Political Parties and Elections
Poli Sci 324 (formerly C24)
Fall, 1999

Kenneth Janda

Political Science 324 (formerly, C24)

Fall, 1999

Political Parties and Elections

Mr. Janda

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Many U.S. citizens proudly proclaim, "I vote for the person, not the party!" This smug phrase verges on a declaration of civic ignorance. A candidate's party affiliation is probably the most important thing that citizens can know for certain in their voting choices. Nevertheless, many Americans hold anti-party attitudes. Why? What is the nature of political parties in the U.S.? Are our parties different from those in other countries? If so how, and how does the difference affect the functioning of our political system?

This course will consider such questions, as we cover topics on party organization, candidate nomination, campaign finance, electoral systems, party competition, and party cohesion in government. We will pay special attention to what has been called the "paradox" of political parties in contemporary U.S. politics. The paradox is that while partisanship within the electorate has declined in recent decades, both the Democratic and Republican party organizations have grown stronger, and both parties have shown more cohesion in their congressional voting.

Given what you see and hear in the media, you probably don't believe that the Democratic and Republican party organizations have become stronger. Although counter-intuitive, this claim is backed by clear and convincing evidence. Paradoxically, feelings of partisanship within the electorate are declining while the organizational strength and legislative cohesiveness of U.S. parties is increasing. What explains this paradox?





William J. Keefe, Parties, Politics, and Public Policy in America, 8th ed., paper. Washington, D.C.: Congressional Quarterly Press, 1998.

Martin P. Wattenberg, The Decline of American Political Parties, 1952-1996 (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1998).

David M. Farrell. Comparing Electoral Systems. London: Macmillan, 1998.

The texts for this course are available at Norris and at SBX. Wattenberg's book makes the case for decline in partisanship since 1952. However, his book does not consider at any length what parties really do nor how they are organized. That's the function of Keefe's book, a comprehensive text on American political parties that will provide the framework for the course. Farrell's book, which we will take up after the midterm, reviews various ways other nations use to elect candidates for public office.




This course requires a paper, not more than 7 pages double-spaced, based on your own research into political parties and election systems in other countries.The paper should analyze the contest against the theories and findings covered in your readings and discussed in class. Additional explanation of the research paper, which is due Nov. 24, will be described later on the class web page.



The course will be conducted in lectures three days a week--on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday--at 10:00 am in Annenberg G-21, a "smart" classroom that I'll use frequently during lectures.


Teaching Assistants will conduct discussion sections on Thursdays and Fridays. They will also discuss research paper topics and grade your research papers.



Your performance will be assesssed as follows: 25% on the midterm exam, October 18; 20% on the research paper; 15% on participation in discussion sections; and 40% on the final examination, December 10.




You will be expected to have read the assignments prior to the class meeting for which they are listed. I will refer in my lectures to the reading material, but I will often emphasize other topics. To do well in this class you will have to read the texts and attend the lectures and keep abreast of course developments by consulting my course web site at <janda.org/c24> at least every other day.