The purpose of this course is to provide students with a better understanding of how political parties operate within the American political system, with a particular eye to ongoing contemporary problems of polarization between the major parties. In the first unit, we will examine the dynamic of partisan conflict throughout the history of the United States, the functions served by these parties for both citizens and elites, and why the American system favors a two-party dynamic. In Unit 2, we will then consider a variety of perspectives on the widening ideological, emotional, and demographic divides between Democrats and Republicans, both in terms of what explains this polarization, and what consequences for democratic governance we can expect it to have in the present and future. Students will attend lectures and discussion sections, read a variety of both academic and journalistic texts, take two exams, and complete a written project drawing from one of several offered argumentative or research assignments. Students will also be expected to keep up with both current events and ongoing conversations in political media.
Instructor: Sean Freeder