LEAD 315
Parties in American Politics Spring 2025
Division II
Cross-listed PSCI 315

Class Details

Is the American party system what’s wrong with American politics? 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, protecting rights, and organizing power. But their worth is a continuing subject of debate. Although parties have been celebrated for linking citizens to their government and providing the unity needed to govern in a political system of separated powers, they have also been disparaged for inflaming divisions among people and grid-locking the government. Other critics take aim at the two-party system with the claim 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 polarization, and can this be prevented? We will explore answers to these questions through seminar discussion, analytic essays, and independent research culminating in the writing of a longer (15 to 20 page) research paper.
The Class: Format: seminar
Limit: 14
Expected: 14
Class#: 3691
Grading: no pass/fail option, no fifth course option
Requirements/Evaluation: In addition to active seminar participation, students will be responsible for writing two shorter (5-7 page) papers and a longer research paper (15-20 pages).
Prerequisites: prior political science course at the 200 or 300 level
Enrollment Preferences: Political Science majors
Distributions: Division II
Notes: This course is cross-listed and the prefixes carry the following divisional credit:
PSCI 315 Division II LEAD 315 Division II
Attributes: POEC Depth
POEC Skills
PSCI American Politics Courses
PSCI Research Courses

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