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Matthew Dickinson

Professor of Political Science

 work(802) 443-3253
 Tuesday 1:45 - 3:15, Thursday 1:00 - 2:30 & by appointment
 75 Shannon 102 B

Matthew Dickinson previously taught at Harvard University, where he also received his Ph.D., working under the supervision of presidential scholar Richard Neustadt, and was a Fellow in the Governmental Studies Program at the Brookings Institution. Matthew Dickinson is the author of Bitter Harvest: FDR, Presidential Power, and the Growth of the Presidential Branch (Cambridge University Press) and co-editor of Guardian of the Presidency: The Legacy of Richard E. Neustadt (The Brookings Institution). He has also published numerous articles on the presidency, Congress, presidential decision making, and presidential advisers. His current book project, titled The President and the White House Staff: People, Positions and Processes, 1945-2016, examines the growth of presidential staff in the post-World War II era.



Course List: 

Courses offered in the past four years.
indicates offered in the current term
indicates offered in the upcoming term[s]

FYSE 1181 - American President Biography      


Fall 2020

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PSCI 0104 - Intro to American Politics      

Introduction to American Politics
This course introduces the institutions and practices of American government and politics. The aim is to give students a firm understanding of the workings of and the balance of power among the American Congress, President, bureaucracy, and court system. We begin with the Constitution, which provides the set of founding principles upon which the American government is based. We then look at how American citizens make decisions about politics. Finally, we examine how political institutions, interest groups, parties, elections, and legislative bodies and rules aggregate diverse, often conflicting preferences and how they resolve or exacerbate problems. 3 hrs. lect./disc. (American Politics)/ AMR NOR SOC

Fall 2016, Spring 2018, Fall 2018, Fall 2019

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PSCI 0206 - American Presidency      

The American Presidency
This course examines the development and modern practice of presidential leadership. Focus is on presidential decision-making, changes in the structure of the presidency as an institution, differences among individual presidents, and the interaction of the president with other major actors, including national governing institutions (executive branch, Congress, courts), interest groups, media, and the public. The course includes an historical overview of the evolution of the presidency, and examines changes in the electoral process. (PSCI 0102 or PSCI 0104 or waiver) 3 hrs. lect./disc. (American Politics)/ AMR NOR SOC

Spring 2017, Spring 2019

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PSCI 0208 - Politics of US Congress      

The Politics of the U.S. Congress
Introduces students to the analysis of Congress and congressional policy-making. Considers how congressional elections, institutions, and policy hang together roughly in equilibrium. Focuses on the internal organization of Congress-committees, parties, House and Senate leadership, rules and norms, and congressional staff. Analyzes the power of Congress relative to the president, the bureaucracy, and the courts, specifically in the policy process. Investigates how unified and divided party control of the government affects legislation in the House and Senate. Finally, applies congressional theories to determine the fates of specific policy proposals in Congress. (PSCI 0102 or PSCI 0104 or waiver) 3 hrs. lect./disc. (American Politics)/ AMR NOR

Fall 2017, Spring 2020

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PSCI 0308 - U.S. National Elections      

U. S. National Elections
In this course we will analyze national elections in the United States. Topics covered will include party systems, electoral realignment, voting behavior and turnout, candidate strategy, the nomination process, the legal framework for elections, the Electoral College, gender, race and ethnicity, the media, the Internet, and U.S. elections in comparative perspective. Although the focus will be on the upcoming congressional and presidential contests, earlier elections will be studied for insight into continuity and change in American electoral politics. 3 hrs. lect./disc. (American Politics) AMR NOR SOC

Fall 2016, Fall 2018, Fall 2020

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PSCI 0312 - Bureaucracy      

How did 9-11 happen? Why did the U.S. believe Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction? What went wrong with relief efforts in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina? Answering these questions requires an understanding of bureaucracies in the American political context -- the subject of this course. It begins with an overview of the nature of bureaucracies and theories for their formation, followed by an examination of bureaucratic actors (managers, operators, and executives) and the context within which they work. It concludes with an attempt to assess bureaucratic effectiveness. Case studies of particular bureaucracies, including those involved in the War on Terror, Iraq and Hurricane Katrina, are included to sharpen analyses. 3 hrs. lect./disc. (American Politics)/

Fall 2017, Spring 2020

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PSCI 0368 - Frontiers in Political Science      

Frontiers in Political Science Research
Nothing is more controversial among political scientists than the topic of how to study politics. In this course, we consider a variety of advanced techniques for studying political phenomena, including statistical methods, game theory, institutional analysis, case study techniques, experiments, and agent-based modeling. We will work with concrete examples (drawn from major political science journals) of how scholars have used these techniques, and consider the ongoing philosophical controversies associated with each approach. Students will have the opportunity to conduct original research using a method and subject of their choosing. (Two political science courses) 3 hrs. lect.disc. (Political Theory)/ DED SOC

Spring 2017, Spring 2019

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PSCI 0425 - American Presidency      

