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

Fall 2020
Evening and Weekend
Sophomore - Senior
Class Size: 50
8 Credits per quarter
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The outcome of the 2020 elections will potentially impact U.S. public policy for the rest of this century. The U.S. electorate will be choosing between radically divergent paths on critical issues such as climate change, income equality and health care. How will the COVID-19 pandemic impact the election? As citizens, we will be challenged to make sense of what may well be the most consequential federal, state and local elections of our life time.


This program is intended for those who are looking to develop the skills and knowledge needed to consciously engage in civic life and meaningfully contribute professionally and personally to make our communities better. We will work together to apply the disciplines of media, geography, performance, psychology, and social relations to analyze and learn from events and actions taken before and after the November 3 rd , 2020 election.


With the U.S. presidential election season as backdrop, we will delve into the use and construction of political power—how it leverages cultural trends and reflects the geography of the electorate. We will examine how methods of performance are employed to create images that have purchase on the political stage; including an exploration of the use of satire, rhetoric, “spin,” appeals to values, the invocation of class struggle, portrayals of the Constitution, bi-partisanship, race relations, and gender rights. We will explore what the role of a citizen is and should be as we observe how campaigns attempt to shape public opinion. We will critique action and events as they unfold in real time through political ads, talking points, debates and damage control. We will explore how plays, narrative and documentary films, and other forms of media and entertainment have historically mirrored, shaped, and helped to inform political action and thought. After the election, we will continue to investigate how the victors and defeated interpret and act on the results.
Students will do independent research on the elections, study political rhetoric and events, analyze polls and election results, and work to gain a strong sense of the present state of affairs at the local, state, and national levels. Your faculty will be Mark Harrison (performance studies and film), and Stephen Buxbaum (political economy and former mayor of Olympia). Our goal is to end the program as better-informed citizens, ready to exercise our rights from a position of increased knowledge and experience.

To successfully participate in this program, students will need a quiet, personal workspace, and a computer with internet access and audio/video capability. Students can expect our remote teaching to be around 4.5 hours of synchronous (scheduled) coursework per week, using Zoom and Canvas. Students will have access to alternatives to synchronous (in person or remote) participation if conditions require.



Fall 2020 Registration

Course Reference Numbers

So - Sr (8): 10196

Academic details

Preparatory For

Media, Government, Public Policy, Communications, and Teaching

Maximum Enrollment
Class Standing

$30 (mailing printed materials) 


Time Offered
Evening and Weekend
Schedule Evergreen link
see Schedule Evergreen for detailed schedule

First Meeting