POS 327-01
US Political Parties & Elections
Fall 2004 MW 8:55am - 10:10am

Professor Angela D. Ledford

Office: Moran Hall #14
Phone: (o) 458-5326 (h) 437-0199
Office Hours: MW 10:30 am - 12:00 pm, and by appointment
Email: ledforda@strose.edu

Course Objective

This course is intended to provide an overview of the role of political parties and elections primarily (although not exclusively) in the American political system. Following an examination of the historical evolution of party systems in the United States, primary attention will be given to three aspects of contemporary parties: the party as organization, the party as electorate, and the party as governing elite. Within these divisions, it will be important to examine the ways in which the party system has evolved (or failed to adequately evolve) to include women and minority groups, the extent to which the contemporary party system enhances and/or compromises political representation, as well as how and why the American party system differs from similar democratic nations. In the latter part of the course, we will examine parties and elections from a comparative perspective. Students will want to question how and to what degree various electoral arrangements influence parties (and vice versa), whether two-partyism or mutipartyism provides fairer and more effective representation, and what electoral schemes provide the most democratic outcomes. Students should come away with a clear understanding of the role political parties and elections play, and have played, in American politics specifically and democratic politics more generally.

Course Requirements

Participation 10%

Evaluation of participation is based not simply on the frequency of participation (though this does figure into the equation) but on the quality of your contribution to the class discussion. That contribution should reflect careful consideration of the course materials (and any additional outside readings and experiences that are relevant). Please take this 10% seriously, as it often makes the difference between a B and a B+, a B+ and an A-, etc.

2 Brief (4 - 5 pages) Critical Essays (worth 15% each) 30%

Critical Essay

You are expected to carefully read and consider the required materials and compose two thoughtful, critical essays. The length of the essays are stipulated above and should be in Times Roman, 12 point font, double-spaced, with one inch margins all around. A critical essay should entail a clear and concise summary of the key arguments and contributions of the text(s). What is/are the central question(s)? What evidence do the authors bring to bear on those questions? The remaining pages are what make this a ‘critical’ essay. You should assess the degree to which the materials succeed and fall short (What do you think is particularly strong about a given piece of writing? What are its weaknesses?). Are the questions the scholar is asking the appropriate ones in your view? Why or why not? Is the evidence appropriate to the kinds of questions being asked (i.e. how convinced are you)? Is there counter-evidence that is not discussed (or dealt with inadequately)? Watch the footnotes/endnotes/bibliography for texts that are referenced frequently or at length. You may want to look at these books (and check out the book reviews) to assess how fairly the author treats them. Be sure you cite appropriately any sources you read and use at the end of your paper.

The topics of these critical essays will be assigned in class and will relate to central issues in the course. Students will have ample to time to complete these essays (approximately 1 week).

3 Exams (Exams 1 & 2 are worth 15% each; Final exam is worth 30%) 60%

Each exam will ask you to respond to both short and long essay questions. The final exam will be longer than the previous two and will be cumulative.


Grades will be based on the following scale:

A = 95-100
A- = 90-94
B+ = 87-89
B = 84-86
B- = 80-83
C+ = 77-79
C = 70-76
D = 60-69
F = 60 and below


You are expected to attend all classes and are responsible for all class work, lecture notes, announcements, etc. whether or not you are present. You are allowed three unexcused absences, after which your final grade will be dropped half a letter grade for each unexcused absence thereafter. You are also expected to have read the assigned readings carefully before each class meeting and participate thoughtfully in class discussions of the material.

Extra Credit

I have a rather strict policy against “extra credit” mainly for reasons of fairness. The requirements that must be met in order to do well in this class are clearly outlined in this syllabus. Offering extra credit that some would take advantage of but others would not would change the weighting of the written assignments for those who chose to complete the extra assignments (since 100% of the total you can earn is all taken up with the written assignments and class participation). That means that the grades would not be weighted equally across the class. Also, the syllabus is considered a contract (laying out what your duties and responsibilities are as well as what mine are). I take that contract seriously, and thus amending it strikes me as generally unfair (just as it would be unfair to the class for me to add another exam onto the syllabus beyond what is stipulated in writing at the beginning of the course).

Primary Texts

Samuel J. Eldersveld and Hanes Walton, Jr., 2000. Political Parties in American Society. New York: Bedford/St. Martin’s Press.

Arend Lijphart, 1994. Electoral Systems and Party Systems: A Study of Twenty-Seven Democracies, 1945 - 1990. New York: Oxford University Press.

A course reader available for purchase in the campus bookstore (all such readings are denoted in the syllabus with an asterisk)

Week One

August 30: Introduction to the course

The Historical Evolution of U.S. Parties

September 1: * Federalist 9 & 10; Eldersveld, Chapter 1

Week Two

September 6: NO CLASS-Labor Day

September 8: * Gerald M. Pomper, Passions and Interests, Chapter 1, “Concepts of Political Parties”

Week Three

September 13: Eldersveld, Chapters 2-3; * Kristi Andersen, After Suffrage, Chapter 4, “Women in Party Politics”

Party as Organization

September 15: * William J. Keefe, Parties, Politics, and Public Policy in America, Chapter 2, “The Characteristics of American Parties”

Week Four

September 20: Eldersveld, Chapters 4 - 5

September 22: Eldersveld, Chapters 6 - 7

Week Five

September 27: Eldersveld, Chapter 8

September 29: *** ESSAY # 1 DUE

Week Six

Party as Electorate

October 4: Eldersveld, Chapters 9

October 6: Eldersveld, Chapter 10

Week Seven

October 11: NO CLASS - Columbus Day

October 13: Eldersveld, Chapters 11 - 12

Week Eight

October 18: Eldersveld, Chapters 13 - 14

October 20: *** EXAM # 1

Week Nine

Parties and Governance: Race/Gender/Sexuality--Adaptation/Reform?

October 25: Eldersveld, Chapter 15; * James W. Ceaser and Andrew E. Busch, Losing to Win, Chapter 6, “The Presidential Election and the New Era of Coalitional Partnership”

October 27: Eldersveld, Chapters 16; * Haider-Markel, Joslyn, and Kniss, “Minority Group Interests and Political Representation: Gay Elected Officials in the Policy Process” (posted on Blackboard)

Week Ten

November 1: Eldersveld, Chapter 17; * Gerald M. Pomper, Passions and Interests, Chapter 8, “The Reform of Political Parties”; * Kristi Andersen, After Suffrage, Chapters 5 and 6, “Women as Candidates and Officeholders,” and “Women and Electoral Politics after Suffrage”

Parties, Electoral Systems, and Democracy: Problems?/ Solutions?

November 3: * Gerald M. Pomper, Passions and Interests, Chapter 9, “Common Impulses: Political Parties and American Democracy”; * William J. Keefe, Parties, Politics, and Public Policy in America, Chapter 7, “The American Party System: Problems and Perspectives”

Week Eleven

November 8: *** ESSAY # 2 DUE

November 10: Lijphart, Chapter 1

Week Twelve

November 15: Lijphart, Chapter 2

November 17: Lijphart, Chapter 3

Week Thirteen

November 22: Lijphart, Chapter 4

November 24: NO CLASS - Thanksgiving Break

Week Fourteen

November 29: Chapter 5

December 1: *** EXAM # 2

Week Fifteen

December 6: Chapter 6

December 8: Chapter 7; * Brockington, Donovan, Bowler, and Brischetto, “Minority Representation Under Cumulative and Limited Voting” (on Blackboard)