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Politics 130: Campaigns and Elections
Pomona College, Fall 2020
Prof. David Menefee-Libey

Mondays and Wednesdays at 2:30 - 3:45 pm (California time)
via Zoom (address on MyPomona portal and course Sakai page)

Office: via Zoom (address on course Sakai page) until campus evacuation ends. Carnegie is closed to students.
Office Hours: Tuesdays 10:00-noon, Thursdays 2:00-4:00, and by appointment. Signup via Google doc link from course Sakai page.
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

Find a list of sites with course-related information, data, and research at (Note: there are a lot of links on this page, and I do my best to keep them up to date. Please let me know if you run into a dead link, or if you have a suggestion of something I should add.)

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

Course Description and Goals

This advanced course is about the role of elections in controlling who runs governments in the United States. In particular, it is about how campaigns and elections work (or don't) in contemporary America, and about the roles of governments, campaign organizations, political parties, candidates, organized interests, corporations, civil society institutions, and voters in electoral politics. I have built the course syllabus assuming that students already have a working knowledge of American national government -- that is, at least a prior introductory course in American politics -- and have both civic and scholarly interests in politics.

This semester we will be exploring the deepening crisis of the US electoral and governing system, and some of the diverse ways scholars of campaigns and elections have responded to it.  Some scholars have focused on electoral institutions, processes, and practices, seeking to document and explain many broad patterns of continuity and more or less democratic functioning. Their scholarship helps us recognize, understand, and evaluate the current crisis.  The excellent textbook we will use exemplifies this mainstream scholarship, and its authors will help enable students to investigate and analyze the contests we will observe during the election this fall.  Students in the course will work in small groups, and conduct sustained case studies of statewide contests or important controversies, working to test the extent to which their findings follow or depart from common patterns.

We will also read the work of more critical scholars of campaigns and elections, and of the American political system.  Their research shows that, while current events may contrast with some patterns in post-World War II politics, they are not unusual in the broad span of US history.  After all, the United States was founded on sharply constrained electoral systems that excluded women and people of color, and history is rife with electoral violence and manipulation. This semester we will read scholarship investigating the limits and fragility of liberal democracy in the United States visible in the conduct of current campaigns and elections. Groups of students in the class will choose a topic from that research literature, and develop brief annotated bibliographies of both mainstream and critical publications on that topic.

Our modes and methods of analysis will be 1) empirical, 2) normative, and occasionally 3) legal and 4) comparative. 1) Empirically, I will require you to move beyond simple journalism and story-telling. You will learn how scholars investigate, document and analyze electoral politics rigorously and systematically. 2) Normatively, we will focus on elections as one of the potential pillars of legitimacy in the American political system. Americans have always been skeptical of those who govern them, and in recent decades that skepticism has sometimes turned into outright hostility, as many identify government as a problem rather than a means for people to advance their shared aspirations and seek solutions to their shared problems. Yet many Americans still view elections as opportunities to set things right, to ensure that governments in this country can become more responsive and representative of the citizenry. 3) Though I won’t assign readings on legal method, we will occasionally turn to legal analysis as part of our consideration of voting and campaign finance, among other things. 4) Finally, we will read and discuss some scholarship comparing campaigns and elections in the United States with other nations around the world. These comparative readings can give important perspective on how common or uncommon American practices and thinking are, and they can help us imagine alternatives.

To sum up, my goals for the course are that you gain mastery of both content and method.  That is, first that you gain better knowledge and understanding of American campaigns and elections.  And second, that you improve your ability to investigate campaigns and elections rigorously using the tools of politics scholarship.  I hope you will integrate what you learn here into your broader undergraduate education at Pomona College, and perhaps even a major in Politics.

We will use the following course books, the first of which is available through the Huntley Bookstore.

I will supplement the textbook with book chapters, scholarly journal articles, research reports and other materials I will list in the class schedule and link to in the online syllabus, or post on Sakai. (*I'll mark readings posted on the Claremont Colleges' Sakai site.  with an *asterisk.) I will also expect that you read a US newspaper that attempts to give comprehensive coverage, for example the Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, or The Wall Street Journal.  You will also do extensive research and reading on the Interwebs, both through links that I provide in the resource page above and through links you find yourselves.

