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Welcome to United States Government and Politics! 

This semester we will be studying various topics related to the government of the United States, and its people.  We will be discussing various topics ranging from the Revolutionary period and the founding of the United States, to the relationships and interactions between the three branches of the federal government, to significant cases decided by the United States Supreme Court.    



Along with following the textbook chapters listed below, this class will be dealing with current events (which, as we will see, includes a wide range of issues).  I urge you to keep up (as I do) with current issues of the day both in the United States and around the world.  Below are some useful websites from various ideological perspectives on issues related to economics and politics:


The New York Times 

The Washington Post

The Los Angeles Times

The Wall Street Journal (There is a pay wall protecting this website)


The New York Review of Books blog (academic blog through a libertarian perspective)

New York Magazine's Jonathan Chait archive

The New Yorker (blogs)

Hot Air (one of the leading conservative blogs for breaking news and commentary covering the republican primary, the 2012 election, politics, media and culture)
Red State (leading conservative blog)

The Drudge Report

National Review Online

The Guardian

The Agenda (domestic policy blog maintained by Reihan Salam, an exceptionally gifted conservative thinker, also a Stuy alum!!!)

IntelNews (Intelligence Blog)


The websites of the US Senate, the US House of Representatives, and the White House.

The website of the US Supreme Court.

Fox News

The Central Intelligence Agency

The National Security Archive (George Washington University)

SCOTUS Blog (Supreme Court of the United States Academic Blog)


Homework headings should resemble the following structure:


First name, last name                                                                           Date

Homework#                                                                                         Period

Please see the "course agreement" here.  Please see here for the course syllabus (subject to change).

Final HW of the term!  Check out this article on the Trump presidency by Jack Goldsmith, currently at Harvard Law School and a former assistant Attorney General.  

HW#58, due Thurs. 1/18. In Remy, read chapter 14, section 5 on Challenges for Civil Liberties.  Next, read this essay on the 2017 Time Magazine Person of the Year, the "Silence Breakers."  Questions for discussion only:

1.  Explain the SCOTUS cases and federal policies that have led to mass incarceration in the United States according to the reading.  What is your reaction to the reading/arguments presented/title of the book?


2.  What other important challenges to civil liberties do you see in America today based on both readings?

HW#57, due Wed. 1/17. In Remy, read chapter 14, section 3 on Equal Protection of the Law (it is section 3 in the new version or section 4 in this version).  Next, listen to this amazing podcast on the Supreme Court case of Palmer v. Thomson.

HW#56, due Tues. 1/16. In Remy, read chapter 14, section 2 on The Basis of Citizenship. Next, read this article on the "Diversity Visa Program."

Questions for discussion only: Are our current immigration laws too harsh?  Or should we have a less permissive policy?  Why?


MC Study Guide for Exam#5 AKA the last exam of the semester

Chief Justice of the SCOTUS
Writ of certiorari
Amicus Brief
Role of interest groups in SCOTUS cases (particularly the American Bar Association and the NAACP)
Original versus appellate jurisdiction
stare decisis
McCullogh v. Maryland
Marbury v. Madison
FDR ant the "court packing" scheme
The solicitor general
Concurrent opinion
Majority opinion
Dissenting opinion
Structure of federal court system
Senatorial courtesy
Confirmation of Justices
Checks on the power of the SCOTUS

Short Answer Topics:

The Federalist Society
Judicial Review

Essay Topics:

Freedom of speech - all court cases mentioned in readings/class.  Also, kinds of speech including but not limited to threatening speech, libel, symbolic expression.  
Separation of church and state - all court cases mentioned in readings/class on issues such as school prayer.

HW#55, due Thurs. 1/11. In Remy, read chapter 13, section 5.  Questions for discussion only.


1.  Describe the limits on the freedom of assembly.  Do you agree with these limits?


2.  Do you agree with the outcome of the Nazi March case in Skokie?  Why or why not?

HW#54, due Wed. 1/10. In Remy, read chapter 13, section 4.  Next, read this background piece and this debate on the subject of former NSA contractor Edward Snowden and his leaks of highly classified information to Glenn Greenwald at The GuardianQuestions for discussion only.


1.  How can freedom of the press and the right to a fair trial sometimes conflict?  What powers have judges been granted to alleviate these tensions?


2.  Compare and contrast the Snowden case to New York Times Co. v. United States (1971, also know as the "Pentagon Papers" case).  Focus specifically on the quote on pg. 372 about the case by Justice Black.  Should Snowden receive clemency for what he did, or should he be faced with the threat of a trial if he returns to the US?

HW#53, due Tues. 1/9. In  Remy, read chapter 13, section 3 on Freedom of Speech.  Next, read this famous interview with the late Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black.  Question for discussion only.


1.  Justice Black has an interesting view of the First Amendment and the freedom of speech here.  Do you agree with his argument?  Why?

