Political Science 2330: Introduction to the American Presidency

       Political Science 3300: The American Presidency

       Fall 2016

          Monday - Wednesday, 11:00-12:15
             SSB 208
Printable version of the syllabus here

   Instructor:          Dave Robertson, 347A SSB                 
   Office Hours:     Mon & Wed, 10:00-10:50;
sday 9:00-12:00;
   & other times can easily be arranged

    Phone 516-5836; e-mail daverobertson@umsl.edu ; Twitter @daverobertsonMO

What Is The Course About?Our Contract / How To Get A Good GradeExamsBooksParticipationThe Transition MemoThe Journal / Detailed Course Schedule / Eight Tips for Studying Smarter and Learning Better!


 1.  What is the Course About?  How do Americans chose a new president? How do you know a good president when you see one? Does the president have too much power, or too little?  Why would anyone in their right mind want this job?  The American Presidency class explores these questions while we live through one of the most historic dramas of the century: the selection of the 45th President of the United States. We’ll begin by examining the election process in depth, looking at the nomination and election processes, the forces that are ripping at political parties, and the role of money and social media in the election. We’ll look at the job of the presidency, and at what kinds of people become president.  We’ll understand what the framers had in mind when they designed the presidency. We’ll come to grips with the tools of presidential power, and the people who help the president exercise those powers. We’ll look at way presidents influence and respond to public opinion, the media, interest groups and political parties.  Finally, we’ll study presidential effects on economic, domestic, and foreign policy.


  2. Our Contract.  By enrolling in this course, you and I have agreed to a contract with each other.  l'll work hard to be prepared, enthusiastic, fair and respectful of every student and their opinions.  I'll be accessible and try my best to return graded materials after no more than a week.  By enrolling in the class, you've agreed to (1) attend every class, (2) to participate by asking questions and joining in class discussions, and (3) reading the assigned material and completing written assignments on time.  Of all the consumer purchases you make, don't let your University of Missouri education be the one purchase where you expect less for your money.

3. How to Get a Good Grade. The grade for the course will be determined in the following way:

        Participation constitutes 10% of the final grade.
        The Journal constitutes 20% of the final grade
        Exam 1 constitutes 15% of the final grade
        Exam 2 constitutes 15% of the final grade
        Exam 3 constitutes 20% of the final grade
        The transition memo constitutes 20% of the final grade

NOTE: You are not are NOT competing with other students for a grade. There is no curve in this course. Each student can get an A, or can get a D. It's up to you.

The class schedule below lists all the reading, quiz, exam, and assignment dates.  Each date has a title.  Click on the title to get an outline of the day's class. Each outline will be available the evening prior to the class.

4. Exams. There will be three exams (September 28, October 31, and December 12). Each of the exams will consist of three parts: 20 true / false questions worth 2 points each, 3 identification questions worth 10 points each, and an essay worth 30 points.  The final exam will include a second essay question that asks you to integrate the course material.  Note that the final exam is scheduled to begin at 10 am on December 12.

5. Books and Readings. The following books, which are required reading in this course, are available at the UM-St. Louis bookstore.

6. Participation. You must participate in this course actively in order for it to work well. You must prepare for and attend class, and you must contribute thoughtfully to discussion. To ensure fairness in allocating this portion of the grade, sign-up sheets will be circulated during many of the classes. 

Your reading assignments are listed on the detailed class schedule. You are expected to read the material before coming to class, and you are expected to be prepared to discuss the reading material in class. You may be asked to discuss a question regarding the reading during the class for which the reading is assigned. 

I strongly encourage you to ask questions, including questions about current events and politics.

7.  Presidential Transition Memo. You will write a 6-8 page transition memo for helping the new president get off to a good start. Your memo will provide  advice to the new president about these topics: (1) the key leadership qualities they will have to use or develop to serve as president instead of a presidential candidate; (2) the political time (Skowronek) in which they will take office, and the opportunies and problems of that political time, (3) the 5 key appointments they will have to make, why they are important, and the criteria (and, if you like, suggested candidates) they will have to use to make the appointments; (4) the best approach to the new House and Senate elected in 2016, and why it is the best approach; (5) the top three policy propoals to include the the first State of the Union speech, and why these are important (including politically important). The memo should be packed with specific information.   The memo is due no later than Wednesday December 5, at 5 pm.   

