Obert will teach an introductory course this fall on understanding American politics. How can alumni deepen their own understanding this election season? Here, he recommends four sources.
The Wire (TV Series):
The whole series (but especially season 4) is, to my mind, the best fictionalized representation of local politics in U.S. history. In particular, the ways in which various constituencies (the city police force, organized criminal gangs, real estate development agencies, school administrators) in urban Baltimore in the early 2000s shape and mimic each other while forcing often uncomfortable and seemingly irrational outcomes make for both a fascinating narrative and a trenchant analysis of organizational decision-making.
The Monkey Cage (Blog):
This group blog—administered by eminent political scientists and hosted at The Washington Post—is a great place to keep up to date on cutting-edge research written with a general audience in mind.
Southern Politics in State and Nation (by V.O. Key, 1949):
If you read only one book on U.S. politics, let it be this one. It tackles questions of federalism, party realignment, voting behavior and about every other theoretical and empirical question in American politics research with creativity and clarity. A bona fide classic.
American politics means American history, and nobody does a better job of exploring and explaining the nuances of this history than the crew at Backstory. Try episodes on Supreme Court politics (“Above the Fray?”) or the long history of terrorism (“Fear Tactics”).