American Politics from A-Z Covered in Summer Session Course

Government professor Andrew Busch will teach a three-week intensive Introduction to American Politics course in CMC’s 2011 Summer Session.

The course is a primer that will introduce students to the scholarly study of government and politics with special attention paid to the political principles and constitutional structure of the American system. During the course, topics and issues will be interpreted in the light of political philosophy, the dynamics of public opinion, interest groups, political parties and public policy.

Professor Busch, who has a scholarly track record that covers just about everyone in American politics from the Founding Fathers to Ronald Reagan, has just returned from sabbatical at Princeton University where he was a visiting fellow in the James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions.

“I was working on two books, one on a history of public policy since the New Deal and the other an examination of social conservatism in America,” Busch tells us. He took time out of his busy schedule to answer a few questions about overlooked politicians and the state of political discourse in the U.S.

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CMC: From recent or past history, who is your favorite American political figure and why?
Busch:
George Washington. He did it all commander of the Continental Army, presiding officer at the Constitutional Convention and first President of the U.S. Most importantly, he willingly gave up his own power when he could have been a Caesar.

CMC: What American politician past or present, in your view, is mostly overlooked and shouldn’t be?

Busch: Calvin Coolidge, who was both sensible and erudite, delivering a very thoughtful exposition on the Declaration of Independence on its 150th anniversary. He was the opposite of a pompous blowhard.

CMC: What do you enjoy most about teaching the course (Gov 20) which is the prerequisite lynchpin for all other government courses at CMC?

Busch: I enjoy the breadth of the course, which allows us to discuss something fresh every few days. I also enjoy the challenge of teaching something new when the subject is already at least somewhat familiar to many students.

CMC: You went to the University of Virginia which was founded by Thomas Jefferson. At the risk of maneuvering you into a position as a “turncoat,” do you subscribe more to a Washington-Hamilton view of a strong federal government, or are you a state’s rights man, like T.J.?

Busch: In the current context, after the massive growth in federal power since 1930, I am more of a Jeffersonian on the question of decentralized vs. centralized government. I may well have been more ambivalent in 1789, when we were starting from zero. In any case, there are many issues today where the division isn’t Jefferson versus Hamilton, but Jefferson and Hamilton versus contemporary ideologies that reject natural rights and limited government altogether. There, I’m with the old guys.

CMC: One of your research interests is the Reagan presidency. What fascinates you about the 40th President of the U.S.?

Busch: Reagan came into office in a time of economic and foreign policy crisis and faced the situation successfully. He showed that American politics does not always have to move in the same direction of centralization, and that political figures can still take inspiration from the Founders.

CMC: What is the best political memoir you’ve ever read?

Busch: It was a memoir by a now-obscure political organizer named F. Clifton White, who wrote “Suite 3505: The Story of the Draft Goldwater Movement.” His account of the organizing that persuaded Barry Goldwater to run for president in 1964 and then secured for him the Republican nomination is both interesting and very useful to understanding the development of the modern party system.

CMC: In light of the recent tragic events in Tucson and President Obama’s conciliatory speech about listening to what Lincoln said were “the better angels of our natures,” what do you think of the recent rather caustic discourse that seems to hold sway in American Politics these days; and what (if anything) can be done to ameliorate the discourse?

Busch: The events in Tucson did not seem to actually have anything to do with political discourse in America, as the shooter seems to have been an unhinged, apolitical loner. I do not think discourse these days is any more caustic than at other times in American history. Lincoln, after all, was called an “ape” (among other things) by his opponents.

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This is the sixth in a series of stories about CMC faculty teaching during the 2011 Summer Session. For additional information on this course, please visit Professor Busch’s profile page for contact information and office hours.

CMC’s 2011 Summer Session begins May 23rd and will offer both three- and six-week courses, all taught by CMC faculty. A full listing of course offerings is available on the Summer Session Website.