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Course Catalog

Red State, Blue State: American Political Polarization

The media is full of Chicken Littles saying, “the sky is falling, the sky is falling,” about how bad American politics is these days. Every day the news covers congressional gridlock and fighting. Some even question whether American democracy will survive. But, how bad is it, really? The answer to that is actually quite complex and is the cornerstone of this course. The course first defines and measures the current era of political polarization by examining how various societal groups and regions differ from one another on a multitude of political and social issues. While this gives us a sense of “how bad” things are currently, we cannot fully appreciate the severity of current polarization without putting it in the larger context of comparing it with historical U.S. examples and examples from other countries. Finally, students learn about the origins of this current era of polarization in order to discuss potential solutions and forecast the future health of American democracy. This course is based on the assumption of no prior knowledge about American politics. Political polarization is used as a frame to enter into learning about current events and the structure and culture of American politics and government. Prerequisite: POLI 130 or POLI 131

Core Curriculum Designation: DD
Grade Basis: Letter Grade
Credits: 4.0