HW#52, due Mon. 1/8. In Remy, read chapter 13, sections 1 AND 2 on Constitutional Rights and the Freedom of Religion.  Next, read this article about the Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Division case.  You can also listen to a great podcast describing the case including interviews with the litigants here (its short but not mandatory) Finally read the first entry in this post by Andrew Sullivan on the case for the baker in the gay-wedding "culture war." (stop at "The Jerusalem Folly", unless you want to read further!). Questions for discussion only.

1.  Explain the process and importance of incorporation with regards to the Bill of Rights.  


2.  Should religion be totally banished from the public sphere?  Why? (For example, should the phrase "under God" be removed from the Pledge of Allegiance?  Should "in God we trust" be removed our currency?  Eliminate tax breaks for religious organizations?  Eliminate the position of chaplain for the armed services?

3.  Do you agree with Andrew Sullivan?  Why?

HW#51, due Fri. 1/5. In Remy, read chapter 12, section 3.  Next, read this article by acclaimed Supreme Court scholars Barry Friedman and Jeffrey Rosen.  Answer the following questions based on the textbook and the article:


1.  What is the overall thesis presented in the Rosen/Friedman article focusing on the influence and power of the Court?


2.  Based on the textbook, the article, and your knowledge of history, does the Supreme Court even matter anymore?  Why?

HW#50, due Wed. 1/3. In Remy, read chapter 12, section 1.  Next, read this piece by Adam Liptak at The New York Times about the 2017-2018 SCOTUS term.  Answer the following questions:


1.  How do cases reach the Supreme Court?


2.  Of all the cases mentioned in the Liptak piece, which two do you see as the MOST IMPORTANT?  Why?  

HW#49, due Tues. 1/2.  HAPPY NEW YEAR! In Remy, read chapter 11, section 3. Next, read this profile of the executive vice-president of the Federalist Society, Leonord Leo. 

1.  How do President's choose their nominees?  What factors play into their decisions?

2.  According to the piece by Jeffrey Toobin, how did President Trump come to the decision to nominate Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court?

HW#48, due Wed. 12/13. In Remy, read chapter 11, section 2. Next, read this piece by Charlie Savage on how President Trump is reshaping the federal judiciary.  

1. Should President's be forced to follow the principle of senatorial courtesy?  

2. How is President Trump reshaping the federal judiciary? Many critics of the President are concerned about this aspect of his administration's impact.  Why?  Do you agree?

HW#47, due Tues. 12/12. In Remy, read chapter 11, section 1.  Also, check out the website for the federal court system in the United States.  Browse around, see if you can find anything interesting that Remy does NOT cover.  Finally, the concept of judicial review is rarely criticized.  That's why this 1825 opinion by Pennsylvania judge John Gibson is so interesting.  Check it out as a contrast to Marshall's view of the Court.  


1.  Was Chief Justice John Marshall justified in establishing the concept of judicial review?  Why?

Optional but fun:  

Check out this amazing NYT profile of President Trump featuring Excalibur references, lots of Diet Coke, and...4-8 hours of TV per day???  

On the Alabama special election tomorrow, check out this viral focus group of voters in the state and this piece in WaPo on how just how divisive the race has become.  


HW#46, due Mon. 12/11. In Remy, read chapter 10, section 3.  Next, check out this piece by Will Wilkenson and this follow-up by Ross Douthat on the topic of "regulatory capture" in the era of 'liberal governance'.

MC Study Guide for Exam#4

role of the Whip in legislative process
How a bill becomes a law
Christmas tree bill
Sponsor of a bill
Open rule versus closed rule for debate
Simple resolutions
Different rules for debate in the House and Senate
Legislative oversight
Conference committee
Sunset provision in a bill
Markup sessions
The "Beast"
Power of the VP

Short Answer Topics:

National Popular Vote Plan

Essay Topics:

Presidential power
The Cabinet

Relevant articles for Short answer/essays

Klein, Ezra.  "The Unpersuaded."  The New Yorker, 3/19/2012.


Lewis, Michael.  "Obama's Way."  Vanity Fair, October Issue, 2012. 

Lewis, Michael. “Why the Scariest Nuclear Threat May Be Coming From Inside the White House.” Vanity Fair, September, 2017. 

Here is the information for the debates. Remember that everyone must submit their own unique paper.  You need to hand in a hard copy on the day of your debate and submit the essay via turnitin anytime before your debate.  Please also note the different login information for the two different sections of the class!

HW#45, due Thurs. 12/7. In Remy, read chapter 10, section 2. Next, check out this widely shared NYT piece on the dismantling of the Foreign Service. 

Question for class discussion only - Civil Service employees can have an enormous amount of power but they are un-elected. Should they be? Why?

HW#44, due Wed. 12/6. In Remy, read chapter 10, section 1 on Bureaucratic Organization. Next, read this essay by our friend Michael Lewis who takes a deep dive in to the Energy Department.   

