Politics 142: Anti-Democracy in America
Pomona College, Spring 2020
Prof. David Menefee-Libey

*syllabus revised after March 15 campus evacuation*

Tuesdays and Thursdays at 9:35 - 10:50 am in Carnegie 109

Office: Carnegie 4
Office Hours: Mondays 2:00-4:00, Thursdays 3:00-5:00, and by appointment
e-mail: DJML4747(at)pomona(dot)edu, DMenefee(at)pomona(dot)edu, or David_Menefee-Libey(at)pomona(dot)edu (mail sent to any of these ends up in the same account)

Access a live version of this syllabus online at https://DML.sites.pomona.edu/Democracy.html

Find a list of sites with course-related information, data, and research at https://DML.sites.pomona.edu/DMLresources.html.

Table of Contents for This Syllabus:
Go to Course Requirements, Evaluations, and Deadlines
Go to Class Schedule and Assignments

Course Description and Goals

Decades ago, political scientists John Hibbing and Elizabeth Theiss-Morse noted that most American states require public school students to complete a "civics" class that purports to show how American political and governmental systems work. They also noted that Alexis de Tocqueville's "Democracy in America" is one of the most widely assigned college-level texts on politics and society in the United States. They pointed out, however, that American political institutions and systems often fail to embody the lofty ideals taught in such classes and readings. As a partial remedy, they proposed that American students also be offered courses that help them understand "barbarics," the less-than-lofty ways politics actually works much of the time in this country.

This course is a belated response to their challenge. Recent turmoil in the US and the broader world has brought a flowering of creative and rigorous politics scholarship on the topics of economic inequality and oligarchy, corruption, manipulation of elections, white supremacy, patriarchy, authoritarian populism, and any number of other plagues. This course will introduce students to research and analysis on these matters. Students will read, investigate, discuss, and write short papers on a variety of research focused on important past and present values, practices, and institutions that work against democracy in the United States, as well as various forms of popular resistance defending democracy. I hope the course will help students increase their knowledge about anti-democracy in its many forms, and to develop tools for investigating and analyzing it with systematic rigor. I hope the course will give students some means of moving beyond hopelessness and cynicism about the American (and human) predicament, and toward realistic and consequential political engagement.

Books and Readings

I have ordered six books for the course though the Huntley Bookstore. That's a lot of books, and the cost will add up if you buy them. You don't have to, though -- I have arranged that physical copies of the books be placed on reserve at Honnold Library, and that the Library have e-book versions you can read on your computer for all but the Hasen book, which won't be published until February.

I will often post supplemental readings (which I'll mark with an *asterisk) on the Claremont Colleges Sakai site or through web links, and I will continue to tweak the syllabus as the semester goes on. I will expect you to have access to those readings in class, either on paper or on screen for our discussions. If they are refereed journal articles, I will show you how to access them using the Claremont Colleges Libraries pages, where you should also download and print them. All of these materials may be considered by Politics majors as candidates for inclusion in their senior "book lists."

Because we will talk about current politics, it would be helpful to you if you read a good daily newspaper such as the Los Angeles Times, the New York Times, or the Wall Street Journal. You should also track down and read materials on the Internet. I have also provided some basic links from this course page. If you find something good that isn't listed here (or if you discover that one of my links has gone stale), please let me know and I'll update the links.

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Politics 142: Anti-Democracy in America
Pomona College, Spring 2020
Prof. David Menefee-Libey

Requirements, Evaluations, and Deadlines

Assignments and Grading: You will have several different kinds of assignments:

1. Class participation (20% of grade). You will get far more out of the course if you do the readings and prepare yourself to discuss them in class, and I hope you will talk with your fellow students about the substance and ideas of the course. I will especially value contributions that:

Also, please note: you may bring a laptop, tablet, or smart phone to the classroom, but I want you to use them only for accessing the texts we're discussing that day. I understand and share the temptation to be distracted when you're online, but I want you to try hard to avoid distracting yourself and students around you. I'll ask you to turn off messaging and notifications during class time.

2. Frequent short writing assignments (30% total). Each Tuesday, I want you to post on Sakai (before class) and bring to class two one-page papers that we can project on the screen during our discussions:

3. Four short papers (50% total).  On the first Tuesday of each month, you will post on Sakai and bring to class a short (less than 1500 words) analytic essay supporting a claim you want to make about three course readings, at least two of which you haven't written about before. The fourth essay can alternately propose improvements to the syllabus of this course the next time I teach it. Because paper 2 became optional with preparation for campus evacuation,  will count the grades of your three best papers.  

