Spring 2016 - 60253 - PA388K - Advanced Topics in Public Policy

Politics & Issues of the Current Election Cycle

This course will focus on the 2016 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, it’s been more than twenty years since there were any competitive elections — either at the state or federal level. Yet one-party domination hasn’t brought that  one party peace; Republicans battling Republicans over ideologically purity has become commonplace. Our population is growing and changing rapidly, bringing with it a new set of challenges that we seem unwilling to address. Old fights are being waged anew; on abortion, most immediately, what seems to have been settled policy and settled law is neither, and don’t tell opponents of same-sex marriage that the Supreme Court’s word is final. 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 inadequate supply, along with the political courage required to build for the future. We produce more crude oil than any other state, but when the boom goes bust, the health of our economy is disproportionately at risk. We have the most contiguous miles with the Mexican border, and yet we seem view immigration as a threat rather than an economic opportunity.

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.

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.