This course aims to foster a critical sense for analyzing some of the most pressing issues in contemporary American politics. To that end, we will explore the historical and theoretical foundations of the American system of government as well as its major political institutions. We will consider the historical lineage and continuity of colonial violence and racial oppression as key foundational realities. The distinction between procedural versus substantive democracy will serve as an overarching theme for the semester. We will assess the virtues and practical limitations of American politics, its stated ideals as well as its profound inequality. President Biden’s first term and will inevitably draw some of our attention, as will the COVID-19 pandemic, which has killed 626,000 Americans and exposed stark structural inequalities in the process. By assessing the distribution of power in American society, we will attempt to comprehend the myriad forces—including race, gender, and class— that determine, in part, the material conditions of our existence and frame the range of political action available to us as participants in the world’s oldest constitutional democracy.