Running for President in 2020 (APA2319.01)

David Bond & Judith Enck

The past four years has overturned long standing wisdom about American democracy. COVID-19 has further upended the status quo and eroded threadbare political norms without clarity about what exactly will come next. Whether as students or citizens or international visitors, the political present in the US seems to exceed the given forms of scholarly analysis, principled participation, and governing institutions.

A simple question – what is going on? – seems a good place to begin.

This course uses the 2020 campaigns for the US Presidency, as a springboard to become more informed and more involved in the elected direction of American democracy. Tracking between journalistic coverage and policy platforms, between glossy books by candidates and scholarly points of historical comparisons, between the aspirational rhetoric of campaigns and the worsening condition of most residents in the nation, between the realities of a global pandemic and the stark social needs it brings into focus, this course will dive deeply into the political currents of this moment. We will closely read coverage of campaigns and discuss the latest campaign developments alongside the wider precarity of this moment.

We will also reflect on the problems that seem to be redefining the coordinates of politics today, including: COVID-19, disregarded lives and landscapes, impossible debts, climate change and other ecological instabilities, dismantled institutions, fake news, geopolitical swagger, and how the nation became so polarized and whether these gaps can be closed.

We will engage the following themes: how do Presidential campaigns really work; who funds the respective campaigns and what influence does such funding purchase; who actually runs Presidential campaigns and how does a campaign gather enthusiasm with social distancing; how are democratic elections weathering the turbulence of a global pandemic; how the media is covering the race with a deep dive into social media; to what extent do the accepted rubrics of critical social analysis – class, race, gender – explain the composition of political parties in America today; how do the shifting dimensions of economic inequality find political expression in different parts of the United States; how is environmental distress experienced in America today and how does it orient political leanings; how are the progressive and centrist parts of the Democratic Party responding to the challenges of this moment; how does the rise of Trump compare with recent resurgence authoritarian rule worldwide; and what role do third parties have in the general election. The overall aim of the course is clear: on what grounds might a more informed understanding and critical engagement with politics today proceed? What can students do, besides vote on election day?

This course includes the option to continue our conversation up through election day.

Learning Outcomes:

Delivery Method: Hybrid in-person and remote, with faculty in-person
Course Level: 2000-level
Credits: 2
W 8:30AM-12:10PM (1st seven weeks)
Maximum Enrollment: 50
Course Frequency: One time only

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