1. Critics of the bureaucracy argue that is too large and bloated. Choose three cabinet departments and make an argument for their elimination.  

2. In what ways does the Lewis article shed light on the period between the presidential transition?

3. What is the most important part of this Energy Department profile to you?  The least important? Choose specific passages that reflect your choices and explain.

HW#43, due Tues. 12/5. In Remy, read chapter 9, section 3 on Styles of Leadership.  Next, read this now famous - and lengthy - piece by Michael Lewis on President Obama's leadership style.  Although long, this piece is one of the most important that I have assigned this semester, and one of the most popular among students that I have had in the past.

1. Find one place in the article that reinforces your first thoughts on the presidency and one place that challenges them in some fashion. Write to explore how your thinking about the text has changed in light of these passages. 

2. Trace a term or figure throughout the piece and explain what work it does for Lewis' point in writing the profile. 

3. What meaning should the presidency as described in this article have for Americans today?

Also, please fill out this form for our class discussion of the article tomorrow.

HW#42, due Thurs. 11/30. In Remy, read chapter 9, section 2 on Roles of the President. Next, read this analysis of President Trump's use of executive actions.  

Optional stuff:  Check out the status of the tax bill here.  See this piece for an analysis of how the bill will impact the middle class. Finally, check out this viral story on what happens when an amateur tries to go after professionals.  Its a wild story!

HW#41, due Tues. 11/28. In Remy, read chapter 9, section 1 on Presidential Powers.  Next, read this lengthy piece by Ezra Klein on the so-called "bully pulpit" theory of presidential leadership.  Answer the following questions:


1.  What do you see as the most important factor in the power of a President?  Why? 


2.  What is the main argument made by Ezra Klein in The Unpersuaded?  Do you agree?  Why?


3.  If you were an advisor to President Trump, what advice would you give him - based on these readings - to help him increase his approval ratings, and implement his agenda in the waning months of 2017?  In your answer, be specific. 

HW#40, due Mon. 11/27. In Remy, read chapter 8, section 4 on The Executive Office of the President. Next, check out this overview of Who's Who in the Trump White House. Finally, read this piece about how West Wing staff work with their boss.

1. In what ways does the Executive Office serve the President? Which is the most important office? Why?

2. Choose one figure in the Trump West Wing and explain in your own words what the person does and why they are there. Evaluate the President's process for hiring West Wing Staffers.

3. Do you think its good or bad that journalists are being given so much access to the West Wing? Use evidence from the WaPo piece in your answer. 

HW#39, due Wed. 11/22. In Remy, read chapter 8, section 3.  Next, read this fascinating essay on the contemporary Cabinet by Glenn Thrush in Politico Magazine.  That is all.       

HW#38, due Tues. 11/21. In Remy, read chapter 8, section 2.  Next, check out this piece by Tim Alberta.  Answer the following questions:


1.  How does the Electoral College system work?

2.  In "Is the Electoral College Doomed" Alberta takes a deep dive into the reform plan that has the most momentum.  Explain the plan and its pro's and con's. Ultimately do you think the President should be chosen by popular vote?  Why?

HW#37, due Mon. 11/20. In Remy, read chapter 8, section 1.  Next, listen to parts 1 and 2 of this NPR review of the impact of Dick Cheney on the Vice Presidency.  Answer the following questions:


1.  What are the top 3 most important powers of the President?  Explain your list.


2.  What do you think is the single most important extra-constitutional (outside of the constitutional requirements) qualification for the presidency?  Why?


3.  Should the Vice President hold as much power as fmr. VP Dick Cheney?  Why?  In your answer cite specific examples from the NPR piece.   


Optional fun:  Check out this on The Beast (nickname given to the President's awesome limo).   

Please see below for the debate assignments and debate dates:

Fri. 12/1 - Gun Control:  Should we have stronger national gun control laws?

Mon. 12/4 - War on Drugs:  Should America end its war on drugs?

Thurs. 12/14 - Capital Punishment:  Should the death penalty be abolished in the United States?

Fri. 12/15 - Healthcare: should the United States have a market-based healthcare system or universal healthcare?

Mon. 12/18 - U.S. Foreign Policy:  Is the Trump foreign policy making us safer?

Tues. 12/19 - Immigration:  Should undocumented immigrants in the United States be granted full citizenship?

Wed. 12/20 - Abortion:  Should abortion be legal?

Thurs. 12/21 - Affirmative Action:  Should race-based affirmative action be abolished?

Please see below for the debate sign-up forms.  Please make sure to fill out the form corresponding to your class.

HW#36, due Fri. 11/17. In Remy, read chapter 7, section 4.  Next, read this article published in 2009 at the NYT on the dilemma's posed by "earmarks".  Answer the following questions:


1.  Is logrolling a form of corruption?  Why?


Questions for NYT article:


2.  Kristin Gillibrand is the junior Senator from New York.  Describe the "paradox" she faced on the question of earmarks when she assumed office. How would you deal with this paradox?


