American Poilitics

The paper should be at least one (1) full page, double spaced, and in standard format (around 300 words).

A convenient way to think of this assignment as if it were an opinion article in mainstream print media (e.g. The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal or The Washington Post, etc.).  However, it will likely be shorter than the average opinion article featured in such sources.  Reading such articles is valuable in itself and for the purpose of obtaining a good model for this assignment.

Use at least two sources, cited in footnotes or in another clear way the precise format of citations does not matter as long as I can easily track down your sources online. (However real opinion articles in newspapers generally do not cite sources in the academic fashion.)

Compose a clear thesis statement from which the subsequent paragraphs of the paper logically follow.

The thesis statement should be the first sentence, or even the title, of the paper. It is recommended to underline and bold the thesis statement.

Cite relevant evidence.

Interpret and incorporate that evidence in clear logical argumentation (reasoning) that supports your thesis and is aimed to convince.

The relatively short length of this assignment (at least 1 page or around 300 words) necessitates a high degree of efficiency and clarity in your writing.

Standard of evaluation:  If the paper is clear, informed and shows basic effort to engage the political issue youve selected in a thoughtful, precise and efficient way, you can easily earn an A on this paper.  The content of the opinion itself does not influence my grading. 


Choose a topic concerning American politics about which you are highly interested. Take a position on that topic while briefly explaining the most important contrasting view(s). Aim to make a convincing case for your position. The goal is only a brief and clear statement supported by evidence and reasons.

Examples of topic questions. You may choose one of these examples, however, choosing your own topic may make writing the paper more engaging and expeditious. You do not need my approval so long as the topic is of political importance and the paper follows the requirements listed, above. If you do want to run your ideas by me, please do so by e-mail!  We can also discuss these over the telephone (as a telephone office hours).

–On the one hand, in MLK’s last speech, and elsewhere, he states that the goal of his political activity is the realization of classically liberal concepts of liberties and rights (and more recent articulations of liberties and rights elaborated upon this classically liberal basis). All these are logically derivative of the social contract argument. The social contract argument relies upon postulates of individual self-interest and rationality and is ethically neutral, i.e. neutral toward systems of ethics or virtues such as religions which had structured earlier models of politics. But, on the other hand, ethics are centrally important for MLK, as on display in his final speech (the “mountaintop speech”) and in Letter from Birmingham Jail. What is the best way to conceive of this contrast?

–What is the value of protest, including civil disobedience, to the future of politics?

–Alexis de Tocqueville argues that, in America, “the body is free, but the soul is enslaved.” This position derives not primarily from his observations of American life, but his understanding of fundamental principles of liberal democracy that structure the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution and Bill of Rights. What does he imply is a better alternative to this “enslaved” American soul? Is that alternative better? (We didnt cover Tocqueville in lecture this semester (Fall 2020).  This is a question from a previous semester.  However, Im including it in case you wish to respond to it.  You can request from me by e-mail selections from Tocquevilles Democracy in America to serve as the basis for your study of these issues.)

–How can Congress improve its abysmally low level of trust (or confidence) in American public opinion?

–Donald Trump campaigned on a promise to appoint justices that will overturn Roe v. Wade. Will this happen in the near future? (What is your analysis of recent politics surrounding the supreme court?)

–Select one stated legislative priority of the Republican party or Democratic party and provide your analysis of whether that priority can be achieved, or to what extent it can achieved, in the near term.

–In the 1973 case of Buckley v. Valeo the supreme court defined campaign finance money as “speech” and, thus, entitled such money to constitutional protection. What is your position on this?

–What problems does the state department currently face in terms of its organizational strength? 

–Consider the documentary “Obama’s Deal” or other sources. Clearly define the chief obstacles that need to be overcome if a single-payer national health insurance law is to be enacted. Propose a strategy for overcoming these obstacles.

–What is the future of Trumpism, if any? (You may consider the prompt from this angle, if you wish:  Senator Mitch McConnell has retained you as an expert political advisor to formulate Republican party strategy what is the most important thing you will wish to convince him to do? And why?)

–Is mainstream political media (CNN, MSNBC, Fox, etc., etc.) too politically polarized or not polarized enough?

–What, if any, effect will growing popularity of right-wing broadcast media (Newsmax, OANN, and other sources two the right of Fox News) have on the future of politics in the near term?  You may think of this prompt also as such: based on your analysis, identify one key development in this area and explain what effect you think it will have on the future of politics in the near term.

–Consider recent controversies concerning social media (such as Facebook and Twitter) and issues of free speech and the political involvement of social media giants in general.

–A very broad topic:  cite relevant evidence of the strength or weakness of representative democracy and explain how what you think this evidence means for the future of representative democracy. (You may wish to investigate pro-democracy or authoritarian politics of recent times outside US borders.  For example:  in Hong Kong (pro-democracy) or in North Korea (authoritarian or totalitarian and for which detailed information is often not available).

–Weigh in on the issues surrounding systemic racism in the US (e.g. George Floyd protests, Black Lives Matter, etc.).  As the writer of this opinion article, what is it that you wish to communicate to your readers?  And what are the reasons that will serve best to convince them of your position?

–Is an originalist approach to legal interpretation or a consequentialist approach more reasonable?

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