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 SSC 258 - U.S. Government and Politics


US Government & Politics examines the functioning of the political system of the United States and introduces you to the institutional approach to studying politics. The main goal of our analysis will be to understand the (dys)functioning of the US political system through an examination of the way the institutional design affects politics and policy-making. Institutions comprise all the formal and informal rules of the game that determine the collective choices that are made in political systems: how are powers distributed, which electoral system is used, which rules exist for adopting legislation, which rights and liberties are conferred upon citizens? In the course of doing so students will acquire a thorough understanding of the functioning of the US political system as well as acquire an analytical toolkit that will enable them to analyze the functioning of other political systems as well.

In analyzing the US political system we will pay ample attention to the different electoral contests that take place on November 6, both at national level (presidential, US House and Senate) and at state level. The 2012 elections are taking place against the backdrop of a severe economic crisis and in the slipstream of the ascendancy of the Tea Party movement (as well as the Occupy movements). We seek to unveil the political dynamics that have influenced policy-making and candidate selection, with a particular attention to the influence of the Tea Party at both state and national level. How has the US political system responded to this movement and what does it tell us about the functioning of its institutions? Does the emergence of the Tea Party prove that the US political system is broke and needs to be fixed, or does it show its adaptability to new challenges?

Class sessions will make use of a variety of methods to cover the material, including in-class exercises, videos, presentations and discussions. Class meetings are supplemented by three guest lectures as well as an election night which we will jointly organize together with the Roosevelt Study Center as well as various UCR student committees and societies. 


Dr. Herman Lelieveldt and Dr. Dario Fazzi


Political Science and International Relations


The following course is required in order to take this course:

  • A&H 185 Introduction to Social History and American Studies

Required for

This course is an alternative requirement for the following course:

  • SSC 354 Security in the Post-Cold War Era
  • SSC 356 Public Policy Analysis