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Democratization in the United States
POLITICAL SCIENCE 5911
To what extent has the United States fulfilled the promise of democracy throughout its history? This class will explore the ways that voting rights, political institutions, and public opinion have combined to limit or extend popular government in the United States. Particular focus will be given to changes in voting rights throughout U.S. history. Why have certain groups been denied or extended the franchise? What are the consequences of altering the franchise for lawmaking and public policy? Readings will be both theoretical and empirical, with specific attention paid to limits on the franchise in the early American republic, fluctuations in African American suffrage, the extension of the right to vote to women, the disenfranchisement of those convicted of felonies, and concerns about access to voting and registration for disadvantaged groups in recent years. Additional areas of focus will include the role of political parties in American democracy, access to office-holding, the role of the media in facilitating democratic governance, the impact of protest and other non-voting methods of democratic political participation, the importance of legislative and electoral institutions for representation, and democratic backsliding. Most readings will focus on the United States, with occasional readings about other countries used to highlight the ways that democratization in the United States is and is not unique in comparative perspective.