Some brief guidelines on the upcoming essay: The narrower your question, the bet
Some brief guidelines on the upcoming essay: The narrower your question, the better, because the more detail you can go into. Big topics (“history of injustice in the United States”) can’t effectively be covered in 1200-1500 words. Ask a narrow, specific question based on the text and seek to answer the hell out of it. Give me details, tell me in the very first paragraph “the butler did it”, that way I read the whole rest of the paper evaluating the evidence of that claim. If you leave me in mystery or vagueness, how can I effectively evaluate the evidence you then present in the following paragraphs? In short, use the thesis to tell me exactly what you’re going to do with the rest of the paper.
Here are a few prompts and ideas to help you get started, but ultimately it is up to you to decide what question you want to answer, and how:
Focus on one of the aspects of the U.S. Constitution that Dahl finds undemocratic (e.g., the Senate, Electoral College, judicial review, etc.) and evaluate, using the Constitution itself and/or the Federalist Papers, whether or not Dahl is correct and why. Be sure to also consider whether the institution was originally intended to be democratic or not and what that may mean for Dahl’s argument.
Consider an aspect of Dahl’s argument and evaluate whether it is accurate or not, again utilizing the Constitution and/or Federalist Papers. A good example might be Dahl’s argument in Appendix A about whether the constitutional framers sought to create a republic or a democracy. Using Madison’s many statements on this matter in the Federalist Papers, is Dahl right or wrong and why?
Evaluate Dahl’s argument comparing the United States to other “similar” democracies. How is he defining “similar”? What kinds of nations is he excluding by his definition of democracy, and what are the consequences of excluding such nations? Is the comparison Dahl makes between “similar” democracies an the United States accurate or valid? Why or why not? Pick one of aspects he is comparing (electoral systems, government structure, etc.) and analyze whether it is a legitimate comparison.
Consider to what extent certain aspects of the Constitution are a result of the specific issues the colonies faced with Great Britain (think of the Declaration of Independence for this) and how the American response to those resulted in certain aspects of the Constitution, such as the power of the president, the bill of rights, etc. How does understanding the context of the writing of the constitution affect your evaluation of Dahl’s arguments about its undemocratic nature?
A few things to keep in mind–you MUST use the assigned material, in this case Dahl’s How Democratic is the American Constitution? as well as the Constitution itself and/or the Federalist Papers. You do not need to use any outside material.