Unpacking 2020: Contemporary Political Trends


Spring 2021

M, 7 - 8:30PM, location TBA

If there was one word that Americans heard more than any other in 2020, it was “unprecedented.” A year full of vivid images supported this sentiment. A nurse in full PPE gear working long hours to combat COVID-19 and “flatten the curve.” A state unemployment website completely crashed due to the influx of millions of Americans freshly out of work. Smoke and haze from wildfires stretched across the sky from California to the East Coast. Two septuagenarian presidential candidates. Protests in thousands of cities across America. In a year of such an ostensibly unprecedented onslaught of crises and monumental events, it was easy to be yanked along by the 2020 roller coaster without much time to think and reflect about the causes and implications of world events. Now, with some time to breathe and reflect, we can perform a post-mortem of 2020. Using historical and analytical perspectives, this class will analyze and evaluate the events of 2020. In particular, we will discuss and debate the key issues of 2020 through the lens of longer term political trends. Were the events of 2020 truly as “unprecedented” as popular sentiment suggests, or are there longer term, less obvious trends at work?

  • Pranav Athimuthu, pranav.athimuthu@duke.edu
  • Ridge Ren, ridge.ren@duke.edu
  • Thomas Ross, thomas.w.ross@duke.eduduke.edu
  • Michael Gillespie, Political Science
Class Limit