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Welcome to Participation in Government! 

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

This semester will contain a specific focus on the 2016 US congressional and presidential elections.  


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 Dish, by Andrew Sullivan (blog)

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

 The Guardian

The Agenda (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 contract" here.  Please see here for the course syllabus (subject to change).

HW#24, due Thurs. 11/10.  Read this essay by Alan Taylor on "The Virtue of the American Voter."  Focus on how the Framers envisioned the concept of virtue and how they connected it to education.  Be prepared to discuss.    

HW#23, due Fri. 11/4.  In Remy, read chapter 5, section 1 on Congressional Membership.  Next, read this famous piece from The New Yorker by Jeffrey Toobin on the process of redistricting and Gerrymandering.  Answer the following questions based on the reading:


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


2.  What was the "fundamental change in the rules of the game", according to Harvard Law School professor Heather Gerken? 


3.  How has redistricting "changed the kind of people who win seats in Congress and the way they behave once they arrive."?

Optional but HIGHLY RECOMMENDED:  Check out this piece by Alec MacGillis on the sorting of America and what YOU can do about it.  

HW#22, due Thurs. 11/3.  In Remy, read chapter 10, sections 1 AND 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'.


1.  Claims have been made to cut or even to abolish some departments within the federal bureaucracy.  Focus on the chart on pg. 276 and list three agencies that you would abolish or severely cut funding to.  Explain your list.


2.  How can 'regulatory capture' be limited?  Use evidence from the Wilkenson piece.  

HW#21, due Wed. 11/2.  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.

HW#20, due Tues. 11/1.  In Remy, read chapter 9, section 2 on Roles of the President.  Next, check out this piece by Noah Feldman on Obama and executive power.  Finally, check out Ezra Klein's interview with President Obama on his view of contemporary politics in the U.S. today (the video entitled "Obama on American Politics and the Economy: the Extended Version.")  Feel free to watch the whole thing, but the more pertinent part of the interview for our purposes here begins at 14:24.

1.  What is the least important role of the President mentioned in Remy?  Why?

2.  Based on the article and the interview, how does President Obama view his powers?  What roles do you think he views as least important?

HW#19, due Monday 10/31 - Happy Halloween!  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.  

1.  What is Klein's key thesis here?  What evidence does he provide to support this conclusion?

2.  How can future presidents address the dynamic he discusses in this article?

HW#18, due Fri. 10/28.  Current events!  Choose one article to read about anything related to US Government and politics.  The source of the article is up to you.  Write a summary of piece including why you chose to read it not to exceed 100 words.  Print out the article, attach the summary and BRING IT TO CLASS!

HW#17, due no later than midnight on Thursday night.  I want you all to watch this incredible PBS examination of what has shaped Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump - where they came from, how they lead, and why they want one of the most difficult jobs imaginable.  

After watching the special I want you to write a response/reaction no longer than two pages in length, double spaced, Times New Roman font.  In your reaction please include what you found most interesting about both people (and the documentary in general), what surprised you the most, and the least about the candidates, your thoughts on how a person's life experiences shape who they become.  Overall, your reaction should be thoughtful.    

You will get the equivalent credit of four HW assignments for completing this assignment so do it!  

HW#16.5, due Thursday in class.  Watch the third and final presidential debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.  It will begin at 9 PM from Las Vegas, Nevada.  Be prepared to discuss in class.  That is all.

HW#16, due Tues. 10/18.  In Remy, read chapter 8, section 4 on the The Executive Office of the President.  Next, read this great piece on what its like to work in the "West Wing" or the what Remy calls the White House Office. 

1.  Explain the fundamental purpose of the EOP.  Which, in your mind, is the most important agency in the Executive Office?

2.  What is it like to work in the White House office?  How might this atmosphere impact decision-making in the West Wing? 

HW#15, due Mon. 10/17.  In Remy, read chapter 8, section 3.  Next, read this fascinating essay on the contemporary Cabinet by Glenn Thrush in Politico Magazine.  

