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During the semester, I shall post course material and students will comment on it. Students are also free to comment on any aspect of American politics, either current or historical. There are only two major limitations: no coarse language, and no derogatory comments about people at the Claremont Colleges. This blog is on the open Internet, so post nothing that you would not want a potential employer to see.

The course syllabus is at:

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Hi Gov20 Friends (and Professor Pitney)!

I hope everyone's studying has been going well so far. As I realized that this may be the last time some of us will be in a gov class for a while, I wanted to leave you with an easy way to keep up with politics. Podcasts are a great way to get a week's worth of news in an hour, especially if you find yourself struggling to find the time to check the news and read articles every day. Here are my top five:

1) Keepin' it 1600 (The Ringer): twice-weekly recap of politics and major world events, hosted by the "Obama Bros" Jon Favreau, Tommy Vietor, Dan Pfeifer, and Jon Lovett. They often have a quick interview at the end with a political writer or democratic candidate.
2) The Weeds (Vox): weekly political recap hosted by Ezra Klein, Matt Ygelsias, and Sarah Kliff. The second half of each podcast discusses an interesting research topic, generally the subject of an NBER white paper.
3) POLITICO'S 2016 Nerdcast: just starting to get into this one, but if you feel like you need a more reputable source of information for your political knowledge, you can feel extra safe with this one.
4) Slate's Political Gabfest: similar to Keepin' it 1600, but I've found that you get a less one-sided view on topics because of the hosts, John Dickerson, David Plotz, and Emily Bazelon. These three have stronger academic backgrounds, broader career experience, and simply more years under their belt than the Obama bros. Additionally, they all have careers in the media rather than politics directly, so the show has a different feel with stronger discourse.
5) FiveThirtyEight's Politics: Without a horserace to report on any longer, this show is beginning to take a new shape. Generally drops once a week, and they try to stay true to data-based reporting for your fill of approval ratings, vote counts, and general math-y interests.

A few non-news Podcasts to check out:

1) More Perfect (Radiolab) Slate's Amicus with Dahlia Lithwick: If you have any interest in law or the Supreme Court (or you like human interest pieces) LISTEN TO THIS PODCAST. I'm telling you ahead of time to prepare yourself that this a mini series with only eight episodes, but you will still be sad when you get to the end. Each episode focuses on a different court case or specific topic acutely linked to the SCOTUS. @SophiaHelland, I know you've taken an interest in tribal courts and laws related to Native Americans, so there is an episode in here for you!
2) The Ezra Klein Show (Vox): Interviews with cool people doing cool things. Tend to run long (hour to hour and a half). Drops weekly. There are spells (especially election season) where guests are always political, but the guest list has a huge range and even with political guests the conversations go in a million directions. If you don't know what you're doing with your life, I guarantee you will hear an interview with someone that will make you want to do exactly what that person is doing.
3) The Axe Files with David Axelrod. Also interviews. Mostly political (and long). Axelrod is a former Obama campaign manager and advisor who currently runs Chicago's Institute of Politics (sometimes I wish we had this, but then I realize that all of CMC functions as an institute of politics).
4) Revisionist History w/ Malcolm Gladwell. Gladwell is the kind of person who sinks his teeth into a conclusion and makes the story fit, which can make for interesting post-podcast debate (see the episode trashing Bowdoin for having fancy food & sub-par financial aid while praising Vassar for terrible dorms and lots of socioeconomic diversity). Now that he has academic clout (and tons of $$) he also gets to pick REALLY random topics to pursue, so pick and chose your episodes carefully.
5) HKS PolicyCast and The Brookings Cafeteria: both very nerdy, both SHORT (30 min or less)! Brief and informal conversations where brilliant people tell you how they fell about the world's most pressing problems.

Lastly, CMC has its own awesome podcast, Free Food for Thought, where CMC students interview Ath speakers. One downside of the Athenaeum Q&A portion is that the questions tend to be career-specific about certain policies or current events.  The podcast solves this problem by asking Ath Speakers more personal questions about their lives and how they came to find the jobs they love. FFFT has an interesting approach of asking a few staple questions to each interviewee, so while there is less of a conversational feel to the podcast, the episodes have a unifying theme. If you're interested in getting involved, reach out to Shivani Pandya (before she goes to the D.C. prog.), Kate Ridenour, Wes Edwards, Zach Wong, or Skip W-G.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

The Stuff of Life

Murray, pp. 227, 229: "In the 2000s, gentrification came to Fishtown...In a few years, there will no longer be a `real Fishtown.'"