You will be graded on (1) demonstrated knowledge and use of class and readings, (2) specific information, instead of vague generalities, (3) thoughtfulness and creativity, (4) effective execution (good writing). You can use these headings to organize your memo: 1. Leadership qualities; 2. Political Time; 3. Key appointments; 4. Dealing with the House and  Senate;  5. Three policy proposals for the State of the Union 


8. Weekly Journal. You will keep a Presidential  journal during the semester. You'll read 1 ubstantial magazine or newspaper story about the presidential election, the American presidency . or the current president each week (you may also read an editorial, and extended blog entry, watch a presidential debate or a TV show on a presidential topic or attend a special museum exhibit).  Every week, you'll post at least one journal  entry on the My Gateway journal function. This is a  private journal, and I will not share your entry with anyone else unless you give me written permission to do so. Each entry should spend no more than one paragraph (at least three sentences) summarizing the main points of one story, and at least on paragraph (at least four sentences) reacting to it by exploring its significance for understanding the presidency (not just an individual person who is the president).  Be sure to draw on course readings and discussions where appropriate. 

The object of this journal is to develop three of your critical thinking skills: 1), your ability to summarize succinctly exactly what someone else is saying; 2) your ability to connect material from outside the course to the key themes of the course; and 3) to provide a cogent, reasoned response to the things you read. Each entry should be about two paragraphs: one paragraph to summarize the article, editorial, or opinion piece, and one paragraph to react to it.  Again, you will post at  least one entry a week,  You will hand in the journal about every other week until the late April. the journal is due to be posted no later than Friday at 5pm.  I will comment on each entry. You need to clearly cite your source, but you do not  need to attach the source (you can link it if you like).   

The First Journal entry is due by 5 pm on August 26; one journal entry is due every Friday by 5 pm except for Thanksgiving break; the last journal entry is due on December 9 at 5pm.  Certainly you can post these journal entries earlier in the week if you like.

LATE JOURNALS lose 1 point a day for up to 2 weeks, and will receive reduced points after that.

The journal assignment will require you to pay closer attention to presidential developments this semester. You can do this by reading the St. Louis Post-Dispatch national news section more closely, and by scanning the New York Times, the Washington Post, Wall Street Journal It is my understanding that the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the New York Times, and USA Today are available for students for free on campus through the newspapers in Education program (the Wall Street Journal is available for purchase or in the TJ Library).

I look in at these sites several times a day: fivethirtyeight, the New York Times Upshot's Who Will Be President? and the Washington Post's Politics page. I watch the polls daily at Real Clear Politics Election 2016 and HuffPost Pollster. For your journals, Politico magazine and Real Clear Politics provides op-eds on political topics from many perspectives; also watch the New  York Times and Washington Post opinion pages.  The Lexis/Nexis service, available through the UMSL library website, includes articles from many newspapers.  

Here are some websites that may also provide some useful material for you to use:
The White HouseAmericanPresident.orgTaegan Goddard’s Political Wire

Russell D. Renka's U.S. Presidency Links and Modern Presidents from FDR to the Present

Can't get enough of the presidency? Try Presidential Baseball

9. Plagiarism.  Plagiarism means taking the written ideas of someone else and presenting them in your writing as if they were your ideas, without giving the author credit.  Plagiarism (a word which comes from the Latin word for kidnapping) is deceitful and dishonest.  Violations that have occurred frequently in the past include not using quotation marks for direct quotes and not giving citations when using someone else's ideas; using long strings of quotations, even when properly attributed, does not constitute a paper of your own.

 Plagiarism in written work for this class is unacceptable. The University's Student Conduct Code classifies plagiarism as a form of academic dishonesty.  Depending on the severity of the plagiarism, punishment can include receiving no credit for the assignment, failing the course and referral for university disciplinary action.

10. Other Stuff. When I return your exam, please check to make sure that I have computed your grade correctly. Please be in your seat by the time class begins. Please do not hold private conversations during class. If you do not understand lecture, if you have further questions about lecture, please don't hesitate to interrupt and ask your question. If I speak too quickly with an unintelligible Chicago accent, please tell me to slow down.

If you have a disability, l am very happy to make appropriate accommodations .

October 12 is the last day to register to vote in Missouri for the November presidential election

October 11 is the last day to register to vote in Illinois for the November presidential election



August 22 (Monday)                        Introduction


August 24 (Wednesday)                Standpoints, Leadership & the Presidency  
    READ: Pika, Maltese & Rudalevige, The Politics of the Presidency, pp. 1-21


August 26 (Friday): First Journal entry is due; one journal entry is due every Friday  except for Thanksgiving break; last journal entry due Dec 9 


 August 29 (Monday)                       The Constitution and Presidential Selection 
    READ: Robertson, The Original Compromise, Chapter 10 (My Gateway)
                 Pika, Maltese & Rudalevige, The Politics of the Presidency, pp. 21-32


 August 31 (Wednesday)                Choosing the President Today
    READ: Pika, Maltese & Rudalevige, The Politics of the Presidency, pp. 38-45
Wayne, The Road to the White House 2016, pp. 2-22        