Finally, check out this article by Matthew Yglesias on Pork-Barrel Politics.

3. Why does Yglesias miss pork-barrel politics?

HW#35, due Wed. 11/15. In Remy, read chapter 7, section 3.  Next, read this fabulous and influential piece by Ezra Klein in The New York Review of Books. Answer the following questions:


1.  Rank the influences on members of congress in order of importance, with 1 being the single most important influence on a member.  Explain the order of your list.


2.  According to Ezra Klein, how does lobbying work today?


3.  Suggest a law that would limit the influence of lobbyists on the lawmaking process without violating the First Amendment?

HW#34, due Tues. 11/14. In Remy, read chapter 7, section 2.  Next, read this piece by Niv Elis and Cristina Marcos on the recent passage of the GOP budget in the House. Answer the following questions:


1.  What are the differences between revenue bills and appropriation bills?

2.  The budget communicates the majority party's key principles.  What does this budget say about GOP principles?

HW#33, due Mon. 11/13. In Remy, read chapter 7, section 1.  Also, check out this article from Slate on the mark-up procedure in Congress.  We will be looking at this article in class tomorrow.  Answer the following questions:


1.  Explain the process by which a bill becomes a law.  What are most critical stages in this process?  Why? 


2.  Explain the title "Markup Hell." Should this process be so complex? Why?


Next, check out this awesome graphic on how a bill becomes a law and listen to this short podcast from NPR on the famous Schoolhouse Rock segment on how a bill becomes a law 


3.  According to the NPR Podcast, why is Schoolhouse Rock "a lie"?

MC Study Guide:


Formal and Informal qualifications for serving in Congress

The Congressional committee system

Select Committee

Standing Committee

Conference Committee

House Rules Committee

House Ways and Means Committee

Similarities and differences between the House and the Senate

The concept of "love your congressman, hate the Congress"

House Majority Whip

Congressional reelection rates


Congressional caucus
Seniority system
Mark Meadows and the House Freedom Caucues
Henry Waxman and the House Energy and Commerce Committee
President Trump and the "facts of the Russia case"

Methods of congressional oversight

Presidential impeachment

The media bubble

Essay topics - There will two essay choices on the exam.  You will have to choose one to answer:

The so-called "incumbent advantage" in the Congress and its causes 

Congressional staff


The rules of the Senate

The time has come to introduce our term project for the semester.  Please click here for the directions and requirements.  There will be more to come in terms of directions in class tomorrow!

HW#32, due Thurs. 11/9.  In Remy, read chapter 6, section 2.  Also, Please read this famous academic article by Political Scientists Matthew McCubbins and Thomas Schwartz on two models of congressional oversight.  Answer the following questions:


1.  What factors cause committee investigations?   


2.  The McCubbins/Schwartz article was written in response to critics of the oversight process. What is the difference between the "fire alarm" model and the "police patrol" models of oversight? Do you agree with the thesis presented in the article?  Why?  

3.  Is there any area where Congress should not have the power of oversight over executive branch?  Why?

HW#31, due Wed. 11/8. In Remy, read chapter 6, section 1 on Constitutional Powers of the Congress. Next, read this post by Jane Chong and Benjamin Wittes from Lawfare on the case to impeach President Trump.

1.  What are two most important expressed powers of Congress?  Please point out where in the constitution these powers from which these powers originate as well as the actual language from the document.

2.  How do Chong and Wittes apply the constitutional criteria for impeachment to President Trump?  What is their basis for impeaching the President?  Do you agree?  Use evidence from the post ion your answer.  

HW#30, due Thurs. 11/2. Read this post by Jane Chong, Quinta Jurecic, and Benjamin Wittes at Lawfare for background of what they call "L’Affaire Russe" and various theories as to what really happened.  

1.  After reading the post, which theory of the case do you think is the most plausible explanation?  Explain your answer using evidence. 

HW#29, due Tues. 10/31.  In Remy, read chapter 5, section 5 on Staff and Support Agencies.  Next, read this piece on a day in the life of a congressional staffer.  

1.  Why has the number of congressional staffers (both personal and committee) increased since 1900?


2.  Based on the Slate piece, would you want to be a staffer? Why?


3.  Do congressional staffers have too much power?  Use evidence from the articles in your answer.    

HW#28, due Mon. 10/30. In Remy, read chapter 5, section 4 on Congressional Committees.  Next, read this article from 2008 on the fight for the chairmanship of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.  

1.  Why is congress divided into a committee system?


2. How is party politics reflected in the congressional committee system?  What factors are taken into consideration for a Member to become a committee chair?  What should be taken into consideration?

Finally, go to and find your House Representative again.  This time, find out what committee(s) he/she serves on.  Choose one committee and research the responsibilities of the committee (what issues does the committee address?), and the history of the committee.  You can find this information either on the Rep's website, or at  Under your answers to the questions, write up a summary (including the Rep's name, committee assignments, and a description of one of the committees), along with the textbook/article questions and answers as one assignment and submit via Dropbox.