1.  Explain the role of the Cabinet in the White House.

2.  Explain the relationship between President Obama and his cabinet as describe by Glenn Thrush in "Locked in the Cabinet."  What examples does Thrush point to in his piece to describe the nature of the relationship?  Why are they illuminating?

Extra Credit!  Two speeches in one day crystallize the state of the 2016:  Watch this speech from Michelle Obama and this speech given by Donald Trump a few hours later.  Dan Balz at The Washington Post wrote the following about these two speeches:  “Two speeches. Two Americas...That’s the summation from just two remarkable hours Thursday that crystallized the final month of Campaign 2016."  Explain what he means by this after watching both speeches.  Next, choose two lines from different parts of both speeches and explain how they encapsulate the themes of the speeches. This will be due via Dropbox on Tues. 10/18.   

HW#14, due Fri. 10/14.  In Remy, read chapter 8, section 2.  Next, read this piece on what happens if there is a tie in the Electoral College.  These kinds of articles are appearing more and more this election cycle (see this widely shared piece by the famed pollster Nate Silver)!  Answer the following questions:


1.  How does the Electoral College system work?


2.  Describe the different ideas for reforming the system.  Which one would you support?  Why?

3.  How could there be an Electoral College tie in this election cycle?  What would be the outcome if this happened in your opinion?  

HW#13, due Thurs. 10/6.  In Remy, read chapter 8, section 1.  Next, read this piece by Adam Liptak in The New York Times on Donald Trump, the Constitution, and presidential power.  Answer the following questions:


1.  What is the single most important power mentioned in the textbook that the President has?  Explain.


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


3.  What core point is Liptak raising in this article?  Will a President Trump be a dictator?  Why?  Cite examples/evidence from the article.  


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

HW#12, due Wed. 10/5.  In Remy, read chapter 18 sections 1 AND 3.  Next read this amazing piece on the impact of the relationship between the "news" and social media by The Guardian's Katherine Viner.  Answer the following questions:

1.  Explain and provide examples for the de Tocqueville quote on pg. 504.  

2.  Out of the five social characteristics that define political socialization, which do you think has the least impact on your political views?

3.  "The basis of our governments being the opinion of the people, the very first object should be to keep that right; and were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter. But I should mean that every man should receive those papers and be capable of reading them." --Thomas Jefferson to Edward Carrington, 1787.

Explain how the Katherine Viner article relates to the above quote.  In your answer, include an answer to the title of the piece.  

HW#11, due Thurs. 9/29.  In Remy, read chapter 17, section 2, AND the Voter Handbook (pgs 486-491).  Finally, read this overview of the partisan battle over voter fraud in America.  This controversial belief in voter fraud has had major consequences for Americans across the country.  To see why, click here.  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.  Are states justified in passing strict "voter ID laws" and other bills that could effectively suppress voting rights?  Why?

HW#10, due Tues. 9/27.  Watch the first presidential debate of 2016 between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.  It begins at 9 PM.  If you cannot watch the entire debate, you must at least watch the first 30 minutes.  If you do not have TV you can live stream the debate here, or at numerous other media/social media sites.  Before watching, read this overview of what to watch for during the discussion.  Complete the following assignment:

In a response of no longer than one page, assess the debate based on the five "things to watch" from the WaPo article. These are Trumps Attacks, Temperament, Clinton'  Vulnerabilities, Ideology, and the Moderator.  Overall, who do you think will benefit the most from this debate?  Why? 

Be prepared to discuss in class.

Please see below for the study guide for our first exam! There will be 20 MC questions (2 pts. each), two short answer questions (10 pts. each) and one essay (40 pts.)