All papers must be submitted on paper in my mailbox in the Politics Department office and in your Sakai "dropbox" by the deadline named.  (Please don't ask Sakai to send me an email notifying me of your submission.)  Important: the file name of the paper you post to your Sakai dropbox matters.  Format all paper file names like this before you upload them: Democracy.Paper#.LastName.doc, as in Democracy.Paper1.Rapinoe.doc.  This may seem picky and trivial, but I will download literally hundreds of papers this semester and it will be hard to keep track of them on my computer. It's easier to keep track of papers named this way.

Academic collaboration and academic honesty: I hope you study with other people in the class, and discuss the substance of the course with them.  As you do that, I encourage you to read each other's paper drafts and to give advice to each other.  When you do that, acknowledge in a footnote those who have helped you.  If you draw on a specific idea from someone else (or from me!), cite them specifically in a footnote, just as you would cite any source you find helpful.

I also encourage you to read Pomona College's Academic Honesty Policy, which you learned about in your ID1 class and which you can find online in the college catalog. We actually do have an honor code, and it's important.


Paper 1 due: Tuesday, February 4
Paper 2 due: Tuesday, March 3 [This paper became optional because of preparation for campus evacuation.] 
Paper 3 due: Thursday, April 9
Paper 4 due: Tuesday, May 4

Grace Days: These deadlines are real and I will penalize late papers one grade per day unless I announce otherwise in class.  I am generous with extensions, but I will only grant them in advance, so if you need an extension, ask for one. Beyond that, you have three grace days this semester.  That is, you have three extension days (including weekend and break days) to use at any time during the term (except for seniors' Paper 3).  These will operate on an honor system: I will trust you to tell me when you are taking a grace day, and to keep track yourself of how many you have used.


1. The Library: Though most students do most of their research online, alone, unassisted, the Claremont Colleges actually has a library with amazing resources and a staff of trained research librarians who can be of tremendous assistance to you in your work. One of these librarians, Mary Martin, has kindly created an entire resource page on U.S. government at https://libguides.libraries.claremont.edu/government, another on public policy at https://libguides.libraries.claremont.edu/PublicPolicyAnalysis, and a third for political science courses at https://libguides.libraries.claremont.edu/PoliSci. I urge you to start there, and to make an individual appointment with Ms. Martin or one of her colleagues. They can help you find things you would never otherwise find, and they can save you countless hours of unnecessary wandering on the Internet. Librarians can also help you with Zotero and with citation challenges.

2. The Writing Center: All writers need support and feedback on their work in progress. We strongly recommend that each of you - whether you consider yourself a struggling writer or an expert - seek that support and feedback as you complete writing assignments for this course. Each of the colleges has a Writing Center which provides students a community of experienced readers and writers, offering free, one-on-one consultations at any stage of the writing process - from brainstorming ideas to fine-tuning a draft. They also help with oral presentations.

3. The Quantitative Skills Center: Like the Writing Center, the QSC can be very helpful to PPA students. QSC peer tutors can help students across projects that involve data gathering and statistical analysis. They can help with many aspects of your project: research design, methodological issues, data sets, data analysis, and presentations of data through visuals, in writing, and in presentations.

4. Accommodations: Pomona College is committed to complying with the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 by providing reasonable accommodations for students who are disabled. Students requiring specific accommodations for a physical, psychological, medical, or learning disability should contact the Dean of Students office at (909) 621-8017. The Dean will review your concerns and determine, with you, what accommodations are necessary and appropriate. All information and documentation of disability is confidential.

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Politics 142: Anti-Democracy in America
Pomona College, Spring 2020
Prof. David Menefee-Libey

Class Schedule and Assignments

Note: Readings for each day are listed after the date. Readings with an *asterisk are posted on the course Sakai site. Refereed journal articles should be accessed through the Claremont Colleges Library web pages, where you should download them (and enter them into your Zotero bibliographic database!).
Note also: I will probably modify this schedule as we go along.  If I do, I will post updates online, so you should always check the online syllabus before you start reading. The live current syllabus is at https://DML.sites.pomona.edu/Democracy.htm.
Week 1: January 23-25
Tuesday: Opening day: Overview of the course, introductions and class norms
>> Readings: this syllabus
>> *Bartholomae & Petrosky, "Reading With and Against the Grain," Adapted from David Bartholomae and Anthony Petrosky, eds., Ways of Reading, 8th ed. Boston: Bedford/St. Martins, 2008. 10-12.
>> *Class discussion norm sheet
Thursday: Conceptual and theoretical grounding: American Political Development (APD) scholarship, with its focus on ideas, institutions, and path dependence
>> Robert C. Lieberman, Suzanne Mettler, Thomas B. Pepinsky, Kenneth M. Roberts, and Richard Valelly. "Trumpism and American Democracy: History, Comparison, and the Predicament of Liberal Democracy in the United States." SSRN Scholarly Paper. Rochester, NY: Social Science Research Network, August 29, 2017. Available online at https://papers.ssrn.com/abstract=3028990.
>> *Megan Ming Francis. "The Strange Fruit of American Political Development." Politics, Groups, and Identities 6, no. 1 (January 2018): 1-10. If you are logged in to the campus network, this is available online at https://doi.org/10.1080/21565503.2017.1420551.
>> *Laurel Eckhouse, "White Riot: Race, Institutions, and the 2016 U.S. Election." Politics, Groups, and Identities, April 2018, 1-12. Available online at https://doi.org/10.1080/21565503.2018.1442725.