HW#27, due Thurs. 10/26. In Remy, read chapter 5, section 3 on The Senate.  Next, read this piece by Ezra Klein.

1. In what ways, and for what reasons, are the rules of the Senate different from those of the House?

2. According to Ezra Klein, how and why has the Senate changed recently?  Do you agree that this is a "terrible way to legislate"? why? 

HW#26, due Wed. 10/25. In Remy, read chapter 5, section 2.  Next, read this profile of Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC).  

1. Why are the House rules so complex?

2.  The Speaker of the House is supposed to be the most powerful position in the chamber.  Why might Mark Meadows be more powerful than Paul Ryan according to Tara Golshan?

LAST BUT CERTAINLY NOT LEAST, click here for the website of the House of Representatives.  Find your Representative, and check out some of the positions that your Representative takes on key political issues.  Remember that this person is YOUR representative on the federal level - they speak for YOU!!!  Please list your representative and some of her/his positions on your HW.  

HW#25, due Tues. 10/24. In Remy, read chapter 5, section 1 on Congressional Membership.  Next read this from Robert Draper at The Atlantic Monthly on Gerrymandering and the 2010 midterm elections.  Also, check out the slideshow linked to the draper piece entitled The Long Twisted History of Gerrymandering in American Politics.  Answer the following questions based on the readings:


1.  What are the key differences between the House and the Senate according to Remy?


Questions for the Draper article:


2.  How has gerrymandering changed contributed to the partisanship in the House of Representatives today?


3.  How might this process be defended?


Optional:  For all you gamers, check out this Gerrymandering game!

HW#24, due Mon. 10/23. Read this article by Jack Shafer and Tucker Doherty on the so-called "media bubble" and its role in the 2016 election.  

1. Explain the following quote using evidence from the article: "Not only is the bubble real, but it’s more extreme than you might realize. And it’s driven by deep industry trends."

2.  What do the trends mentioned in the article mean for the future of the press in American democracy?


MC Study Guide:

The primary system - caucuses versus primaries

Differences between open and closed primaries


Political ideologies - liberals/conservatives, Democrat/Republican/Independent

Political participation

Party membership and regional differences in voting patterns

Third parties and why they have trouble competing 

National party conventions

Choosing VP candidates as "balancing the ticket"

Party platforms

Brokered convention

Midterm elections

Voting patterns 

Possible short answer topics:

Power of political parties

Big small government

Citizens United

Invisible primary

A Tale of Two Moralities

Possible Essay Topics

Effectiveness of primary system in producing Presidential candidates

Voter turnout in the US

Factors that impact political attitudes

The role/impact of the media in today's political climate

HW#23, due Thurs. 10/19.  Read this essay by Will Wilkinson on what forces divide Americans today.

After reading, pleas fill out the Google Form corresponding to your class below:

HW#22, due Wed. 10/18.  In Remy, read chapter 17, section 3.  Next, read "The State of the Presidential Debate" by Jill Lepore. Finally, watch this essay by media reporter Brain Stelter on how we should understand the term "fake news." 


1.  What factors influence voters, according to the textbook?  Which one of these (or any other influence that you can think of) categories influences you the most and why?


2.  In Lepore's piece, she quotes the legendary journalist Walter Cronkite: "The debates are part of the unconscionable fraud that our political campaigns have is a means to present to the American people a rational exposition of the major issues that face the nation, and the alternate approaches to their solution. Yet the candidates participate only with the guarantee of a format that defies meaningful discourse. They should be charged with sabotaging the electoral process.” - How does the article support this quote?  Do you agree with Cronkite?  Why?

3.  Moving forward how best can we protect democracy from the spread of "fake news."

Optional but very fun: Can you tell real news from fake news?

HW#21, due Tues. 10/17. In Remy, read chapter 17, section 2, AND the Voter Handbook (pgs 486-491).  Answer the following questions:


1.  Describe the process of voting?  What are the most important steps in this process?  How do you plan to vote?


2.  Should voting rights be taken away from some Americans?  If so, how?  If not, why?    

HW#20, due Mon. 10/16.  In Remy, read chapter 17, section 1 on Election Campaigns. Next, go through this "card stack" put together by Andrew Prokop at Vox (there are several "cards" found on the lower left of the screen. make sure you understand the terms "Super PAC", "dark money", and McCutcheon v. FEC).  Finally, read this amazing feature on the 64 hours in October that blew up American politics.  This is a comprehensive view of one of the most important periods in American political history from the perspective of reporters covering the campaign and staffers working on both sides of the race.  It may make some readers uncomfortable, some of the material should be approached with caution. After reading, answer the questions below:    

1.  To what extent do you think the modern presidential campaign prepares a candidate to actually govern?


2.  In what ways have the Citizens United and McCutcheon cases changed campaigns?

3.  What does the Yahoo feature demonstrate about American presidential campaigns today? - In your answer, think about the roles of campaign staff and the media.  

