Spring 2014 - 63567 - PA388K - Advanced Topics in Public Policy

Politics & Issues of the 2014 Elections

This course will focus on the 2014 election cycle ‹ both the primaries (the first half of the semester) and the general election (the second half). We'll build each weekly class around the central themes of the moment in politics as well as the handful of issues atop of the campaign season's agenda.

Here in Texas, we have five open races at the top of the ticket and at least three hypercompetitive primaries with no obvious or even likely outcome. We continue to see one-party domination of statewide races along and both the House and Senate, although that one party isn't at peace; Republicans battling Republicans over ideologically purity has become commonplace. Our population is growing and changing rapidly, bringing with it a new set of opportunities and challenges. Old fights are being waged anew; on abortion, most immediately, what seems to have been settled policy and settled law is neither. We lead the nation in the number and percentage of our citizens without health care, and yet we refuse to engage the federal government to leverage available dollars on their terms or even our own. We're in desperate need of money and vision on two pressing infrastructure issues ‹ water and transportation ‹ yet both are in short supply, along with the political courage required to build for the future.

A version of these same conversations is taking place in Washington, and if anything the gridlock is worse in the nation's capital than in the Texas capital. A divided Congress, a seemingly ineffective president, an always bloated bureaucracy and ever-present budget battles ensure that the toxicity of our politics and the coarseness of our discourse will persist through this cycle well into the next.

I intend to have big-name, expert guests visit our class each week and discuss, from inside the tent, what's really going in ‹ in races, in the halls of government, from one end of the state to the other, and along the treacherous path from Texas to D.C.

This class will be heavy on discussion and debate, with participation rewarded and timidity discouraged. Every student will be expected to lead a class during the semester and will be graded on both preparation and execution. And there will be a major research project due at the conclusion of our time together.