U.S. Government, Politics, and Public Policy


In this SDG, we will examine the American political system focusing upon its public policies. This course will focus on the “big picture.” What are the driving forces and persistent tendencies of American politics? Who governs America -- how, when and why?

This study group will use as a core text We the People:  An Introduction to American Government, 12 ed. by  Thomas E. Patterson, Bradlee Professor of Government and the Press in the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.

The SDG will address questions, including: Why are American elections awash in money? Why has the power to start wars shifted from Congress to the president? Why does the United States have more people in poverty and yet spend less on social welfare than other major democracy? What accounts for the party polarization that characterizes today’s politics? Why is income inequality on the rise in America? Why has global trade become a controversial foreign policy issue? In the process of addressing such questions, we will engage in analytical reasoning using case studies.

Weekly Topics

American Government: Constitutional Foundations

  • Week 1 Political Culture and Limited Government

  • Week 2 Representative Government and Federalism

  • Week 3 Civil Liberties and Civil Rights

U.S. Political Institutions: Congress, Presidency, Courts, and Bureaucracy

  • Week 4 Congress and Constituency; and Congress and Party

  • Week 5.Presidents and Domestic Policy; and Presidents and Foreign Policy

  • Week 6 Federal Bureaucracy and Judiciary and Supreme Court

Citizen Politics in America: Public Opinion, Elections, Interest Groups, and the Media

  • Week 7 Public Opinion and Political Parties

  • Week 8 10 Campaigns and Elections

  • Week 9  Political Movements and Interest Groups

  • Week 10 News Media

U.S. Public Policy: Social, Economic, and Foreign Policies

  • Week 11 Social Policy; and Fiscal and Monetary Policy

  • Week 12 Welfare and Income Policy; and Regulatory Policy

  • Week 13 Foreign Policy

  • Week 14 Dynamics of American Politics


We the People:  An Introduction to American Government, 12 ed. by Thomas E. Patterson.  The book is available new and used in hardback, paperback, .PDF, and other formats suitable for on-line viewing.   The coordinator will provide additional information on the bibliography at the pre-meeting.