HW#19, due Fri. 10/13. Check out this NYT Room for Debate on the question of Do Party Conventions Matter Anymore?  Answer the following question:


1.  Should the parties end the practice of holding conventions?  Why?  In your answer, cite the NYT debate.  

HW#18, due Thurs. 10/12.  In Remy, read chapter 16, section 3.  Next, check out this "Voxplaination" of the so-called invisible primary.  Finally, check out the results of the 2016 Presidential Primary elections here.


1.  Compare and contrast the narrative presented in Remy on nominating candidates with the shadow campaign.  Should this section of the textbook be re-written?  If so how?  If not, why not?


2.  Choose one element of the primary outcome in 2016.  What surprises you?  What does not?  Why?

HW#17, due Tues. 10/10.  In Remy, read chapter 16, section 2.  Answer the following questions:


1.  How does the organizational structure of American political parties reflect the principal of federalism? 


2.  Of all listed political party functions, which is the most important?  Why?


Next, check out this article by Walter Russell Mead on why "American political parties are breaking down."


3.  What is Mead's thesis?  Considering the upsurge of populism, plutocracy, and dynasticism in American politics, are political parties doomed?   

HW#16, due Fri. 10/6.  Read chapter 16, section 1.  Next, if you were born on an even day, read this analysis of the modern Republican Party by David Frum (Frum is a conservative) from New York Magazine.  If you were born on an odd day, read this analysis of the modern Democratic Party by Jonathan Chait (Chait is a liberal), also in New York Magazine.  

1.  Should elections be redesigned to include more political parties in the process?  Why?


2.  Summarize either the Frum article or the Chait article (depending on your assignment).  In your summary, include the following:  What is the core argument of the piece?  How does the author prove his argument?  What were/are the guiding forces that shape(d) the modern Democratic/Republican Parties?  After reading the article, what is your impression of American politics today?

Optional Stuff: Check out this article by Corey Robin on the evolution of American conservatism.  Also, see this book review from The New Yorker on the book A Magnificent Catastrophe:  The Tumultuous Election of 1800, America's First Presidential Campaign (2007).

HW#15, due Thurs. 10/5.  In Remy, read chapter 4, section 4. Next check out this piece by Christian Farias on Federalism in the age of Trump. 

1. How has the system of federalism helped facilitate greater political participation?

2. Explain the title of the Farias article.  What is his argument?  

3. Choose a point of tension between the states and the Trump administration.  Make an argument that sides with the Trump administration.  

HW#14, due Wed. 10/4.  In Remy, read chapter 4, section 3.  Next read this article by James Stewart on one of the main questions that the Supreme Court considered when it heard a challenge to the Affordable Care Act (AKA Obamacare) in 2012. Finally, check out this piece by Tony Pugh on Medicaid expansion as part of the ACA.  

1.  Should the federal government (Congress in this instance) have the power to force citizens to buy broccoli?  What about health insurance?  Explain your answer.  


2.  Should state governments be allowed to disobey federal law even if it hurts their citizens?  In your answer, you must cite specific examples from the Pugh piece.  


For an everything-you-need-to-know about the Affordable Care Act, see this explanation from the WaPo.  

HW#13, due Tues. 10/3.  Review articles posted under HW#12.  Be prepared to discuss in class. 

HW#12, due Mon. 10/2.  In Remy, read chapter 4, sections 1 AND 2.  Next, read this piece by Jonathan Chait from New York Magazine on the "tyranny" of local governments.  Answer the following questions based on the readings:


1.  What is the difference between expressed, implied, inherent and concurrent powers?  In your answer, provide at least one example of each kind of power.


2.  In what ways does the Constitution promote cooperation among the states?


Next, check out this award-winning piece by Radley Balko on just how much of an impact local government can have on a poor community.


3.  Some critics argued that the federal government’s response to the situations describe in the above two articles was weak.  Do you agree?  If so, what should the federal government do about these policies?     

See below for the study guide for Exam#1.  This exam will consist of 20 MC questions, two short answers, and one essay. 


MC Study Guide:

Articles of Confederation - structure, strengths, weaknesses

Shay's Rebellion

New Jersey Plan

Virginia Plan

Constitutional Convention of 1787

The Great Compromise

"Full Faith and Credit Clause", "Supremacy Clause", and "Necessary and Proper Clause" in the Constitution

The nature of the Senate and the House of Representatives

John Locke - influence on the Framers

James Madison and his concerns over "factions"


Declaration of Independence - structure

Article VI and the Supremacy Clause

Federalist/Anti-Federalist debates

Possible short answers (two will appear on the exam and you will have to answer both:


1.  Describe at least one method for amending the Constitution.  


2.  Why did the Framers make amending the Constitution difficult?  In your answer, you must provide a real example of an amendment that was proposed but did not pass.


