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Political Commentary Writing: The Presidential Primaries

ENGL 162.301
instructor(s):
Wednesday 2-5:00pm

The 2020 presidential primaries—most notably, the intense Democratic contest—will set the stage for what will arguably become the most consequential autumn election in American history. We will track those primaries week by week, assess their impact on the Democratic electorate, and chart the strategy and rhetoric of the Trump 2020 campaign. These fast-moving stories will be the focus of this commentary writing course, which could not be more timely.

National politics is a 24/7 staple on the stump, on social media, on TV, in ads, and in the minds of millions of Americans who struggle to make sense of the incessant noise. Political commentary writers have a great challenge: seemingly by the hour, they are tasked with making smart judgments, supporting those judgments with empirical material, and communicating those judgments in clear language. They have to cut through the clutter, and engage the reader—smartly, and entertainingly, in a climate where even the dictionary definition of “truth” is under assault.

For all those reaons, only true junkies of national politics—and those who aspire to write about it—are likely to love this course, which puts the spotlight on the difficult art of commentary writing and on the challenges that commentary writers face in polarized era stoked further by cable TV and viral social media.

Students who are passionate about writing and politics will track the ’20 campaigns as they unfold week by week, and write commentary posts about it—on an online blog that has been created for this course. At a time when Americans are more awash in opinions than ever before, our aim is to master the craft of writing clear, responsible, incisive, substantive, and entertaining point-of-view journalism—and backing it up with factual research.