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PSCI 263 Democracy and Authoritarianism in the United States

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  • Spring 2022
    Jack Paine
    Spring 2022 ("W" Optional) — MW 12:30 - 13:45
    Course Syllabus

    By conventional definitions, the United States was the world's first modern democracy because of its early adoption of competitive elections, strong legislative constraints on the executive, and relatively large franchise. Yet in other ways the United States has been notably undemocratic, in particular when compared to contemporary democracies: persistent countermajoritarian institutions, partisan manipulation of vague rules, and disputes over the basic right to vote. This course examines democratic and authoritarian elements of U.S. political institutions both over time and across institutions. The first part examines the foundations of U.S. democracy, including legislative constraints, mutual forbearance and agreeing to lose, and franchise expansion. Second, we discuss elements of racial bias: territorial expansion and adding states, electoral authoritarianism in the Solid South, polarization, and contemporary voting rights. Third, we examine biased institutions: constitutional hardball, gerrymandering and malapportionment, and the Electoral College. We conclude by discussing unique aspects of the Trump presidency.