The 2008 U.S. Election in Comparative Perspective
This course analyzes the 2008 election in the United States. Beyond its immediate importance, this election also provides a window through which to view major elements of contemporary politics that extend beyond 2008. We focus on the two main presidential campaigns in the United States-assessing them both as strategic efforts and as political and policy projects. We will consider how the shape of government institutions and electoral rules influences the electoral process. We will examine parties and other modes of political mobilization and education, including the media. And we will ask how voters make their decisions about whether and for whom to vote. We will be interested in explaining the dynamics and later the outcome of the campaign. We will aim to understand how it resembles and differs from major elections in other countries today. And we will consider how the results of the election are likely to influence the shape of both American and international politics. This course does not presume a prior graduate course in American politics. It does require a commitment to engaging the diverse primary materials that constitute a record of the campaign (speeches, media ads, public opinion polls, voting studies, interviews, and more). For most students, the course will involve a significant field research component with respect to ongoing politics in the region and nationally. This course is crosslisted with the Eugene Lang College and satisfies requirements for History; open to juniors and seniors only.