Tyler Finn's 2013 post.

A 2015 short video confirms the point:


The real Belmont:

Happiness and "the stuff of life" (ch. 13), which brings us back to...

Danielle Allen!

Saving Private Ryan and the actual Lincoln letter

Monday, December 5, 2016

The Impact of Fake News

In relation to the distrust of the media, and the "fake news" that we discussed in class today, I recently watched this clip of a CNN reporter questioning Trump supporters. This video is particularly disturbing, because even though the reporter traces the threads of the Facebook news posts and proves that they have been debunked, the supporters still believe the news, and give Trump the benefit of the doubt, when there is a significant amount of doubt. The video clip that I am referencing is the second one in the article: Longtime Trump supporters on recent decision 08:38

Practice Final 2016

The following will give you an idea of the format of the final exam. As you prepare, also take a look at the air midterm.

I. Briefly identify 12 of 14 items (4 points each). Explain each item's meaning and significance.
  • Democratic memos
  • The "fundamentals" in election outcomes
  • Selective incorporation
  • The "message box"
  • Article II
  • Homogamy
  • The jury “as a political institution”
  • Majority faction
  • The 10th Amendment
  • Isolates
  • The Creationism Act
  • Transactional politics
  • The Seneca Falls Declaration
  • Timothy Matlack
II. Short essays. Answer three of four. Each answer should take about half a page. (6 points each).
  • Explain the origin and meaning of the following passage: " In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself. A dependence on the people is, no doubt, the primary control on the government; but experience has taught mankind the necessity of auxiliary precautions." 
  • Explain the differences among PIE, PO, PIG and POG.
  • Explain the origin and meaning of this passage: "Whenever possible, go outside the experience of the enemy."
  • According to Benjamin Wittes, what is "the soft spot, the least tyrant-proof part of the government" that gives rise to concern about executive power?
III. Answer two of three essay questions (17 points each). Each answer should take about 2-3 large bluebook pages or 3-4 small bluebook pages.
Bonus Questions (one point each). Very briefly identify the following:
  • Hilda Solis
  • George Soros
  • Aaron Spelling
  • R. Douglas Stanclift
  • Robert Stroud

Coming Apart IV

Honesty and Trust
  • The 2014 Religious Landscape Study finds that unmarried people are far more likely than those who are married to be unaffiliated. It also shows, however, that both groups – those who are married and those who are not – have grown less religiously affiliated in recent years, though married people have done so more slowly. Among married adults, 18% now describe themselves as religious “nones,” up four points since 2007. More than a quarter of unmarried adults (28%) have no religious affiliation, up nine points in recent years. Within the broader category of unmarried U.S. adults, the growth of the religiously unaffiliated is especially evident among those who are living with a partner (26% were unaffiliated in 2007, compared with 35% today) and those who say they have never been married (24% vs. 34%). Both of these groups consist mostly of young people. Those who are divorced or separated and those who are widowed, two groups that consist mainly of older adults, have seen more modest increases in their shares of religious “nones.”

Saturday, December 3, 2016

The Decline of Rust Belt Manufacturing

This is an interesting Minneapolis Fed article I found  about the Rust Belt economy, and the fall of US manufacturing. With so much anti-globalism going around, this article clarifies a lot about the Rust Belt perspective. It also does a lot to explain the deterioration of the Rust Belt manufacturing economy. It did a lot to reduce my anxiety that people elected Trump because of hate, when this bleak picture is the reality that they were living. I am not saying that Trump's rhetoric is admissible, nor am I saying that I understand the supporters of his who supported him because of his racism, but this helps answer the giant "Why/How" that many of us have had on our minds since November 8th.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Trump and the "Bubble"

This article from the LA Times ties in Charles Murray's "Coming Apart" with the election, which we have touched upon in class. It is interesting, because throughout Trump's entire campaign, experts were saying that he never had a chance. I remember talking about Trump in my AP Gov class in high school, before the primaries, and laughing at him. Yet, somehow he won the election. This article suggests that it is because of the "bubble" that Murray discusses that as a society, we did not view Trump's campaign as viable, even though it clearly was.