A Few Reasonable Words

A Few Reasonable Words features three professors trying desperately to soothe the frayed nerves of the American public with the comforting balm of political science. We analyze current political events through the lens of political theory and research in American politics. Every week we offer a quick reminder about the basics in a segment called Civics for Grownups. We also include recommended readings. Learn more:
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A Few Reasonable Words




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Now displaying: 2017

A podcast from three professors trying desperately to soothe the frayed nerves of the American public with the comforting balm of political science.

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Dec 25, 2017

In our special holiday episode, we share our Christmas wish lists: what we're asking to get from Political Science Santa. That's a thing, right?

Dec 22, 2017

Congress met their goal of passing a tax cut bill before Christmas, which means its to talk about the basics of taxation, the highlights of the bill, and what is likely to follow from the most significant piece of tax legislation since 2001.

Dec 14, 2017

Alabama elected a Democratic Senator! Democrats ran the tables in Virginia! How did that happen? What does this mean for the Democrats? What does this mean for the Republicans? Did Doug Jones really win this, or was Roy Moore just a singularly weak GOP candidate? Was this an aberration, or might it signal something bigger afoot?

Dec 4, 2017

What is diplomacy, why is it important, and how does it work? How can we know if diplomacy has been successful? Is it just when we’re not currently at war, or is it more complicated than that? Special guest Dr. Emily Edmonds-Poli helps us answer all your diplomacy-related questions.

Nov 4, 2017

What exactly do we know about Russian interference in the election? There is a lot of news about Russian interference, shady dealings, meetings, fake news, bots, and all manner of complicated goings on about our last election. In the wake of tech companies like facebook and twitter coming before congress to give an account of their behavior, we thought it might be nice to take stock of what we know about Russian interference and ask some questions about how Americans should feel about foreign meddling in our elections.

Oct 28, 2017

What's the deal with lobbying? How powerful are lobbyists, really? Nobody seems to like it, but it doesn't seem to be going anywhere. Should we be mad about that, or is the public image of lobbying as an all-powerful enemy of democracy inaccurate?

Oct 17, 2017

Despite enjoying popular support, federal gun control legislation seems all but impossible. Is the NRA really bribing representatives? Not exactly, but they have an awful lot of influence, and we explore the politics of interest groups to understand why.

Oct 3, 2017

What do NFL Players & tiki-torch wielding Nazis have in common? They put our ideas of freedom of speech to the test! How far do (or should) the legal protections of free speech extend? What exactly is the relationship between the first amendment and the principle of freedom of expression? Does the first amendment really protect speech that many believe by its very nature can harm vulnerable people? What are the best arguments for and against restricting hate speech? Should we try to stop the Nazis from spreading their hateful ideas or do our principles of free speech provide a good enough reason to allow them to speak, no matter how much we hate what they have to say?

Sep 25, 2017

From sanctuary states to repealing Obamacare, How should we think about conflicts between the federal government & state governments? Is there any clear way to determine who has the right to set policy, or is our system built for constant conflict between the states and the federal government? And if so, is that a good thing? 

Sep 19, 2017

How worried should we be about civic ignorance? Most Americans know very little about government, but is that a problem for democracy? And if so, what should we do about it?

Sep 12, 2017

What is (was) DACA? Who is affected by the program? And how well do the administration's claims about needing to rescind DACA for separation of powers reasons hold up to scrutiny?

Jul 26, 2017

Congress gets a recess and our students get summer break, so we figured we could take a vacation as well. 

Jul 11, 2017

Why do politicians seem to never stop campaigning? Has our democracy lost touch with the difference between governing and electioneering? Should we be mad about all this? And if it is a bad thing, how much of it is the media’s fault? (Hint: A lot) 

Jul 3, 2017

Everybody knows the Declaration of Independence, but there’s nothing quite like political scientists nerding out on founding documents, so grab a hot dog and check out the fireworks while we break down America’s great Dear John letter to England.

Jun 24, 2017

The Senate finally released their super-secret bill for restructuring the American Health Care system, so we’ve decided to re-run our “Lawmaking 101” episode in hopes of getting everybody back up to speed just in time for health care battles anew!

Jun 15, 2017

What does it mean for the President to invoke executive privilege? Is executive privilege actually in the Constitution? Do Presidents only invoke executive privilege when they have something to hide? And isn’t getting to live in the White House privilege enough?

Jun 10, 2017

Folks wring their hands about our President’s use of social media, but how much do his tweets really matter for politics, policymaking, or the presidency? How does Twitter compare to previous technological innovations like radio and television? Should we care that our president seems addicted to twitter? And how seriously should we take his tweets? 

Jun 3, 2017

We believe in the rule of law. We believe the president is above the law. But how do we hold the executive branch accountable for wrongdoing when it’s the executive branch’s job to investigate and try wrongdoing?


May 20, 2017

What is the rule of law, exactly? Where did the idea of the rule of law come from and why do we care about it so much? Does it just mean following whatever the laws say, or is it something more particular than that? And does every society with laws follow the rule of law, or can you have laws but not follow the rule of law? Can breaking the law ever be a way to respect the rule of law? And what on earth does firing the FBI director have to do with the rule of law?

May 13, 2017

What is Trumpism? Is it even a thing? How does it relate to American Conservatism? Is it at all distinct from the cult of personality around Trump himself? If in 20 years, we see politicians calling themselves "Trumpists," what might that look like? How will we know if they are really doing Trumpism or something other thing entirely? 

May 5, 2017

What is conservatism? What is its history? Is it a set of ideas or a kind of temperament? What are its core ideas? What are the differences among conservative thinkers? Is it right to call the GOP conservative? And why is it called "the right" anyway?

Apr 29, 2017

Donald Trump has been President for 100 days! Has it really only been that long? Why do we fixate on a President's first 100 days? How successful has Trump been, and how does he match up with other Presidents? And if this is what 100 days feels like, how will we feel after the next 1360? 

Apr 23, 2017

Why are college students always protesting? What is the history of campus protest? When are campus protests effective? How do ideals like academic freedom and free speech relate to protesting on campus? And how should we feel about protests of controversial speakers? Is 'no-platforming' a good way to prevent the proliferation of false or dangerous ideas, or an unreasonable affront to free speech?

Apr 15, 2017

Folks seem to be in a protesting mood these days, but how much do we really know about protests? What are the varieties of protests? What are the rights of protesters? How effective are protests in changing public opinion or policy?

Apr 6, 2017

What's the deal with filibusters? How do they really work & why do we have them? Do they only happen in the Senate? And why don't they still have to stand & talk to keep them going? 

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