3.  Describe three principles of the Constitution as discussed in class.  For each, provide one example from the Constitution.


4.  How can the Articles of Confederation be seen as a success? 


Possible Essay Questions (two of these will appear on the exam, you must write one of them):


1.  The debates between Federalists and Anti-Federalists in the aftermath of the Constitutional Convention continue to resonate today.  Discuss the Federalist AND Anti-Federalist positions on the following issues:


a.  the nature of the Senate


b.  standing armies in peacetime


c.  the Federal government and individual liberties  


d.  federal legalization of Marijuana


2.  The Constitutional Convention was characterized by compromise on a wide variety of issues.  Describe how the Convention addressed each of the following constitutional issues:


a.  the structure of Congress


b.  slavery


c.  the election of the President


3.  In his article "Framed Up: What the Constitution Gets Wrong" Hendrik Hertzberg points out many supposed flaws in the Constitution.


a.  explain at least three flaws mentioned by Hertzberg.


b.  of these flaws, which one do you think has done the most damage to the country.  In your answer you must include specific examples to prove your argument.  


4.  According to historian Gordon Wood, Why did the Articles of Confederation fail?  In your answer, be sure to describe problems on both the national and state levels.   


5.  Explain why and how the Framers of the US Constitution included the following concepts:


a.  federalism


b.  separation of powers


c.  checks and balances in the Constitution.

HW#11, due Wed. 9/27.  In Remy, read chapter 3, section 4 on The Amendments.  Answer the following questions based on the reading:


1.  What do you think are the three most important Amendments?  The three least important?  Explain your answer using evidence from the text.  Please exclude the Bill of Rights and the so-called Civil War amendments.   


2.  Next, check out sixteen good, bad, and  insane ideas for a twenty-eighth Amendment to the Constitution.  After examining this list, identify one amendment that should be included into the constitution and explain your decision.  


HW#10, due Tues. 9/26.  For this assignment we are going to skip one section in Remy.  I would like to merely skim chapter 3, section 2.  You all must read chapter 3, section 3 on Amending the Constitution


1.  Why is the process of amending the constitution so complex?


2.  Describe the informal ways to change the Constitution? 


Also, read this article by Harvard Law Professor Lawrence Lessig on calling a so-called "Article V convention."  


3.  Do you agree with Professor Lessig?  Why?  In your mind, what issue(s) require the calling of such a convention?   

HW#9, due Mon. 9/25. In Remy, read chapter 3, section 1.  Next, read this review of Robert Dahl's book "How Democratic Is the American Constitution?", written by Hendrick Hertzberg (the editorial editor at The New Yorker magazine).  Finally, READ THE CONSTITUTION IN FULL.  Find an interactive version here. Answer the following questions based on the readings:


1.  What do you see as the most important constitutional checks on each branch of the federal government? (feel free to make a fun chart!)


2.  In his article, Hertberg claims that "If we worshipped the framers a little less, we might respect ourselves a little more. If we kept in mind the ways in which our constitutional arrangements distort our democracy and hobble our politics, we might gain a deeper, more useful understanding of the sources of our various national discontents. If we didn't assume that the system was perfect, we wouldn't assume that everything we don't like is the fault of bad people. We'd judge our politicians more shrewdly, and more charitably, if we reminded ourselves regularly of the constraints that the system imposes on them."  Explain this quote using his article and the textbook.  Do you agree with his conclusion? Why?   

HW#8, due Wed. 9/20. Federalist VS Anti-Federalist debate!!!  Read the essay's, and summarize them in no more than one page total.  In your summary, be sure to include all main points and the ultimate position on the issue that the author makes.  Bring in both the essays, and your summaries to class.  You do not have to read all four essays.  If you were born on an even day, you are a Federalist.  If you were born on an odd day, you are an anti-Federalist. 


If you are a Federalist, see here on the nature of the Senate, and here on standing armies.


If you are an Anti-Federalist, see here on the nature of the Senate, and here on standing armies.

HW#7, due Tues. 9/19.  
In Remy, read chapter 2, section 4 on The Constitutional Convention.  Next, read this article about the Convention.  Answer the following questions:


1.  Describe the major compromises between the delegates.  What were the primary causes of conflict and debate? 


2.  "The United States Constitution contained serious flaws that gave small states too much power and allowed slavery to continue ultimately culminating in the American Civil War."  Agree/disagree with this statement.  If you agree here, what were the alternatives?  


Optional but very interesting:  Does the US Constitution enshrine slavery as a national institution?  This question has been the subject of a recent heated debate.  See this provocative piece by historian Sean Wilentz that reignited the debate and this response by David Waldstreicher.  For a lengthy piece on why this all matters, see this new controversial article by Ta-Nehisi Coates on The Black Family in the Age of Mass Incarceration.    


