual).
   Evolution and the Law
This course examines the evolutionary approach to law. The course will consider the relevance of evolutionary theory to the analysis of law, the roots of rule of law, the relationship between natural law and common law, as well as the strengths and limitations of the evolutionary approach to specific themes within law, such as property law and family law. Lecture 3 (Spring).
   Primate Politics
This course examines the biological approach to the study of political order. Students will learn about the basic political structures of the great apes, how they differ, and how an understanding of these primate social structures can help us understand human political behavior. Specific topics might include the biological explanations of patriarchy and matriarchy, the biology of dominance structures, and the biology of leadership choice. Lecture 3 (Spring).
   Constitutional Law
A study of the Constitution of 1787 and the manner in which it was written. The focus of the course is on the way the people have, through the Constitution, delegated powers and responsibilities of government to the Congress, the President, the Courts and the States. Selected Supreme Court opinions will be considered to shed light on how the Constitution has been read and how thoughtful citizens might read it. Lecture 3 (Fall).
   Constitutional Rights and Liberties
This course provides an introduction to the Supreme Court's legal and political reasoning on the civil rights and liberties contained in the Bill of Rights. Particular emphasis will be placed on the First Amendment as the cornerstone of a free society guaranteeing religious liberty and the right to free speech. The course will also examine how the Court has balanced constitutional rights and liberties in the First, Fourth, Fifth and Sixth Amendments against the need for enhanced national security. Lecture 3 (Spring).
   American Political Thought
Provides a general overview of the political ideas, concepts, issues and principles which taken together compose the stream of American political thought. Examines major controversies, which have marked the developing body of the literature by examining the contributions of major political thinkers. Lecture 3 (Spring).
   Classical Constitutionalism, Virtue & Law
This course will examine the classical quest for personal and political order. It will concentrate on the foundations of classical political science and its search for the best regime. The course will also examine the classical understanding of constitutionalism, or the regime as the form for encouraging virtue through the rule of law, in contrast to the modern view that attempts to combine liberty and property. Along the way, the enduring questions of cosmology, human nature, justice and the good will be examined. Lecture 3 (Fall).
   Modern Constitutionalism, Liberty & Equality
This course examines the founding principles of modern constitutionalism and the modern state. Special attention will be paid to the theory and practice of the principles of equality, liberty, and consent. A major effort throughout the course will be made to consider the assessments and prescriptions for modern constitutionalism offered by American and continental political thinkers. Lecture 3 (Spring).
   Women in Politics
A study of feminist thought as it applies to the political, economic and social status of women and how it has been expressed through the women's political movement. Students study a number of public policies as they apply to and affect women and examine the opportunities for women to participate in the political process. Lecture 3 (Spring).
   Politics Through Fiction
This course explores contemporary issues facing the American and global political order through the lens of fiction. Particular attention will be paid to the grounds of sound political deliberation, the limitations of prudence and the theory and practice of American political principles both home and abroad. Lecture 3 (Spring).
   Politics Through Film
This course explores the enduring issues facing the American and global political order through the lens of film. Particular attention will be paid to the principles of sound political deliberation, the limitations of political leadership and the theory and practice of American political principles both at home and abroad. Lecture 3 (Spring).
   Special Topics in Political Science
Special topics will examine a political theme, issue or problem at an advanced undergraduate level. The subject matter examined will vary from year to year according to the availability of faculty and the interests of students. The course is designed especially for those whose interest in politics goes beyond the requirements of the liberal arts curriculum. (Class 3, Credit 3 (varies) Lecture 3 (Fall or Spring).

* At least two courses must be taken at the 300-level or higher.