Week 2: January 27-January 31
Tuesday and Thursday: Democracy, constitutionalism, and the rule of law in nation states
>> Levitsky, Steven, and Daniel Ziblatt. How Democracies Die. New York, NY: Crown, 2018.
>> Take a look at reports on data from a series of surveys - one of political scientists, one of the general adult population - about the current state of democratic norms and practices in the US. They're being conducted under the name Bright Line Watch: "Erosion, Polarization, and Norm Violations: Bright Line Watch Survey Report," available online at https://brightlinewatch.org.
>> Charles Kesler, "Trump and Our Political Stalemate," Claremont Review of Books, Fall 2019, available online at https://claremontreviewofbooks.com/trump-and-our-political-stalemate/
>> Victor Davis Hanson, "When There Is No Normal," National Review, January 28, 2020, available online at https://www.nationalreview.com/2020/01/when-there-is-no-normal-radicals-eventually-need-what-theyve-gleefully-destroyed/

Week 3: February 3-7
Tuesday and Thursday: The broader view from political scholarship.
>> Paper 1 due posted on Sakai and turned in by midnight Tuesday.
>> *Robert A. Dahl, "What Political Institutions Does Large-Scale Democracy Require?" Political Science Quarterly 120, no. 2 (2005), 187.
>> *Philippe C. Schmitter and Terry Lynn Karl. "What Democracy Is... and Is Not." Journal of Democracy 2, no. 3 (1991): 75-88. https://doi.org/10.1353/jod.1991.0033.
>> *Melissa R. Michelson & Jessica L. Lavariega Monforti, "Back in the Shadows, Back in the Streets," PS: Political Science and Politics, 51, no. 2, (April 2018), 282-287.
>> *Patrick J. Deneen, "A Different Kind of Democratic Competence: Citizenship and Democratic Community," Critical Review, 20, no. 1-2 (2008), 57-74, https://doi.org/10.1080/08913810802316340
>> *Patrick J. Deneen, "The Ignoble Lie" First Things: A Monthly Journal of Religion & Public Life," Issue 282 (April 2018), 27-32.

Week 4: February 10-14
Tuesday and Thursday: Sectoral thinking: Is democracy only about the public sector (governments)? Should we consider the commercial "private" sector? Or "private" civil society?
>> Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America, Introduction to Vol 1, first published in French in 1835 (This is the 1838 translation by Henry Reeve, published online by the Gutenberg Project.) Available online at https://www.gutenberg.org/files/815/815-h/815-h.htm#link2H_INTR. For an example of the current mainstream view of Democracy in America, read The Library of America's gloss of the book at https://www.loa.org/books/202-democracy-in-america.
>> *Theodore J. Lowi, "Our Millennium: Political Science Confronts the Global Corporate Economy." International Political Science Review 22, no. 2 (April 2001): 131-50.
>> *Patrick J. Deneen, "The Power Elite," First Things: A Monthly Journal of Religion & Public Life, Issue 254 (June/July 2015), 17-19.

Week 5: February 17-20
Tuesday and Thursday: The American tension between civic nationalisms and ethno-nationalisms
>> Adam Dahl, Empire of the People: Settler Colonialism and the Foundations of Modern Democratic Thought. Lawrence, KS: University Press of Kansas, 2018.<
>> Adam Serwer, "The Nationalist's Delusion" The Atlantic Monthly, November 20, 2017. Available online at https://www.theatlantic.com/amp/article/546356/

