Article: When the state of nature prevails: a recent case study

This could be useful for discussing the purposes of government (in general) and the Hobbesian / Lockean argument for why government may be necessary for protecting the right to life (in particular), but also how the government itself can be a source of threats to rights. (The people wanted security guards to protect them from the “violent / aggressive family,” but then the guards appear to have themselves become abusive.) I think this is also an excellent illustration of how one doesn’t have to assume that all or even most people are naturally violent in order to conclude that a well-ordered government can significantly reduce violence. In this case, one family was violent, but this led everyone else to hide, acquiesce, or fight for themselves in order to be secure from the instigators. Given enough time, and without security guards, the otherwise non-violent cruise members may have concluded that “the best defense is a good offense,” and thus begun to act even more violently towards the instigators. This kind of security logic is a significant part of the analyses of violence (and its decline) by Stephen Pinker in Better Angels of Our Nature and, to a lesser extent, by Daniel Deudney in Bounding Power.

A Carnival cruise in the South Pacific descended into violent anarchy

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Article: The fuzziness of the establishment clause in practice

The decision to have Rev. Billy Graham lie in honor at the Capitol has raised questions about the contemporary meaning and purpose of the Establishment Clause. This article discusses that briefly, while also providing a brief discussion of how religion in American society has changed over the last sixty years. An excellent book on that topic is Robert Jones’ “The End of White Christian America.” And here’s an interesting Atlantic article by Jones (adapted from a new afterword in the paperback version of his book) about white evangelicals’ support for Trump:…/robert-jones-white-ch…/532587/.

Billy Graham is the first religious leader to lie in honor at the U.S. Capitol. Some say he should be the last.‘-Washington Post

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Article: Understanding voter behavior: The Case of Evangelical Trump Voters

Image result for evangelical trump supporter

This would be great for critically discussing public opinion, the notion that support for “theocracy” is outside the mainstream of American politics, and also the notion that ideological disagreement — understood in liberal vs. conservative terms — is a major cause of political conflict in American politics.

Despite porn stars and Playboy models, white evangelicals aren’t rejecting Trump. This is why.’-Washington Post

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Safeguarding Electoral Integrity: Video prompt for classroom exercise in political participation

I could imagine — at least with a smaller class — showing this video at the beginning of class when covering political participation, and spending the class period working together to take action on the issue. Students would spend 20 minutes researching the issue, finding consensus expert recommendations, spend 10 minutes getting a list of officials to contact, and then the rest of class drafting messages and sending them to the officials. Part of the messages would highlight the importance of voting and other forms of participation for our democratic form of government. Obviously, this would be a bit risky, and it would be hard to get everyone participating — especially in a larger class — but the basics of participation are something easy for students to learn on their own from textbooks, so even if this bombs, they would probably still be fine for their exams. And if it went well, they could learn the content while also improving their sense of efficacy and developing basic political participation skills; and maybe actually making a difference on an important issue.

Link to video

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Article questioning the primacy of social identity over political attitudes


I could see using the findings reported in this article to frame a discussion about what drives division within American politics. In Ch. 3 of my textbook, I give a modified Madisonian account, arguing that two perennial drivers of division / conflict are ideology and interests. As I’ve told many of you, I plan eventually to add a “third I” to the discussion: (social) identity. But I think this article should give us pause before going as far as many contemporary scholars have gone (e.g., Bartels, Aiken, Druckman, Bolsen, etc.). They are close to contending that, at least in the mass public, it is ALL about social identity. As we see here, it appears that, at least when it comes to sex/gender identity, ideology appears to be an intervening (and more consequential) variable.

‘Why Donald Trump never really had a “woman” problem among Republican voters.‘-LSE US Centre

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Article discussing intra-party conflict and the motivations of office-seekers

There’s a lot in here to draw from for American Gov classes. Here are just two. (1) The accurate description of political parties as non-homogeneous coalitions of conflicting interests and ideologies. And (2) his reflections on the motives that drove him into politics, and how they have changed over time. He said it started as something of a “sport” for him and then became more about personal “ambition,” but now he sees politics as “a way to make fundamental choices for the country.” This fits well with the discussion in Ch. 3 of American Way of Government and Politics about (a) the different kinds of motives that drive different people into politics and (b) the discussion of whether there is such things as a genuine “politics of principle” or whether cynics are correct that there isn’t.

A GOP strategist abandons his party and calls for the election of Democrats‘- Washington Post

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The tension between freedom of the press and media misinformation

Great for talking about media ownership, freedom of the press, and democracy. And don’t forget this one either ….

Sinclair “must-run” segment on family separation policy and child detention attacks the media‘-Media Matters

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Video: American Democracy and the Specter of Authoritarianism

This would run the risk of appearing partisan, but I think there’s a lot in this video to facilitate class discussion. I’d probably use it during a unit on public opinion and media, with an emphasis on how (and why) would-be authoritarian rulers seek to discredit the media, and also the part about why our traditional media is not well suited for demonstrating something like “democratic backsliding.” It could also be used for discussing “freedoms necessary for democracy” in Ch. 2 of Understanding American Government and Politics…”

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The Supreme Court and the Power of Federal Agencies: The implications of Kavanaugh’s nomination

This post by William Galston provides a nice summary of Chevron deference — which is the legal basis for much federal agency rule-making discretion — and a preview of an important (even if not publicly salient) impact on federal government lawmaking and policy making Kavanaugh could have as SCOTUS justice. This is also useful for understanding the divide between liberals and conservatives over the proper scope of administrative discretion in a system committed to separation of powers and checks and balances.

Under the radar: The Supreme Court decision Brett Kavanaugh is most likely to overrule‘-Brookings

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