Political Parties and American Politics

I.     Course Prefix/Number: PSC 111

       Course Name: Political Parties and American Politics

       Credits: 3 (3 lecture; 0 lab)

II.    Prerequisite


III.   Course (Catalog) Description

Course examines political parties in the United States. Content includes the historical development, and modern status, the role political parties play in the American political process.

IV.   Learning Objectives

This course is designed to help students achieve an understanding of:

  1. Identify the historical development of political parties and explain the need for parties in our political system;
  2. Identify the factors that have in recent times weakened the parties and explain their impact on both electoral outcomes and government decision-making;
  3. Analyze the rise of service-oriented party organizations;
  4. Evaluate the relationship between political parties and voters and between political parties and interest groups;
  5. Evaluate and interpret the role of the parties in the public policy process.

V.    Academic Integrity and Student Conduct

Students and employees at Oakton Community College are required to demonstrate academic integrity and follow Oakton's Code of Academic Conduct. This code prohibits:

• cheating,
• plagiarism (turning in work not written by you, or lacking proper citation),
• falsification and fabrication (lying or distorting the truth),
• helping others to cheat,
• unauthorized changes on official documents,
• pretending to be someone else or having someone else pretend to be you,
• making or accepting bribes, special favors, or threats, and
• any other behavior that violates academic integrity.

There are serious consequences to violations of the academic integrity policy. Oakton's policies and procedures provide students a fair hearing if a complaint is made against you. If you are found to have violated the policy, the minimum penalty is failure on the assignment and, a disciplinary record will be established and kept on file in the office of the Vice President for Student Affairs for a period of 3 years.

Please review the Code of Academic Conduct and the Code of Student Conduct, both located online at

VI.   Sequence of Topics

In order to accomplish this, the course will follow this outline of topics:

  1. The Case for Political Parties
  2. The Historical Development of Political Parties
    1. The First Party System
    2. Political Parties after Jackson
    3. The Civil War Period
    4. Parties in the Era of Boss Politics
    5. The Reform Movement
    6. The Decline of Party Power
    7. Political Parties in the Television Age
    8. The Rise of the Service-Oriented Party
    9. Political Parties Today
  3. The Political Party as an Organization
  4. The Political Party in the Electorate
  5. Parties, Nominations, and Elections
  6. The Impact of Interest Groups on Parties and Elections
  7. The Party in the Government and its Impact on Decision-Making
  8. The Impact of Interest Groups on Decision-Making in Government
  9. Political Parties v. Interest Groups

VII.  Methods of Instruction

Classes will include a variety of instructional methods such as: lectures, in class discussions, group activities, document and film analysis, and the use of new technologies. 

Course may be taught as face-to-face, hybrid or online course.

VIII. Course Practices Required

Students will be required to:

  1. Read a standard textbook and research materials.
  2. Write outside of class the equivalent of 12-14 double-spaced typed pages in the form of a term paper, summaries of journal articles, short research papers, and/or other kinds of writing.
  3. Participate in in-class and out-of-class activities.

IX.   Instructional Materials

Note: Current textbook information for each course and section is available on Oakton's Schedule of Classes.

The most current editions of the following texts are being used:

Aldrich, John H., Why Parties: The Origin and Transformation of Party Politics in America, Chicago, IL.: The University of Chicago Press.
Beck, Paul, and Marjorie Hershey, Party Politics in America, New York: Longman, 2001.
Bibby, John F., Politics, Parties, and Elections in America, Thompson Learning, 1999.
Green, John C. and Daniel M. Shea, The State of the Parties: The Changing Role of Contemporary American Parties, Rowman & Littlefield, 1999.
Keefe, William J., Parties, Politics, and Public Policy in America, Washington, D.D.: CQ Press, 1997.
Lowi, Theodore E, and Joseph Romance, Debating the Two Party System, Boulder, CO.: Rowman & Littlefield, 1997.
Macenzie, G. Calvin, The Irony of Reform: Roots of American Political Disenchantment,  Westview Press, 1996.
Sabato, Larry J., and Bruce Larson, The Party’s Just Begun: Shaping Political Parties for America’s Future, New York: Longman, 2002.
Wattenberg, Martin P., The Decline of American Political Parties, Cambridge, MA.: Harvard University Press, 1994.
White, John K. and Daniel M. Shea, New Party Politics: From Jefferson and Hamilton to the Information Age, Bedford/St. Martin, 2002.

X.    Methods of Evaluating Student Progress

At least two exams will be given in addition to other required papers and assignments.

Students will also be evaluated on a combination of written assignments and in- and out-of- class assignments.

XI.   Other Course Information

Support Services: Tutoring is available in the Learning Center.

Important Dates: *

XX/XX:    Last day to withdraw and have course dropped from record
XX/XX:    Last day to change to Audit
XX/XX:    Last day for students to submit materials to make up incomplete from the previous semester
XX/XX:    Last day to withdraw from classes with a "W"

*These dates differ for each semester. You'll find the correct dates on the Academic Calendar.

If you have a documented learning, psychological, or physical disability you may be entitled to reasonable academic accommodations or services. To request accommodations or services, contact the Access and Disability Resource Center at the Des Plaines or Skokie campus. All students are expected to fulfill essential course requirements. The College will not waive any essential skill or requirement of a course or degree program.

Oakton Community College is committed to maintaining a campus environment emphasizing the dignity and worth of all members of the community, and complies with all federal and state Title IX requirements.

Resources and support for
  • pregnancy-related and parenting accommodations; and
  • victims of sexual misconduct
can be found at www.oakton.edu/title9/.

Resources and support for LGBTQ+ students can be found at www.oakton.edu/lgbtq.

Electronic video and/or audio recording is not permitted during class unless the student obtains written permission from the instructor. In cases where recordings are allowed, such content is restricted to personal use only. Any distribution of such recordings is strictly prohibited. Personal use is defined as use by an individual student for the purpose of studying or completing course assignments.

For students who have been approved for audio and/or video recording of lectures and other classroom activities as a reasonable accommodation by Oakton’s Access Disabilities Resource Center (ADRC), applicable federal law requires instructors to permit those recordings. Such recordings are also limited to personal use. Any distribution of such recordings is strictly prohibited.

Violation of this policy will result in disciplinary action through the Code of Student Conduct.