As you (hopefully) know, we are in the throes of a presidential election. This election began with
32 candidates and is now down to just two: incumbent President Donald Trump and former Vice
President Joe Biden. This election looks a lot different due to the COVID-19 pandemic but is still
scheduled to take place on November 3rd across the United States. The official party
nomination for the Repulicans and Democrats (i.e. where the parties make their candidate
“official”) happens at their respective conventions held over the summer. For the first time, the
Democratic convention will be held virtually; Republicans are waiting to decide. This is one of
the many ways that campaigning looks dramatically different in a COVID landscape.
For this first response paper, I want you to compare and contrast the two candidates’ positions
on a social problem. Thus far in the semester we have covered a number of social problems:
healthcare, abortion, mental health, violence (this takes many forms), drugs and alcohol. We will
also be discussing education and economic inequality before this paper is due. Your task is to
compare Biden’s and Trump’s positions on one of these social problems from the sociological
perspective. In other words, I do not care what party you affiliate with, who you are planning to
vote for, etc. This is not a paper about politics; rather it is a chance to take a real-world situation
(i.e. an election) and use our course to analyze it.
In your paper you will do the following:
1) Select a social problem that we have discussed (abortion, mental health, healthcare, drugs
and alcohol, violence, economic inequality, or education). You will be comparing and contrasting
candidates’ positions on this issue so you will have to do a little research. Each candidate has a
website where their positions on various issues will be clearly articulated. You may also need to
find and read additional articles to really understand the candidates’ views on the social problem
you select. If you are not able to find the sources you need, you may consider selecting a
different social problem.
2) Find at least two scholarly sources (major newspapers, public radio, candidate’s website,
etc.) that discuss each candidate’s position on the issue that you have selected. Required: You
must cite any sources (minimum of two) at the end of your paper. If you need support in doing
this research, I am happy to connect you with an Oakton librarian.
3) In 800-1000 words, compare and contrast the candidates’ positions from the sociological
perspective. In your response, you should:
1) Introduce the social problem and briefly explain why you chose to analyze it.
2) Briefly explain what each candidate’s position on the issue is. What kinds of evidence of
objective conditions do they discuss? What are their subjective concerns about the objective
conditions? For example, is there anything in the article where the candidate discusses what the
problem is and what concerns them about it? How do the candidates interpret the objective
3) What policies have the candidates proposed to address this social problem? Do you believe
that these policies will be effective? Why or why not?
4) From what you have read about your selected candidates, do their policies and
interpretations of the problem align more with functionalism or conflict theory? How can you tell?
Your task is to address these questions in a standard, 5-6 paragraph essay. Essays should be
typed, double spaced in Times New Roman 12-pt font and uploaded as either Word (.doc or
.docx) files or PDF (.pdf) to the D2L Assignments folder by the deadline, Sunday June 14, 2020
by 11:59 PM CST. Please note that essays not uploaded as Word or PDF will be assessed a
I will be grading your papers based on the following:
• The essay is precise but concise. In other words, answer the questions thoroughly but
• The essay demonstrates a clear understanding of sociological theory (e.g. functionalism vs.
• The essay includes at least two scholarly sources and uses them to make a clear analysis of
the candidates’ positions.
• The essay uses data and evidence to support all claims.
• The essay is well organized, proofread, addresses all questions and is turned in on time.
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