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Politics 130: Campaigns and Elections
Pomona College, Fall 2020
Prof. David Menefee-Libey

Requirements, Evaluations, and Deadlines

Assignments and Grading: I am offering this course on a Pass/No Credit basis, and my evaluation will be quite simple. Across the 14 weeks of the semester, you must submit at least 10 satisfactory weekly reports by the start of each Monday's class. (I'll let you know by Wednesday's class if a report you submit is not satisfactory.) If you submit 10 or more, you've earned a Pass. If you submit fewer than 10, you will receive No Credit for the course.

This course includes a variety of assignments, and I will do my best to give you some individual feedback on each of these dimensions:

1. Class participation. You should do the assignments and prepare yourself to discuss them during class meetings.  The success of our meetings on Zoom will depend in part on active participation in discussion. Being a student in a liberal arts college means you have a responsibility not only to learn for yourself, but to engage and teach each other through observation, questions, comments, constructive criticism and analysis. I will therefore especially value contributions to our discussions which:

In other words, we all need to talk, but don't just talk for the sake of talking.  Think about what you and others in the class are saying.

2.  Weekly Reports You will a short (500-word maximum) paper for the course each week connecting course readings with either your election case study or a topic you choose for sustained attention throughout the semester. (I'll explain the content and format of these papers more once the course gets going.)

All papers must be submitted in your Sakai "dropbox" by 2:30 on Monday. (Please don't ask Sakai to send me an email notifying me of your submission.)  Important: the file name of the paper you upload matters.  Format it like this: Elections.Week#.LastName.doc (or docx), as in Elections.Week3.Floyd.docx.  This may seem picky and trivial, but I will really appreciate you doing it because I will receive hundreds of papers this semester, and it will be too easy for me to lose track of papers that aren't named this way. Also, each paper must be an MS Word-compatible document (not Apple Pages, Google Doc, or PDF), so I can insert comments into the document file. Any word processor you use will let you save your file in this format.

Note: I will only grant extensions by negotiation at least one week in advance. Beyond that, you have three grace days this semester.  That is, you have three extension days to use any time you choose during the term.  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.

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, 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.


1. Sunday Afternoon Study Space: I will set up a "Zoom room" from 3:00 to 5:00 on Sunday afternoons for the whole semester.  Partly, it's a help session for one-on-one conversations with students about their papers, research, thesis projects, and internship issues. Partly, it's just a supportive study space: students are welcome to stay any or all of that time to work on their projects and classes with other PPA and Politics students.

2. The Library: Though most students do most of their research alone and 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 thesis work. One of these librarians, Mary Martin, has kindly created entire resource pages for students in the Politics and Public Policy Analysis courses that I link to in the online version of my syllabi. I urge you to start with those links, 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.

3. Zotero: Zotero is free, open-source, public domain bibliographic and citation software that works in most browsers and word processing programs. You download it from, where you can also find links to instructional videos, faqs, problem-solving threads, and access to free cloud storage for your own bibliographic archive. If you haven't already installed Zotero on your own computer and started using it for research projects and papers, I'd strongly urge you to do it immediately. It will help you immensely with this class.

4. The Writing Center: All writers need support and feedback on their work in progress. I 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. Pomona's Writing Center will open at full capacity after the second week of the semester, but will be holding limited hours as soon as classes begin. Additionally, Jenny Thomas, Assistant Director of College Writing and Language Diversity, offers specialized writing and speaking support for multilingual students navigating English as an additional language. To make an appointment with a Writing or Speaking Partner, please log on to the Portal and go to Academics > Writing Center, or contact them at All appointments will be made through the Portal as usual, will be online, and Writing and Speaking Partners will be flexible both about the mode of consultation (phone, Zoom, email, Google docs, etc.) and about their hours in order to accommodate time zone differences.

