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Political parties have played a central role in extending democracy and organizing power in the United States, yet their worth is a continuing subject of debate. Parties have been celebrated for linking citizens to their government and providing the coherency and unity needed to govern in a political system of separated powers. Yet they have also been disparaged for inflaming divisions among people and grid-locking the government. Critics of the two-party system have castigated the major parties for failing to offer citizens meaningful choices; the Republican and Democratic parties are likened to a choice between “tweedledee and tweedledum.” This course will investigate this debate over parties by examining their nature and role in American political life, both past and present. How and why have the parties changed over time? Throughout the course, we will explore such questions as: What constitutes a party? For whom do they function? Why a two-party system, and what role do third parties play? Is partisanship good or bad for democracy? For governance? How does partisanship become tribalism or hyper-partisanship, and can this be prevented? We will seek answers to these questions both in seminar discussion and through substantial independent research projects.
Grading: no pass/fail option,
no fifth course option
weekly writing assignments, two 5-page papers, one 15- to 20-page paper, class presentation, and class participation
PSCI course at the 200 or 300 level or permission of instructor
Political Science majors
This course is cross-listed and the prefixes carry the following divisional credit: