As Americans choose their next president, this course explores the history of presidential elections via five case studies. It tells the story of key campaigns in US history, and by doing so it explores how politics changed over time—and how understanding the past sheds light on the current campaign.
The five elections that we'll investigate are among the most significant in American political history. In 1800, Thomas Jefferson won the presidency in a contest that encouraged politicians to reform the electoral college, the system by which presidents are still chosen. The election of Abraham Lincoln in 1860 prompted the outbreak of the Civil War. It's an election that helps us to understand the development of political parties. In 1968, the Vietnam War was a dominant concern for Americans, and yet foreign policy played a secondary role in Richard Nixon's victory. Twelve years later, in 1980, Ronald Reagan won an election that initiated a new era of conservatism. As election day approaches, we'll turn our attention to the 2008 election, which many saw as signaling a turn to progressivism and as revealing the impact of the digital revolution on campaign politics.
Who is this class for:
This course is for everyone who is interested in exploring, against the backdrop of the eventful 2016 campaign, the history of presidential elections in the United States.