HW#6, due Fri. 9/15.  In Remy, read chapter 2, section 3 on The Articles of Confederation.  Next, read The Articles of Confederation.  Finally, I would like you to check out this article by American Revolutionary historian Gordon Wood on the period leading up to the Constitutional Convention of 1787.  The article is dense, but well worth a read, it will help you to understand the challenges of this time more so than Remy.  Answer the following questions based on the readings:


1.  Describe the structure of government under the Articles (executive, judicial, legislative branches, etc.)

2.  What were the strengths of this structure? - In this answer, you should analyze at least one of the articles and discuss why it is a good idea and why.  


3.  According to Professor Wood, how did the individual states weaken America under the Articles of Confederation? 

HW#5, due Thurs. 9/14.  In Remy, read chapter 2, section 2 on Uniting for Independence.  Next, read the Declaration of Independence beginning on pg 770 in the textbook.  Compare this document to The English Bill of Rights on pg 803 in the textbook.  Jefferson modeled the Declaration on this document.  Next, read Jefferson's rough draft of the Declaration.  Answer the following questions:


1.  Was the American Revolution inevitable?  In your answer, please use specific examples/policies/actions taken that led to the Revolution.  

2.  In what ways was Jefferson's draft edited?  What does this editing process tell you about the significance/purpose of the document? 


Option stuff:  Ever wonder how CIA agents break in to things?

HW#4, due Wed. 9/13.  In Remy, read chapter 2, section 1 on The Colonial Period.  Next, read The Fundamental Orders of Connecticut (1639).  Answer the following questions based on the readings:


1.  How and why did limited governments develop in the colonies?

2.  The Fundamental Orders is considered the first formal constitution written in North America.  Read it carefully.  Describe what you see as at least two strengths and at least two weaknesses of the structure of government established under this document. 

HW#3, due Tues. 9/12.  In Remy (our textbook), read chapter 1, sections 1-3.  For the 10th period students you can find the entire chapter here. Also, check out this excerpt from Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies (1997) by Jared Diamond (apologies for the format of the PDF).  Answer the following questions:


1.  Compare Dr. Diamond's thesis on the origin of the state to the Enlightenment thinkers ideas presented in Remy.  Of all the theories presented on the origin of the state, which is the most plausible to you?  Why?


2.  Remy presents us here with four basic purposes of governments.  In your mind, what is the most important purpose of government?  Why?


3.  In The Federalist No. 51, James Madison famously proclaimed that "If men were angels, no government would be necessary".  Respond to this quote in no more than 50 words.  What do you think he meant? 

Extra Credit:  This Sunday at 7 PM CBS will air an interview with Steve Bannon, former White House chief strategist. Watch the interview and write up a response including the following:

Choose three lines that you think best encapsulate the interview and explain your choices.

If you were running for President of the United States would you hire Steve Bannon to give you campaign advice? Why?

Please keep your answer to one page in length double-spaced.

HW#2, due Mon, 9/11.

Part I

For this class you must create a Dropbox account to share with me (see directions below).  Please fill out a student questionnaire here.  Submit questionnaires via your Dropbox account.     

1) Make sure you have a Dropbox account--Create one here.


2) Share a folder with me.  The format should be as follows:  If your name were Jerry Nadler and you are in my 8th period Gov section, the folder would be entitled: Nadler, Jerry, 8.  My e-mail address for sharing is


3)  Upload a headshot (not a full body picture) of yourself that (a) is not too large and (b) actually looks like you. Place it in the shared folder. Name it sebastiangorka.jpg (substitute your first and last names).  Please note that all head shots should be in JPEG form!


4)  You must share your folder with me no later than noon on Tues. 9/12.


Please note:  All HW will be submitted via your Dropbox account.  It should be submitting following the instructions below


1) In PDF form.  You should be able to use Word or any other word processing software to save as PDF. Also Macs and some other programs allow you to print to PDF.  If none of this works, here is a free converter that creates PDFs. PLEASE NOTE THAT HOMEWORK SUBMITTED IN .DOC OR .DOCX FORM IS NOT GRADABLE!

2) Double spaced

3) No longer than two, but no shorter than one page.

4) Uploaded into our shared Dropbox account by the start of class on the day that the assignment is due.

Part II

Check out this overview and timeline of the attacks on September 11, 2001 from the 9/11 Tribute Center.  After reviewing the events you are to interview a parent/guardian, first responder, teacher or other adult who can recall the events of 9-11-2001.  Be prepared to discuss your interviews in class.  Suggested questions are below:


1.  Where were you on the morning of 9/11?

2.  How did you first hear about the attacks?

3.  What do you think is the most important way that the attacks have changed the United States Government?

4.  What do you see as the most important lesson that students should learn about 9/11? 

HW#1, due Fri. 9/8.  Please click here and subscribe to Politico Playbook, the most widely read political daily newsletter in the country.  Choose the story that you believe to be the most important and read it.  Be prepared to discuss in class.