CoursesAmerican Conservatism from Taft to Trump
PSCI 4991 - 001

American Conservatism from Taft to Trump

How did the GOP come to be dominated by Donald Trump, in the process going from a Conservative party to a right wing populist one? The answer to that question actually requires going far deeper historically, and studying how the party went from being a center right party — one with liberals, moderates and conservatives — in the mid-20th century to a conservative one. The institutions, media, and politicians responsible for that transformation helped laid the groundwork for Trump’s takeover.

Tuesdays, 1:45 PM – 4:44 PM

This reading seminar will dig into that story, as well as illuminating how the rise of the right reshaped American politics — and didn’t reshape American politics. We’ll also look at what this means for the future. Students will have a chance to do original research on a topic of their choosing.

The seminar will be oriented chronologically to the degree that it is possible, spending several weeks on each decade between the 1950s and the 2010s, Yet, we will also focus on several themes and relationships throughout the class. These include the role played by certain pivotal political figures, the ideas that propelled conservatism and bound the conservative movement together, the relationship between conservatives and the Republican Party, and the tensions within the diverse Reagan coalition (which have spilled over with increasing regularity, especially during the 2010s). We will ask critical and often difficult questions involving topics such as the role of racism and bigotry in the rise of conservatism. We will also consider the big picture—is the United States really any more conservative in 2020 than it was in 1950? If not, why do many consider conservatism to have risen politically? At the end of the semester we will ponder whether some of the current conservative divisions are new, or continuations of fissures that have long existed and we will consider the big picture in American politics: are our divisions too big to foster functional governance?

Example Syllabus

Section Attributes
  • NU Sector Society&Soc Struct (NUSS)
  • PPE Public Policy & Governance (APPU)
  • SEAS Social Science (EUSS)
  • Wharton Core Cross-Cultural Perspective: Non-US (WUCN)
  • Wharton UG Core Flex GenEd (WUFG)

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