American government and politics



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This is a TAKE-HOME exam, due on or before Monday, December 14.  Please try to answer the questions asked, and go over your exam to make sure you have said everything you want to say in the way you want to say it. Please do NOT write the exam with anybody else or cite material without attribution.  Since the question asks you for your point of view, you should define your position and try to argue it as cogently as possible.  This means that the way you arrive at your answer – your logical reasoning and power of analysis – is as important as the answer itself.   PLEASE MAKE SURE TO CITE ALL SOURCES APPROPRIATELY.


Answer Question 1 and one of the remaining questions.  EACH essay should be at least 1200 words, or about 4 typed double-spaced pages for each question.


  1. (a) Why does Elaine Scarry say that we have a “thermonuclear monarchy,” and why is the choice between “democracy and doom”?  What constitutional provisions does she single out as a way to deal with the situation?  (b) What else would be necessary to bring about the elimination of the nuclear threat?  Include in your answer a discussion of the issues raised in “Night Watch” (the episode of Madam Secretary shown in class), and the Markey-Lieu bill now before Congress which, if adopted, would prohibit a nuclear first strike in the absence of a Congressional declaration of war. (c) Give the best arguments you can for and against the abolition of nuclear weapons by the United States.  (You can consider the possibility of retaining 50 nuclear weapons as opposed to the many thousands we have now.)





  1.              The climate crisis is one of the two major existential threats to the planet.  (a) Explain how the outcome in the video Earth 2100 was the result of failure to set up what might be called a Planetary Climate Management Authority. (b) What steps could the United States take to make a favorable outcome more likely?  Be sure to consider the issue of the diversion of resources to what has been called the Military-Industrial Complex.  (c) How is the situation with the coronavirus similar to the scenario depicted in the film, and how might it be handled more effectively?  OR


  1.  Explain how the 2010 Supreme Court decision in Citizens United v. FEC has changed the political landscape.  Given the court’s conception that corporations are persons, most restrictions on campaign financing were invalidated because they interfere with freedom of speech, which is guaranteed by the First Amendment.  Explain why the opponents of the decision disagree with that reasoning.  On the basis of Madison’s definition of faction in Federalist #10, what do you think he would say about the Court’s decision?  Finally, give your own opinion on the decision and say what you would do to promote a more rational system of campaigning.


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