Congressional politics today is marked by discord, disagreements, and dysfunction. Is this the way Congress is supposed to work? Sean Theriault, award-winning professor of government from the University of Texas, Austin, will give us an illuminating tour of the current Congress and a tantalizing glimpse of what we might expect as elections for the new Congress unfold in 2012.
February 2: The Current Congress
The 2008 and 2010 elections sent sharply different messages and very different people to Washington, D.C. The issues have been equally perplexing. A languishing war in Afghanistan and a limping economic recovery have made the politics in our nation’s capital some of the most interesting in decades. How have the Democrats who triumphed in 2006 and 2008 and survived 2010 interacted with Tea Party Republicans in forging a path forward – or not? Professor Theriault will provide an enlightening look at the difficult tasks facing Congress and also at the genius behind the constitutional framework.
February 16: The 2012 Congressional Elections
Although the presidential race usually enjoys top billing, the 2008 and 2010 elections prove that the president is elected as the head of only the Executive Branch of the U.S. government. At times, Congress is led by the president; but often, Congress is stymied by Congress. Professor Theriault will use the broad contours of the presidential race as a backdrop for a look at the politics of the congressional races eight months before the first ballots are cast. His insights about the way our political process works will apply not only to the 2012 elections but also to those in 2014, 2016, and beyond.
Sean Theriault, associate professor of government at the University of Texas in Austin, holds two of the university’s highest teaching awards: Professor of the Year in 2011, and, in 2009, the Friar Society Teaching Fellowship, the highest undergraduate teaching award. He teaches courses in American politics and political methodology, with specialties in congressional politics, American political institutions, elections and voting behavior, and party polarization.