 Monday September 5 -- Labor Day - Class does not meet


September 7 (Wednesday)            Choosing the President: Money

    READ: Wayne, The Road to the White House 2016, pp. 29-50
Pika, Maltese & Rudalevige, The Politics of the Presidency, pp. 66-69  


September 12 (Monday)                Choosing the President: Context 
 READ: Wayne, The Road to the White House 2016, pp. 57-87  


September 14 (Wednesday)         Choosing the President: Nomination
  READ: Wayne, The Road to the White House 2016, pp. 97-136
               Pika, Maltese & Rudalevige, The Politics of the Presidency, pp. 49-51


 September 19 (Monday)              Choosing the President: Interregnum  
    READ:  Pika, Maltese & Rudalevige, The Politics of the Presidency, pp. 62-65
Wayne, The Road to the White House 2016, pp. 142-167

September 21 (Wednesday)        The General Election 1
    READ: Wayne, The Road to the White House 2016, pp. 174-202, 208-235


September 26  (Monday)             The General Election 2
    READ: Wayne, The Road to the White House 2016, pp. 244-273

    First Presidential Debate

September 28 (Wednesday)   EXAM 1       Study Guide 


October  3 (Monday)                     The Permanent Campaign
    READ: Robertson, The Original Compromise, Chapter 11 (My Gateway)
Pika and Maltese, The Politics of the Presidency, pp. 89-90, 99-129, 142-143

October 4 (Tuesday)    Vice-Presidential Debate

October  5  (Wednesday)             The Presidency in Political Time
      READ: Skocpol and Jacobs, "Accomplished and Embattled" (My Gateway)
                   "Obama Has Come to Embrace Exec Power"      


October 9 (Sunday)    Second Presidential Debate


October 10  (Monday)                   Presidents, Political Parties, and Interest Groups
    READ:   Tichenor, "The Presidency and Interest Groups" (My Gateway)
                    Milkis, "Obama and Mobilization Movements"
(My Gateway)


October 11 is the last day to register to vote in Illinois for the November 8 presidential election


October 12  (Wednesday)            Presidents and the Media
    READ: Pika and Maltese, The Politics of the Presidency, pp.129-142
The first president of the social media age" (My Gateway)

 October 12 is the last Day to Register to vote in Missouri for the November 8 presidential election

October 17 (Monday)                    Presidential Leadership, Personality & Character
    READ: Pika and Maltese, The Politics of the Presidency, pp. 153-176, 546-547
To Win the Civil War, Lincoln Had to Change His Leadership" (My Gateway)

October 19 (Wednesday)             Presidential Skill and Management Style
    READ: Pika and Maltese, The Politics of the Presidency, pp. 176-201
Obama After Dark" (My Gateway)                 

    Third Presidential Debate 


October 24 (Monday)                   Presidents and Congress
   READ: Pika and Maltese, The Politics of the Presidency, pp. 210-234


October 26  (Wednesday)                  Presidents and Congress
    READ: Pika and Maltese, The Politics of the Presidency, pp. 234-258               

October 31 (Monday)   EXAM 2       Study Guide


November  1 (Wednesday)        Executive Branch Politics
    READ: Pika and Maltese, The Politics of the Presidency, pp. 267-291


  November  7 (Monday)             Executive Branch Politics 
    READ: Pika and Maltese, The Politics of the Presidency, pp. 291-320
               "Obama's Obama"
(My Gateway)


November  9 (Wednesday)        Election wrap up / Presidents and Courts
  READ: "President Hillary Clinton" OR "President Donald Trump" (My Gateway)       

November  14  (Monday)            Presidents and the Courts / Watergate
     READ:  Pika and Maltese, The Politics of the Presidency, pp. 331-362

November 16 (Wednesday)        Domestic Policy
   READ:  Pika and Maltese, The Politics of the Presidency, pp. 369-403


November 23 and 25   -  Thanksgiving Break  - Class does not meet


November 28 (Monday)               Economic Policy
    READ:  Pika and Maltese, The Politics of the Presidency, pp. 409-460


 November 30 (Wednesday)       National Security
    READ: Pika and Maltese, The Politics of the Presidency, pp. 467-514           
December 5 (Monday)                 Reforms (?) 
    READ:   Wayne, The Road to the White House 2012, pp. 279-306


December 7 (Wednesday)          Conclusion
    READ:   Pika and Maltese, The Politics of the Presidency, pp. 525-539
                   "Rushing Toward a Legacy" (My Gateway)


DECEMBER 12 (Monday)      FINAL EXAM, 10:00-12:00           Study Guide