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Is the American party system bankrupt? It has been said that parties are essential to democracy, and in the U.S., political parties have played a central role in extending democracy and organizing power. But 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. Other critics take aim at the two-party system itself, claiming that the major parties fail to offer meaningful choices to citizens. This course will investigate this debate over parties by examining their nature and role in American political life, both past and present. Throughout the course, we will explore such questions as: What constitutes a party? For whom do they function? How and why have they changed over time? Why a two-party system, and what role do third parties play? Is partisanship good or bad for democracy? For governance? What is the relationship between parties and presidents? How does partisanship become tribalism or hyper-partisanship, and can this be prevented? This semester, we will explore answers to these questions in a tutorial-style seminar format.
Format: seminar; This course will be taught remotely in a quasi-tutorial style format with students meeting with the instructor weekly in small discussion groups.
Grading: no pass/fail option,
no fifth course option
Students will be responsible for writing three 5-page papers and three 2-page critiques. Students will also be asked to take responsibility for managing discussion and presenting work at different points in the semester.
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:
POEC U.S. Political Economy + Public Policy Course
PSCI American Politics Courses