5. 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.

6. Accommodations: I welcome every student into my classroom, and am committed to the full inclusion of anyone who may need an accommodation based on the impact of disability including mental health, chronic or temporary medical conditions. Given our current online learning environment, I recognize that the challenges facing students are different and student accommodation needs may change. I encourage Pomona students who may need some accommodation in order to fully participate in this class to contact Pomona College's Accesibility Resources and Services office, or call the Dean of Students office at (909) 621-8017. (Students from the other Claremont Colleges should contact their home college's disability resources officer.) The Dean will review your concerns and determine, with you, what accommodations are necessary and appropriate. All discussions, information, and documentation of disability are confidential.

Back to Table of Contents

Politics 130: Campaigns and Elections
Pomona College, Fall 2020
Prof. David Menefee-Libey

Class Schedule and Assignments

-- Readings for a day are listed below that day's date
-- I will change some details of this as the semester progresses.
-- An asterisk (*) means the a copy of the reading is posted on Sakai. Let me know if you do not have access to Sakai.

Week 1: Aug 24-26
Monday: Introductions and norms for the semester
» 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.
» *DML, Class discussion norm sheet
Wednesday: How one of our textbooks approaches the big questions of this course, and more grave views of the current situation.
» Sides, Preface and ch. 1, "Introduction"
» Jeremy Stahl, "The 10 Scariest Election Scenarios, Ranked: We asked 10 experts for their worst election nightmares--and how to prevent them from happening",, August 2020, available online here:
» Yvonne Abraham, "A Bipartisan Group Secretly Gathered to Game Out a Contested Trump-Biden Election. It Wasn't Pretty."The Boston Globe, July 25, 2020. Available online at
» [If you're intereested in reading the group's final report, you can find a Google Doc of it online here:] "Preventing a Disrupted Presidential Election and Transition", August 3, 2020

Week 2: Aug 31 - Sept 2
Monday: Defining democracy and naming its dimensions around the world, and in the US
» *Philippe C. Schmitter and Terry Lynn Karl, "What Democracy Is. . . and Is Not." Journal of Democracy 2, no. 3 (1991): 75–88.
» *Laurel Eckhouse, "White Riot: Race, Institutions, and the 2016 U.S. Election." Politics, Groups, and Identities, April 26, 2018, 1–12.
» *Melissa R. Michelson & Jessica L. Lavariega Monforti, "Back in the Shadows, Back in the Streets," PS: Political Science and Politics, vol. 51, no. 2, April 2018, pp. 282-287.
» [Optional, but a helpful piece on how liberal democracies can be fragile and why, especially when they're organized as "presidential" systems, as in the US:] *Terry Lynn Karl, "Dilemmas of Democratization in Latin America." Comparative Politics 23, no. 1 (October 1990): 1-21.
Wednesday: Getting set up for the semester: case studies and topics.
» The Princeton Election Consortium:
» "The Monkey Cage," a Washington Post-sponsored blog with posts from current research by political scientists:
» "RealClearPolitics news aggregator (and polling aggregator):
» "The Upshot" columns at the New York Times:
» Nate Silver's famous outlet, "FiveThirtyEight":

Week 3: Sept 7-9
Monday: Elections are institutions with rules and norms.
» Sides ch. 2, "The American Electoral Process"
» Pippa Norris, "Are There Global Norms and Universal Standards of Electoral Integrity and Malpractice? Comparing Public and Expert Perceptions" (March 20, 2012). HKS Working Paper No. RWP12-010. Available onlind at or
[Optional] *Julia R. Azari and Jennifer K. Smith,"Unwritten Rules: Informal Institutions in Established Democracies," Perspectives on Politics, vol 10, no. 1, March 2012, pp. 37-55.
Wednesday: Comparing the US system with others in the world.
» *J. Tyler Dickovick & Jonathan Eastwood, "Legislatures and Legislative Elections," chapter 9 of Comparative Politics: Integrating Theories, Methods, and Cases, Second Edition (New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2016).
» *Dickovick & Eastwood, "Executives," ch. 10 of ibid.

