Playing Politics: Psychology, Performance, Strategy, and the Elections in Real Time

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Fall 2016 and Winter 2017 quarters

Taught by

The 2016 electoral cycle was unlike any other in modern history.  The surprising election of Donald Trump—a billionaire developer, reality tv star and political neophyte—revealed an electorate clamoring for “change.”  But change to what?  In Fall Quarter we studied American electoral politics at all levels—local, state and national.  We delved into the use and construction of political power—how it leverages cultural trends and reflects the geography of the electorate.  Satire, rhetoric, “spin,” appeals to values, the invocation of class struggle and outrage, portrayals of the Constitution, bi-partisanship, race relations, LGBTQ and gender rights—all of these were part of our curriculum.  We followed the campaigns as they unfolded in real time—through political ads, talking points, debates, and damage control.  Fake news through social media became a significant factor in (mis)informing the public.  We learned how tactics of performance are employed to create images that have purchase on the political stage.  We also analyzed plays, narrative and documentary films, and other forms of art and entertainment to determine how they can reflect or shape political action and thought.  In Winter Quarter we’ll consider the Inaugural Address (and the first 100 days) of President-elect Donald Trump as it compares to those of past presidents, as well as scrutinize the start of new national and state congressional sessions.  How will newly elected and continuing politicians frame their plans for the future?  How will the Democratic Party seek to resolve its internal contradictions and bolster its electoral appeal?  What are the implications when a candidate wins the Electoral College but loses the popular vote by two million votes?  Are there historical precedents that can help us understand this election?  What will this mean for minorities?  How might protest, in the form of theatre, marches and other actions, influence policy in the new administration?  Will Trump govern on a hard right platform or tack to the center to appease the political opposition?  What can we, as an informed electorate, anticipate from the next political cycle?  Students who enroll in this program should expect to do independent research on the elections, study political rhetoric and events, analyze polls and election results, and gain a strong sense of the present state of affairs at local, state, and national levels, in the context of American political history.  Expect a field trip to a stage performance or other relevant event. We will end this program as better informed citizens, more ready to exercise our rights from a position of knowledge


Fall Open Winter Open

Location and Schedule

Campus Location


Time Offered

Evening and Weekend

Advertised Schedule

Wednesdays , 6-9:30 p.m. and five Saturdays, 10 a.m. - 5 p.m. First Winter class meeting is Wednesday, January 11, 6pm, Seminar 2 D1105. Fall Quarter Saturdays (10am - 5pm): Oct 8, 22, Nov 5, 19, Dec 3.  Winter Quarter Saturdays (10am - 5pm): Jan 21, Feb 4, 11, 25, Mar 11


Online Learning

No Required Online Learning


$25 fee per quarter for performance tickets.