MC Study Guide:

Republican and Democratic party platforms (only a general idea of what the parties stand for)
Political ideologies - liberals/conservatives
Political participation
Party membership and regional differences in voting patterns
Third parties
National party conventions
The causes of the two-party system
Open/closed primaries
New Hampshire and Iowa in the primary system
Brokered conventions

Possible short answer topics:

2016 party conventions

Citizens United

Invisible primary

Two-party system

Possible essay topics (there will be two questions on the exam, you will have to choose one to answer):

Low voter turnout in America 

The primary process and how it has weakened the power of the parties

The role of the media in campaigns - specifically convention and debate coverage and how campaigns use these events

HW#9, due Mon. 9/26.  In Remy, read chapter 17, section 3.  Next, read "The State of the Presidential Debate" by Jill Lepore. 

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?

HW#8, due Fri. 9/23.  In Remy, read chapter 17, section 1 on Election Campaigns. Next, go through this "card stack" put together by Andrew Prokop at Vox.  Next, check out this summary of the alleged damage that will be caused by the Citizens United decision (you might also want to watch the videos, they are short and very informative).  Answer the following questions based on the reading:


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


2.  Considering the fact that Donald J. Trump won the Republican nomination out of a field of 16 candidates, many of them with "Establishment" support and Super-Pac's backing them, does the Citizens United decision truly represent a threat to democracy?

HW#7, due Thurs. 9/22.  Read this analysis of the 2016 party conventions by American historian Jill Lepore.  Answer the following questions:

1.  According to Lepore, what were the main themes of both conventions?  Compare and contrast these themes.

2.  Which message do you think will resonate more with voters, the Republics or the Democrats?  Why?

HW#6, due Wed. 9/21.  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#5, due Fri. 9/16.  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#4, due Thurs. 9/15.  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 do you think are the most important functions?  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?   

Also, please join the Google Class site "Mr. Trainor's Participation in Government Class" using the code below:


For students in my period 4 section: If you have the version of the textbook with the red ribbon on the front, please BRING IT BACK TO SCHOOL TOMORROW and exchange it for another edition. Below is an image of the cover. Thanks.

Extra Credit Assignment: 

Option 1:  Check out this important piece by Kurt Eichenwald on on the Tump organization's foreign business ties and how they could impact a Trump presidency.  

Option 2:  Read this deep dive essay exploring the causes of Trumps political rise by pioneering journalist and blogger Andrew Sullivan.

Write a one-page response to the article that you choose to read.  Your response should include a summary of the kley points made by the author and what you think about the piece.  Upload to Dropbox no later than before class Friday 9/16.

HW#3, due Wed. 9/14.  Please read chapter 16, section 1 of Remy's Democracy in Action.  You can find the pdf of the chapter here. Finally,read this analysis of the modern Republican Party by David Frum (Frum is a conservative) from New York Magazine and this analysis of the modern Democratic Party by Jonathan Chait (Chait is a liberal), also in New York Magazine.  Answer the following questions:


1.  Why did the US develop in to a two-party system?


2.  Summarize both the Frum article or the Chait articles.  In your summary, include the following:  What are the core arguments presented in the articles on the state of each party?  How does the author prove the arguments?  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?

HW#2, due Tues. 9/13.  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 Donald Trump and you are in my 4th period Part Gov section, the folder would be entitled: Trump, Donald, 4.  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 donaldtrump.jpg (substitute your first and last names).  Please note that all headshots should be in JPEG form!


4)  You must share your folder with me no later than noon on Wed. 9/16.


Please note:  All written 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.

For context, in Remy, please read chapter 2, sections 3 and 4 on the Articles of Confederation and The Constitutional Convention.  During this lesson we will have an informal 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#1, due Fri. 9/9.  9/11 Oral history activity.  Please see here for the directions.  When you are finished with the interview, please write a reflection of no longer than one page double spaced on the more notable points discussed by your subject.  Please upload this document to your Dropbox folder.  Come to class prepared to discuss the interview.   PLEASE DO NOT RECORD YOUR INTERVIEW.  For some context on the events of that day, check out this timeline from the 9/11 Memorial Museum.  You can also find the powerful, and famous, special edition of the Stuyvesant Spectator about the impact of 9/11 on the Stuy community.