The American Presidency
In-depth examination of the exercise of presidential leadership from a normative and empirical perspective. What are the sources of presidential power, the constraints on its use, and the implications for the American political system? The focus is on the leadership strategies of the modern presidents (FDR through Obama). (PSCI 0102 or PSCI 0104 or PSCI 0206 or waiver) 3 hrs. sem. (American Politics)/

Spring 2017, Spring 2019, Fall 2020

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PSCI 0429 - Seminar on US Congress      

Seminar on the U.S. Congress
The U.S. Congress is the most powerful political institution in the nation, and one of the least popular. To understand why, this course examines theories of representation and how they relate to the contemporary Congress; the historical development and institutionalization of the Congress; the roles of parties, candidates, media, and money in Congressional elections; the legislative process, including roles of committees, interest groups, parties, congressional leaders, and presidents; the impact of representational and policy-making processes on the nature of legislation enacted by Congress; and Congress in comparative perspective. (Open to junior and senior majors) 3 hrs. sem. (American Politics)/

Spring 2018, Fall 2019

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PSCI 0500 - Independent Project      

Independent Projects
A program of independent work designed to meet the individual needs of advanced students. (Approval required)

Fall 2016, Winter 2017, Spring 2017, Fall 2017, Winter 2018, Spring 2018, Fall 2018, Winter 2019, Spring 2019, Fall 2019, Winter 2020, Spring 2020, Fall 2020, Spring 2021

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PSCI 0700 - Honors Thesis      

Honors Thesis
(Approval required)

Fall 2016, Winter 2017, Spring 2017, Fall 2017, Winter 2018, Spring 2018, Fall 2018, Winter 2019, Spring 2019, Fall 2019, Winter 2020, Spring 2020, Fall 2020, Spring 2021

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Recent Publications

“Explaining Trump’s Support: What We Saw and Heard At His Campaign Rallies”, The Forum, Volume 16, Issue 2, Pages 171–191, ISSN (Online) 1540-8884, DOI:

“The President and Congress” in Michael Nelson, ed., The Presidency and the Political System. (11th ed.) Washington, DC: CQ Press. (Fully Revised) (forthcoming 2018)

“Pro: Presidential Power Is (Still) the Power to Persuade” in Richard Ellis and Michael Nelson (eds.) Debating the Presidency 4th. Washington, DC: CQ Press. (Revised) (forthcoming 2018)

“Presidents, the White House and the Executive Branch” in Lori Han (ed.) New Directions in the American Presidency 2nd. (Routledge: New York, 2018)

“Trump, Congress and Health Care: All Politics Is National” (with Kate Reinmuth). The Forum, 15 (3): 431-50 (2017)

 "The Limits to Power Without Persuasion" (with Jesse Gubb).  Presidential Studies Quarterly, Volume 46, Issue 1, pages 48-72, March 2016.

"The President and Congress" in Michael Nelson (ed.) The Presidency and the Political System, 10th edition, Washington, D.C., CQ Press 2014) ch. 15, pp. 406-47.

"We All Want a Revolution:  Neustadt, New Institutionalism and the Future of Presidency Research" 736-70, 39, n. 4 (December 2009)

"The President and Congress" in Michael Nelson (ed.) The Presidency and the Political System, 9th edition, Washington, D.C., CQ Press, 2010, pp. 401-34.

"A Practicum on the Presidency" in Matthew J. Dickinson and Elizabeth E. Neustadt (eds.) Guardian of the Presidency:  The Legacy of Richard E. Neustadt (Brookings Institution Press, 2007)

"Worked Out in Fractions:  Neutral Competence, FDR and the Bureau of the Budget."  (with Andrew Rudalevige) Congress and the Presidency, 2007

"Reexamining the Growth of the Institutional Presidency, 1940-2000" (with Matthew Lebo), Journal of Politics, 65, n. 1 (February 2007)

"The Politics of Persuasion:  A Bargaining Model of Presidential Power" in Bert Rockman and Richard Waterman (eds.) Presidential Leadership:  The Vortex of Power (Oxford University Press, 2008), ch. 12

"The Paradox of Politicization" in Joel D. Aberbach and Mark A. Peterson (eds.) Presidents and Bureaucrats:  The Executive Branch and American Democracy (New York, NY:  Oxford University Pess, 2005):  135-73

"Neustadt, New Institutionalism, and Presidential Decisionmaking: A Theory and Test", Presidential Studies Quarterly, 35, n.2 (June 2005): 259-288

"Presidents, Responsiveness and Competence: Revisiting the 'Golden Age' at the Bureau of Budget", (co-authored) Political Science Quarterly, Winter, 2005, pp. 633-654

"Explaining the Growth of the Presidential Branch, 1940-2000", in Barry C. Burden (ed.), Uncertainty in American Politics, New York, NY, Cambridge University Press, 2003

"The Revolving Door at the White House: Explaining Increasing Turnover Rates Among Presidential Advisers, 1929-97", (co-authored), Journal of Politics, May, 2002, v.64, Issue 2, 434-448