Week 4: Sept 14-16
Monday Thinking historically and comparatively about campaigns and elections
» Sides ch. 3, "The Transformation of American Campaigns"
» *Dickovick & Eastwood, "The United States," pp. 552-568.
Wednesday: Current controversies, part 1: Gerrymandering
» *David Daley, "Introduction" and ch. 1, "The Mastermind: 'It Will Take Years to Recover,'" Ratf**ked: The True Story Behind the Secret Plan to Steal America's Democracy (NY: Liveright, 2016). Also read one state case-study chapter and be prepared to discuss it in class.
» [Optional: though most of the current gerrymandering is done by Republicans, Demcorats in Maryland have drawn one of the most eggregious maps:] Christoper Ingraham, "How Maryland Democrats pulled off their aggressive gerrymander," Washington Post, March 28, 2018, online at
» (Votes vs seats in Maryland, 2016 House elections): Chris Ingraham, "How Maryland Democrats pulled off their aggressive gerrymander," Washington Post, March 28, 2018. Online at
» (Votes vs seats in North Carolina, Pennsylvania, 2018 midterm): Maggie Aston and K.K. Rebecca Lai, "What's Stronger Than A Blue Wave? Gerrymandered Districts" New York Times, November 29, 2018. Online at
» (Votes vs seats in Michigan, 2018 midterm:) Jordon Newton, "A Midterm Retrospective: The 2018 Election and Gerrymandering," Citizens Research Council of Michigan blog, November 2018. Online at

Week 5: Sept 21-23
Monday: The money in the system
» Sides ch. 4, "Financing Campaigns"
Wednesday: Current controversies, part 2: "dark" money
» *Jane Mayer, "The Shellacking: Dark Money's Midterm Debut, 2010," ch. 10 of Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right (NY: Doubleday, 2016).
» other readings TBA

Week 6: Sept 28-30
Monday: Campaigns as strategic collective action
» Sides ch. 5, "Modern Campaign Strategies"
» [An optional, but commonly referenced, pair of old pieces on stragegy] *E.E. Schattschneider, The Semisovereign People (Hinsdale, IL: Dryden Press, 1960), chs 1: "The Contagiousness of Conflict" and 4: "The Displacement of Conflicts. It's also important to know about a corrective to the way Schattschneider presented one of his main examples: *Gerardo R. López, "The (Racially Neutral) Politics of Education: A Critical Race Theory Perspective." Educational Administration Quarterly 39, no. 1 (February 2003), especially pp. 77-82
» [For comparison with Sides, a very good piece on strategy] *Joel C. Bradshaw, "Who Will Vote for You and Why: Designing Campaign Strategy and Message," from James A. Thurber, and Candice J. Nelson, eds. Campaigns and Elections American Style, 3rd ed. (Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 2010).
Wednesday: Giving more focus to your case studies, part 1
» Sides ch. 9, "Presidential Campaigns"
» [Optional] Sides, ch. 8, "Media"

Week 7: Oct 5-7
Monday: Case study groundwork, part 2
» Sides ch. 10, "Congressional Campaigns"
» Aldrich ch. 11, "The 2018 Conressional Elections"
» [optional] Aldrich ch 9, "Candidates and Outcoms in 2016"
Wednesday: The many dimensions of "parties," and
» Sides ch. 6, "Political Parties"

Week 8: Oct 12-14
Monday: Fall Break! no class
» no readings assigned, either
Wednesday: Current controversy 3: polarization
» *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.
» *John Sides, Michael Tesler, and Lynn Vavreck, "What Happened?" Ch. 8 of Identity Crisis: The 2016 Presidential Campaign and the Battle for the Meaning of America (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2018), pp. 154-200.
» Serwer, Adam. "The Nationalist’s Delusion," The Atlantic Monthly, November 20, 2017. Online at

