Assignments for POL 320, The Congress (Spring 2022)

Thank you all for an enjoyable semester! Keep in touch.

The Journey of "Build-Back Better"

A Look at Current Politics

Congressional Committee Turf Wars: Cryptocurrency Regulation

Flip-Side of Partisan Polarization

Flip-Side Part Two: Try, Try Again

Flip-Side Part Three: Almost Concluded (July 2, 2022)

Flip-Side Part Four: Closer and Closer (July 10, 2022)

Bipartisanship Returns?:

Welcome to the course! Check here before every class to get the exact assignment and to access links that may be part of the assignments. I do not use Canvas, so this is the only place to get your assignments and announcements.

This course covers four aspects of Congress: (1) the history of Congress, (2) the legislative process, (3) congressional elections, and (4) selected topics relating to current institutional behavior. When the course is offered during a general congressional election campaign, the course naturally focuses a disproportionate amount of time on the elections. When the course is offered during a Spring semester, such as it is now, we de-emphasize elections and focus on the history, the legislative process, and selected topics of current interest. The history will be presented in a couple of handout articles and articles in the Dodd and Oppenheimer reader. The legislative process—which will be the primary focus of the first half of the semester and the first exam—will be presented in Walter Oleszek's well-known Congressional Procedures and the Policy Process, 11th ed., a required text. The topic(s) that you select to focus on for your reports and papers will be based on the equally famous Dodd and Oppenheimer text, Congress Reconsidered, 12th ed., a required text, but one that you might want to double up with a another student. You must have access to the latest editions of both texts.

Regarding quizzes: As I indicated in class, I expect to be giving at least ten quizzes (probably thirteen) this semester. Following my usual practice, I do not allow make-ups if you miss a quiz, but I automatically drop your lowest 20% of the quizzes. So each of you can miss a quiz or two with no effect whatever on your quiz grade. I assume that a score of 6 or better on a quiz indicates some familiarity with the assigned reading. So, in calculating your final quiz grade, I will automatically curve your final grade higher if your raw total score indicates an average grade of 6 or better on your individual quizzes: i.e., a raw total score of 60 or more points out of a possible total of 100 points will be raised. Calculate your quiz score here

For the Final Class: May 2d at 2:00pm.

Please bring (1) your completed chapter critique and (2) your typed Question about Congress, about what we've read, or about what is going on in congressional politics to class.

The information that you need about your critique is on the memo Article and Book Reviews Memp linked here. Keep in mind the following: I believe that this accurately reports what I told you in and after class on Thursday. I am looking for evidence that you really thought about some particular part of your article in light of all the other material that we read or talked about in class.

See you Tuesday!

For the Week of April 25th—the last week of classes!:

For Thursday, read chapters 6 (Thelma) and 14 (Maggie and Scott) of Dodd and Oppenheimer and be ready for a quiz on chapter 14 (we already had one on chapter 6). Andrea will supply the extra assignment.

Wiseman and Volden on Legislative Effectiveness of Committee Chairmen

For Tuesday, read chapters 7 and 8 of Dodd and Oppenheimer and be ready for a quiz on each. Thelma will supply the extra assignment.

As I indicated some time ago, there will be a total of thirteen quizzes this semester, of which I will average your top ten grades to determine your final quiz grade (which is worth ten percent of your final grade). Several of you, through either low grades on quizzes or quizzes not taken because of absences or lateness, could really use three good quiz grades to finish up the semester. I urge you to read the assigned chapters and come to class this week prepared for the quizzes in the first ten minutes of the class. A word to the wise.

For the Class of April 21st:

For Thursday, read chapters 3 and 6 of Dodd and Oppenheimer and be ready for a quiz on each.

On Thursday, Andrea and Thelma will present critiques of chapters 3 and 6 respectively. A short quiz on each. Since from this point on until the end of the semester, the presenters will have had ample time to prepare a full first draft of their papers, I will expect a presentation with two pages of synopsis and 2 to 3 pages of critique. Use the Article and Book Reviews Memo linked below for the general directions. I will want a copy of your paper, but I will not grade this draft or hold you responsible for spelling and writing errors: that will come with the final draft that you turn in on May 3d. As Jackie and Sophia did, simply read the draft to the class: no ad libbing or working from notes.

As I explained in class Thursday (April 14th), four of you have yet to do one of the short extra written assignments—Andrea, Ronaldo, Tara, and Thelma. To avoid saddling any of you with an extra assignment on the day that you present, I have worked out a preliminary schedule of the extra, short assignments, which I will send to you individually by email in the next few days.

Again, I will send you the individual assignments in the next few days; Ronaldo and Tara first, and then Andrea and Thelma. You will each have at least three days to do the extra assignment.

Dems losing Hispanic vote.

