Spring 2021 - 60739 - PA 388K - Advanced Topics in Public Policy
Texas Democracy and the Fight for Representation-WB
This course seeks to develop an understanding of the unique nature of democracy in the state of Texas. How does a state at the center of so many critical national policy decisions have among the lowest levels of voter participation? Who votes in Texas and who does not? Is it possible to understand why? We will begin by looking at the 2020 election, with additional detail after the Texas state voter file becomes available in January. This will help bring into focus the size and character of the Texas electorate. Then we’ll jump back in time to look at the history of Texas elections and voting rights, with a through line that will take us from the white primary and its defeat in Smith v. Allwright in 1944 to present day voting rights challenges. This seminar will also help students understand what it takes to run a campaign for public office in Texas. We’ll look at the roles that party, money and organizing play in shaping a campaign and its prospects for success, as well as the unique democratic landscape in Texas when it comes to determining access to registration and voting. We will have a chance to learn about redistricting and how it determines the competitiveness of Texas political districts, with the benefit of observing the beginning of that decennial process when the Census Bureau releases its apportionment counts to the states, sometime before April 1, 2021. I will bring in guests who can shed light on these issues, leaders and practitioners who can connect our readings and conversations to their real world work. My hope is that students leave this class with a strong understanding of the factors that have produced our state’s form of democracy with an equally strong understanding of the role that they could play in Texas’ future through the pursuit of public office. The flow and texts of this seminar will be determined to a large degree by the interests of the students who take the course.
COURSE OBJECTIVES By the end of the course, students will be able to:
1. Understand key historical figures and factors that have shaped Texas’ democratic institutions.
2. Obtain a fluency in the national and state policies that determine access to the ballot box - from redistricting to voter registration.
3. Develop the knowledge and comfort to make an informed decision about pursuing elected office. 4. Analyze Texas legislative policy, executive action
REQUIRED TEXTS & READINGS Keyssar, A. (2009). The Right to Vote: The Contested History of Democracy in the United States. New York, NY: Basic Books. Rolfe, M. (2012). Voter Turnout: A Social Theory of Political Participation. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Bryson, C. (1976). Dr. Lawrence A. Nixon and the White Primary. El Paso, TX: Texas Western Press. Daley, D. (2020). Unrigged: How Americans Are Battling Back to Save Democracy. New York, NY: Liveright Cicero, Q. (2012). How to Win an Election. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. All other Required Readings for this course are posted on Canvas. REQUIRED DEVICES You’ll need a desktop or laptop computer and access to Wi-Fi, particularly since this course is being offered remotely.