It is 2020, and thus time for that quadrennial exercise in expensive (also sometimes ludicrous and scary) political theaterand media madness otherwise known as the U.S. Presidential Election.
Serving as both a national cultural event, as well as a contest for political power, the presidential selection process has long been a core element in the formation
and re-formation of national self-identity, perhaps never more so than now (atleast since the 1860 contest on the eve of the U.S. Civil War), as, without
hyperbole, this year’s “battle” (and in the current hyper-partisan/tribal order of U.S. politics, the “war” analogy is more applicable than ever) may well
determine the fate of the nation, and perhaps much of the rest of the remaining small “l” liberal democratic order around the world for decades to come.
Why? Well, if Donald Trump wins re-election, it will mean his 2016 victory was not a “fluke,” and the oldest, continuously-running
democratic republic in the world (not to mention the world’s still-biggest economy and strongest strategic power) will remain under the control of conservative,
nationalist, anti-intellectual, right-wing demagoguery (further encouraging like-minded groups in Europe and elsewhere) for the foreseeable future, and just
when “we” are most in need of wise, far-sighted solutions to urgent national and international problems including an expansionist/authoritarian China (and
Russia) and the looming climate/environmental emergency.
Needless to say, we can only begin to address some of these issues within the limited confines of the class, but we can:
1) Increase your understanding of U.S. culture by exploring the origins, evolution and “mechanics” of the U.S. government(s) (national,
state and local) and election process (the electoral college, primaries, funding, redistricting, etc.), as well as the general outlines of the nation’s
political “landscape,” including its cultural, economic and other foundations; and
2) Better understand and analyze the ever-expanding political-media landscape as it intersects with and drives the U.S. election process.
1). As students will choose a particular U.S. state to focus on during the semester (though a national contest, of course, the U.S. election system is still
state-based), they will get a more in-depth view of specific locales and regions within the diverse patchwork which is the contemporary United States.
Meanwhile: 2) Students will get to know and practice some of the rudiments of political journalism (a very large area in Anglophone writing), and in the
process sharpen their analytical writing and speaking/presentation skills in English.