Political Science 305

American Political Parties & Elections

Fall 2005

Professor Mikel Wyckoff

Office: Zulauf 403

mwyckoff@niu.edu 753-7056



"Without parties there can be no organized and coherent politics. When politics lacks coherence, there can be no accountable democracy. The stakes are no less that that." -- E.E. Schattschneider

"Parties are inevitable. No large, free country has been without them. No one has shown how representative government could be worked without them. They bring order out of chaos to a multitude of voters." -- James Bryce

This course examines American political parties by contrasting them with parties in other western democracies, by considering their role in the electoral and public policy processes here in the United States, and by analyzing their evolution over some 200 years of American electoral history. After taking this course you should have a better appreciation of how parties contribute to the democratic process, both here and in other democratic nations. You should also gain a good working knowledge of American electoral history, particularly the history of presidential elections that were contested in the last two-thirds of the 20th Century and the first decade of the 21st Century.



The books shown below are required for the course and are available for purchase at our campus book- stores. Occasionally I also may distribute articles that seem timely and useful in addressing the topics we deal with, or I may send you to an Internet site for a useful reading.



Exams. Two midterms and a final exam will be given. Each exam will count for 33.3% of your final grade. All exams will have a significant long essay component plus some multiple choice and/or identification questions.

Attendance is not formally computed into your grade but I expect you to come to class regularly, to be on time when at all possible, and to do the assigned readings on schedule. To encourage you in this regard I reserve the right to increase a final course grade by up to one-third of a letter as a reward for good class participation. To help me learn your names I will be setting up a seating chart about one week from today, and from then on will keep a daily record of attendance. When selecting a permanent seat please make your selection from rows 1-5. In other words, row six is off limits.

Makeup exams and grades of incomplete will be provided only for reasons of significant illness, personal tragedy, or other similarly extraordinary circumstances, and documentary evidence of the extraordinary circumstances must be provided by the student.

Cell Phones. Cell phones are generally forbidden and should be turned off upon entering the auditorium. A first violation of this rule will result in a friendly warning. A second violation will result in your removal from the classroom for that day. A third violation will result in a grade of F for the course. Any exceptions to this policy must be explicitly negotiated, in advance, with the instructor.

Extra Credit. Sorry, but none is available. No exceptions.



A. Introduction To the Course; Nature and Functions of Parties (August 23 and 25)


White/Shea, Introduction and Ch. 1, pp. 16-32.


B. The Ebbs and Flows of Partisanism in American Government and Politics (Aug. 30 and Sept. 1)


White/Shea, Ch. 1, pp. 32-36 and Ch. 2-3.

C. Realignment Eras and Historically Significant Third Parties (September 6 and 8)


White/Shea, pp. 176-182 in Ch. 6 and V.O. Key, "A Theory of Critical Elections," Journal of Politics 17 (1955): pp. 3-11 (locate at www.jstor.org using an NIU connection)

White/Shea, Ch. 10.


D. The Party Organization (September 13)


White/Shea, Ch. 1, pp. 29-32 (review); Ch. 4, pp. 101-118; and Ch. 7, pp. 204-211, 219-228.


E. The Party in Government (September 15)


White/Shea, Ch. 9.

Jacobson, "The Congress: The Structural Basis of Republican Success," in Nelson book.


Exam I: Tuesday, September 20


F. Party Nominations (September 22 and 27)


White/Shea, Ch. 5, pp. 134-153and Ch. 7, pp. 213-219.

Burden, "The Nominations," Ch. 2 in Nelson book.


G. Campaigns and Campaign Finance (September 29 and October 4, 6)


Jamieson, Ch. 1.

Currinder, "Campaign Finance: Funding the Presidential and Congressional Elections," in Nelson book.


H. Theories of Voter Decision Making; Presidential Elections, 1952-1956 (October 11 and 13)


White/Shea, pp. 170-175 in Ch. 6.

Jamieson, Ch. 2-3.


I. Presidential Elections, 1960-1964 (October 18 and 20)


Jamieson, Ch. 4-5.

Exam II: Tuesday, October 25


J. Presidential Elections, 1968-1972 (October 27 and November 1, 3)


Jamieson, Ch. 6-7.


K. Presidential Elections, 1976-1980 (November 8 and 10)


Jamieson, Ch. 8-9.


L. Presidential Elections, 1984-1988 (November 15)


Jamieson, Ch. 10-11.

M. Presidential Elections, 1992-1996 (November 17 and 22)


e-reserves reading TBA.

Nelson, "The Setting: George W. Bush, Majority President," Ch. 1 in Nelson book.


N. Presidential Elections, 2000-2004 (November 29 and December 1)


e-reserves reading TBA.

Mellow, "Voting Behavior: The 2004 Election and the Roots of Republican Success," and

Pomper, "The Presidential Election: The Ills of American Politics After 9/11," both in Nelson.


FINAL EXAM Tuesday, December 6, 10:00 11:50