Week 9: Oct 19-21 Voting and other forms of participation in elections
» Sides ch. 12, "Voter Participation"
» Aldrich ch. 4, "Who Voted?"
Monday: Sociological vs psychological explanations of thinking about voting
» Sides ch. 13, "Voter Choice"
» Aldrich ch. 5, "Social Forces and the Vote"
Wednesday: Voting for candidates? For policy?
» Aldrich ch. 6, "Candidates, Issues, and the Vote"
» Aldrich ch. 7, "Presidential Performance and Candidate Choice"

Week 10: Oct 26-28
Wednesday: Voting for party? Again, for policy?
» Aldrich ch. 8, "Party Loyalties, Policy Preferences, and the Vote"

Week 11: Nov 2-4
Monday: Your case studies and a review of the campaign
» No readings assigned.


Wednesday: What happened yesterday?
» Read everything you can find about your case and the election in general.

Week 12: Nov 9-11
Monday: Planning the final two weeks
» Review readings, consider what issues you want to pursue further
Wednesday: Are Republicans and Democrats just different from each other right now?
» *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.
» *Larry M. Bartels, "Failure to Converge: Presidential Candidates, Core Partisans, and the Missing Middle in American Electoral Politics," Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science September 2016 667:143-165.

Week 13: Nov 16-18
Monday: Gendered politics
» *Kelly Dittmar, "The Masculinity Trap in Electoral Politics," Center for American Women and Politics, Rutgers University, July 7, 2020. Available online at
» *Olga Khazan, "Why Many White Men Love Trump's Coronavirus Response," The Atlantic Monthly, October 29, 2020. Available online at
» *Jessica Bennett, "Trump, Biden, and the Tough Guy, Nice Guy Politics of 2020," The New York Times, November 1, 2020. Available online at
» *Michael Anton, "The Flight 93 Election", Claremont Review of Books, September 5, 2016. Available online at
» *Michael Anton, "The Coming Coup?" The American Mind, September 4, 2020. Available online at
Wednesday: On bringing the presidential election to closure.
» Bartels, Larry M. “Ethnic Antagonism Erodes Republicans’ Commitment to Democracy.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 117, no. 37 (September 15, 2020): 22752–59. Available online at
» Rosa Brooks, Nils Gilman, et al., "Transition Integrity Project: Preventing a disrupted presidential election and transition". Documentcloud. August 4, 2020. Available online at For background on the collaboration that produced this document during the spring and summer of 2020, see the Wikipedia article on the Transition Integrity Project at

Week 14: Nov 23
Monday: Last Day of Class: reflections on the semester, and how I should teach this class next time
>> Sides ch. 14, "Democracy in Action or a Broken System?
» [again:] *Philippe C. Schmitter and Terry Lynn Karl, "What Democracy Is. . . and Is Not." Journal of Democracy 2, no. 3 (1991): 75–88.
» Take notes on the final version of this syllabus

Leftover curriculum unit A: Modes of voter disenfranchisement I: registration purges
» *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.
» *Myrna Perez, "Voter Purges." (with case studies of OH, WA, NV, MO, and KY) New York, NY: Brennan Center for Justice, September 2018.
» [Optionnal, something you read back in September:] *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, July 2018.
Leftover curriculum unit B: Modes of voter disenfranchisement II: felonies and the civic death penalty
» The organization has a web page at with links to each state's rules about whether and how ex-offenders can exercise their right to vote.
Leftover curriculum unit C: Modes of voter disenfranchisement III: Voter ID Laws
» *GAO (U.S. Government Accountability Office), "Issues Related to State Voter Identification Laws," (Washington, DC, 2015), esp. 1-20.
» [Optional, but interesting:] Zoltan L. Hajnal, Nazita Lajevardi, and Lindsay Nielson, "Do voter identification laws supress minority voting? Yes. We did the research," Washington Post "Monkey Cage" blog, February 15, 2017. Online at
» [Optional, but interesting:] German Lopez, "A major study finding that voter ID laws hurt minorities isn't standing up well under scrutiny," Vox, March 15, 2017. Online at

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Last modified: November 16, 2020