American Political Literature '24

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Students who don't want to do the writing and don't need to get the course credit for college should consider auditing the course.  

Assigned readings are in the book of photocopies. 

Weekly discussions

We'll meet every Sunday night at 7 p.m. beginning on March 24 to discuss the week's assigned readings. 


Reading Schedule

March 24. In the appendix at the back of the reader, read the three chapters from Allen, Talking to Strangers.  Start with Chapter 11, pp. 161, 165-169 & then read Chapters 3 and 4. 

March 31. Congress part 1: "The Man who Broke Politics," and "The Pact Between Clinton and Gingrich."

April 7.  Congress part 2: Excerpts from Master of the Senate in the Appendix.  "Introduction," xii-xxiv; "The Working Up," 886-894;  and "Hell's Canyon," 895-902.

April 14. "You Do It," 910-911; and  "Yeas and Nays," 944-967. Class won't meet on Sunday. Instead we will watch a film on Monday night.  This film is required for the class. 

April 21. "Yeas and Nays," 967-989, "Omens," 990-998.

April 25 & 28, "Politics and the Media," pp. 50-85. (For the latest on the NYT, you might take a look at the Wall Street Journal article "New York Times Bosses Seek to Quash Rebellion in the Newsroom," 4-14-24. If you don't have it yet, ask me for the free PEA password to the WSJ. There has also been a big controversy in recent weeks around NPR reporter Uri Berliner's article in the Free Press, "I've been at NPR for 25 Years.  Here's How We Lost America's Trust," which says the network suffers from a bad case of liberal group-think).

Some things to think about.  

On Sunday, no mandatory evening class session, but there will be banana splits and maybe some spontaneous discussions re: the above great discussion questions I took the the time to come up with.

May 5. "Citizenship and Polarization," 85-123.  For a researcher who argues that the electorate is less polarized than some of the data makes it seem, see Yanna Krupnikov and John Barry Ryan, The Other Divide. She was interviewed on the Hidden Brain about her findings.  Here's the book blurb from Amazon:

There is little doubt that increasing polarization over the last decade has transformed the American political landscape. In The Other Divide, Yanna Krupnikov and John Barry Ryan challenge the nature and extent of that polarization. They find that more than party, Americans are divided by involvement in politics. On one side is a group of Americans who are deeply involved in politics and very expressive about their political views; on the other side is a group much less involved in day-to-day political outcomes. While scholars and journalists have assumed that those who are most vocal about their political views are representative of America at large, they are in fact a relatively small group whose voices are amplified by the media. By considering the political differences between the deeply involved and the rest of the American public, Krupnikov and Ryan present a broader picture of the American electorate than the one that often appears in the news.

May 12. Two options:

May 19.  Paper is due for those who didn't turn it in last week. Also, all of us will come together as a group to discuss this reading and process our visit to the Holocaust Museum.  BUT FIRST, READ: "Is Holocaust Education Making Anti-semitism Worse?" 141-166.  This reading supplements our visit to the Holocaust Museum this weekend on Saturday. Make sure you follow the guidelines for that visit on the vents page. You are encouraged to read before the visit. If you are not able to attend the Museum visit, you can make up for it by reading the other article in the reader, "Why the Most Educated People in America Fall for Anti-Semitic Lies" or "The Golden Age of American Jews Is Ending," By Franklin Foer.  

What is antisemitism?

A definition advanced by Prof. David M. Schizer during the House hearing on Columbia University April 17: 

"Bias against Jewish people which can manifest itself in ethnic slurs, stereotyping, holocaust denial, double standards as applied to Israel, and antisemitic tropes."

The International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance suggests this "non-legally binding working definition": 

“Antisemitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of antisemitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities.”

According to Emily Blount, author of The Disturbing Rise of Strategic Antisemitism, examples might include: Holocaust denial or distortion--saying it didn't happen, or it wasn't intentional, or even that Jews invented it to create an impression of victimhood--and various conspiracy narratives--saying "Jews are responsible for" ...fill in the blank: "Jews control the media" or Banks; then there are the regular tropes: "Jews killed Jesus," blood libel, "Jews drink the blood of Christian children," and some types of anti-Zionism.  She defines such anti-Zionism as "strategic antisemitism,"  that is, 

"the deployment of the rhetoric of antisemitism to support a nation’s strategic interest--so in the context of the war right now, some countries see the war as an opportunity to advance their national agenda in the region but also visa vis America and other enemies." 

She gives examples of how, predictably, Iran does this but also China as well in more subtle ways, including on Tik Tok,

According to some reports and surveys, 675 of American teens are using Tick Tock. I think it's probably a little higher. But so China has these algorithms within Tick Tock that's creating echo chambers. It's putting fabricated accounts of Israeli atrocities into really heavy circulation and it's encouraging young Americans to take sides on the conflict with little or no understanding or even interest in the history and complexity of the conflict.

Above, paraphrased and quoted from The Gist podcast, April 4, 2024.

Antisemitism and anti-Israel protest

In their May 8 article on the same House Committee's hearing on antisemitism in K-12 public schools, the New York Times included links to these definitions of antisemitism, which seek to find the line between hate speech against Jews and legitimate criticism of Israel.  The Jerusalem Declaration is favored by more liberal American Jews and allows more latitude for criticism of Israel and Zionism that the Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition mentioned above.  

Bret Stephenson's opinion piece argues that pro-Palestinian protesters have undermined the aims of their movement by crossing these lines.