For the Class of April 12th:

For Tuesday, read chapter 5 of Dodd and Oppenheimer and be ready for a quiz.

I hope the exam was what you expected. I followed the guidelines that I gave you below as closely as possible. If you read the assigned readings, you should be in pretty good shape. I will correct the exams and return them on April 21st, when we get back from Easter Break.

As we begin the last four classes of the course, the format will be as follows:

  • April 12th Chapter 5: Sophia and Jackie
  • April 21th Chapters 3: Andrea (3)
  • April 26th Chapters 7 & 8: Tara (7), Ronaldo (8), and Edward (8)
  • April 28th Chapter 6 & 14: Maggie and Scott, and Thelma (6)
  • Your written five-page review will be due Tuesday, May 3d, of Finals week. The specific rules for this paper are on the Article and Book Reviews Memo linked here and on my main webpage. This review will need a title page and footnotes if you use sources in addtion to your article. Put your name on the title page with a suitable title (but no page number on your title page: your first page of text should be numbered page 1). I will brief you on the rules for the paper at the next class.

    For the Week of April 4th:

    For Tuesday, please read Chapter 9 of the Oleszek book, "Legislative Oversight."

    For Thursday, the second mid-term exam. It will cover chapters 2 and 9 of Oleszek, and chapters 4, 10, and 13 of Dodd and Oppenheimer and the five assigned articles below. It will be an essay exam with four essay questions covering the materials we have gone over since the first mid-term: the budget process, judicial nominations, congressional elections, and legislative oversight. The up-dated vocabulary lists are below, also. I will try to reserve the computer room again so that those of you who wish to type your exam may do so.

    Five Assigned Articles for Second Mid-Term

    Use appropriate material from these articles, as well as material from our two text books, of course, in answering the questions.

    ELECTIONS: An article by Alan Abramowitz making a similar argument to Jacobson's.

    NOMINATIONS: Article on the Senate Committee on the Judiciary vote on the Judge Ketanji Jackson nomination.


    The Oleszek vocabulary list. See the chapter 2 and chapter 9 lists printed in red. See also the list of election terms from Gary Jacobson's article. Though there will be no "definitions" questions as in the first exam, I will expect you to use the appropriate terms from the vocabulary in your essays. Your essays should respond to the questions in precise, accurate, and specific language. No "glittering generalities."

    For next Tuesday, April 12th, please read Chapter 5 of the Dodd and Oppenheimer text, "Women Running, Women Winning."

    For the Week of March 28th:

    The reading assignment for the week is Chapter 4 of the Dodd and Oppenheimer anthology, "Partisanship, Money, and Competition" by Gary Jacobson. There will be a quiz on the chapter on Thursday. We will spend Tuesday going over the basics of elections and voting behavior and probably get into the first few pages of Jacobson's article. We will spend most of Thursday's class on the article, which focusses on campaign financing and the trend toward partisanship that we have bee talking about for much of the semester. A light week. A good opportunity to take a closer look at the chapter that you have chosen for your final critique. The schedule for presentation of papers follows the elections links below. (The reading assignment for next Tuesday, April 5th is chapter 9 of Oleszek, "Legislative Oversight.")

    Here are some useful sites for analyzing/following the elections.

    Voting Statistics

    1. 2004 Exit Poll (CNN),
    2. 1972-2008 Exit Poll (NYTimes),
    3. 2012 Exit Poll (CNN),
    4. 2014 Exit Poll (CNN),
    5. 2016 Exit Poll (Fox News),
    6. 2016 Exit Poll (CNN),
    7. 2020 Pre-Election General Poll (Fox),
    8. 2020 Exit Poll (ABC),
    9. 2020 Exit Poll (CNN)

    Election Results 2016 Map

    Election Results 2020 Map

    2020 House Elections Map

    Incumbency Re-election Rates (Center for Responsive Politics), Incumbency Re-election Rates 1793-2006 (Thirty-Thousand Org.)



    Sabato's Crystal Ball

    Rasmussen Reports

    Article on the "Social Acceptability Bias" or the Bradley Effect

    Factory Towns Turn Red (2016) (WSJ)

    Congressional Elections Ballotpedia

    American Congressional Elections, 1900 to Present

    FEC, Clerk of the House of Representatives, and the Census Bureau

    Original Gerrymandered District

    American Presidential Elections, 1892-2020

    Atlas of U.S. Presidential Elections (Dave Leip)

    Electoral College Calendar

    Here is the schedule for the in-class presentations. I spread the six chapters that you have chosen over the last four classes of teh semester. I have grouped the chapters (1) thematically—elections (chapters 3, 5, 6) and congressional organization (chapters 7, 8, 14) and (2) by the length of the reading assignments for each class. Each class will have a quiz or two on the readings for that class for the students not presenting that day.