Week 6: February 24-February 28
Tuesday and Thursday: White supremacy as the predominant ethnonationalism in the United States
>> Marian L. Smith, "Race, Nationality, and Reality." Prologue Magazine 34, no. 2 (Summer 2002). Available online at https://www.archives.gov/publications/prologue/2002/summer/immigration-law-1.html.
>> Stephen Kantrowitz, "White Supremacy Has Always Been Mainstream." Boston Review, July 23, 2018. https://bostonreview.net/race/stephen-kantrowitz-white-supremacy-has-always-been-mainstream.
>> *Chapter 8, "What Happened?" in Sides, John, Michael Tesler, and Lynn Vavreck. Identity Crisis: The 2016 Presidential Campaign and the Battle for the Meaning of America. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2018.
>> *Karen Stenner and Jonathan Haidt. "Authoritarianism Is Not a Momentary Madness, But an Eternal Dynamic Within Liberal Democracies." In Can It Happen Here? Authoritarianism in America, edited by Cass R. Sunstein, 175-219. New York, NY: HarperCollins, 2018.

Week 7: March 2-6
Tuesday and Thursday: Democracy and anti-democracy in electoral politics
>> Paper 2 due posted on Sakai and turned in by the start of class Tuesday.
>> Richard L. Hasen, Election Meltdown: Voter Suppression, Dirty Tricks, and the Threat to American Democracy. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2020.

Week 8: March 9--13
Tuesday and Thursday: Electoral politics, continued
>> *Robert L.Dudley and Alan R. Gitelson. "Chapter 1, Defining the Electorate." In American Elections: The Rules Matter, 1-34. New York, NY: Longman, 2002.
>> Jonathan Brater, Kevin Morris, Myrna Perez, and Christoper Deluzio. "Purges: A Growing Threat to the Right to Vote." New York, NY: Brennan Center for Justice, 2018. Available online at https://www.brennancenter.org/our-work/research-reports/purges-growing-threat-right-vote

SPRING BREAK: March 14 through 22

Week 9: March 23-27
Tuesday and Thursday: Classes canceled after campus evacuation for Covid-19 virus.

Week 10: March 30-April 3
Tuesday and Thursday: Polarization's impact on contemporary American democracy
>> *Thomas Carothers, "The Long Path of Polarization in the United States." In Democracies Divided: The Global Challenge of Political Polarization, edited by Thomas Carothers and Andrew O'Donohue, 65-92. Washington, DC: Brookings Institution Press, 2019.
>> *Matt Grossmann, and David A. Hopkins. "Ideological Republicans and Group Interest Democrats: The Asymmetry of American Party Politics." Perspectives on Politics 13, no. 1 (2015): 119-39.
>> Matt Grossman, "Sorry, but the Republican Party is not in crisis," Niskanen Center blog, (Washington, DC: American Enterprise Institution, January 4, 2018). Available online at https://niskanencenter.org/blog/sorry-republican-party-not-crisis
>> *Adam Bonica, Nolan McCarty, Keith T. Poole, and Howard Rosenthal. "Why Hasn't Democracy Slowed Rising Inequality?" Journal of Economic Perspectives 27, no. 3 (2013): 103-24.

Week 11: April 6-10
Tuesday and Thursday: History doesn't repeat itself, but it rhymes.
>> Paper 3 due posted on Sakai and turned in by the start of class Thursday.
>> Eric Foner, The Second Founding: How the Civil War and Reconstruction Remade the Constitution. New York, NY: W.W. Norton & Company, 2019.

Week 12: April 13-17
Tuesday and Thursday: Anti-democracy in public policy form: inequality and precarity
>> Jacob S. Hacker, The Great Risk Shift: The New Economic Insecurity and the Decline of the American Dream. 2nd ed. New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2019.
>> *Ganesh Sitraraman, "Economic Inequality and Constitutional Democracy." In Constitutional Democracy in Crisis?, edited by Mark A. Graber, Sanford Levinson, and Mark V. Tushnet, 533-50. New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2018.

Week 13: April 22-24
Tuesday and Thursday: Democracy, the Washington Consensus and the political economy of late capitalism
>> John Williamson, "A Short History of the Washington Consensus." In The Washington Consensus Reconsidered, edited by Narcis Serra and Joseph E. Stiglitz, 14-30. Oxford University Press, 2008. Available online at https://doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199534081.001.000
>> Nils Gilman, "The Twin Insurgency." The American Interest, June 2014. Available online at https://www.the-american-interest.com/2014/06/15/the-twin-insurgency/

Week 14: April 27-May 1
Tuesday and Thursday: Federalism and anti-democracy in America
>> Jamila Michener, Fragmented Democracy: Medicaid, Federalism, and Unequal Politics. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press, 2018.

Week 15: May 4-6
Tuesday: Reflections on the course, and how I should teach it next time
>> Paper 4 due posted on Sakai and turned in by the start of class today.
>> No additional readings assigned

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Last modified: March 25, 2020