KC Johnson

American Political Parties (Fall 2016)

This course examines American political parties from the First Party System to the current day. Topics will include Jacksonian democracy, the rise and fall of the Whigs, the formation and evolution of the Republican Party, changing voting procedures and norms, the rise and fall of the New Deal coalition, and the effect of race and the Cold War on U.S. politics. The course will conclude by examining what the 2010 election says about the current party system.


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  • Research Paper (50%)
  • Participation (30%)
  • Supplementary Reading (20%)


August 25: The First Party System

  • Chernow, Hamilton, chapters 19-end.

September 1: The Second Party System

  • Daniel Walker Howe, What Hath God Wrought: The Transformation of America, 1815-1848, pages 1-124, 328-446, 570-613, 792-855. [Timothy Kelley]

Supplementary reading

  • James Young, The Washington Community [Lawrence Bosket]
  • Merrill Peterson, The Great Triumvirate [Nermin Cecunjanin]

September 8: Creating the Republican Party

  • Eric Foner, Free Soil, Free Labor, Free Men: The Ideology of the Republican Party before the Civil War  [Steven Goldberg]

Supplementary reading:

  • William Gienapp, Creation of the Republican Party [Christopher Furnari]
  • Michael Holt, Political Crisis of the 1850s [Ben Cohn]

September 15: The Onset of the Gilded Age

  • Michael F. Holt, By One Vote: The Disputed Presidential Election of 1876 [Stevan Hylton]

Supplementary reading:

  • · Morton Keller, Affairs of State [Timothy Dillon]
  • · Mark Summers, Rum, Romanism, & Rebellion [James Fodera]

Sept. 22: Populism

  • Charles Postel, The Populist Vision [Emily Lake]

Supplementary reading:

  • Joe Creech, Righteous Indignation [Timothy Kelley]
  • Lawrence Goodwyn, The Populist Moment [Steven Goldberg]

September 29: Progressivism & the Parties

  • Michael McGerr, A Fierce Discontent: The Rise and Fall of the Progressive Movement in America, 1870-1920 [Henry Auyeung]

Supplementary reading:

  • John Milton Cooper, Warrior and the Priest [Stevan Hylton]
  • Robert Wiebe, Search for Order [Emily Lake]
  • Arthur Link, Woodrow Wilson and the Progressive Era [Raymond Fong]

October 13: New Deal and Reform Sentiment

  • Alan Brinkley,  The End of Reform [Stephanie Doirin]

Supplementary reading:

  • Colin Gordon, New Deals [John Pusz]
  • Jason Scott Smith, Building New Deal Liberalism [Carlos Santiago]

October 20: The Evolution of the Democratic Party

  • Thomas Sugrue, Origins of the Urban Crisis [John Pusz]

Supplementary reading:

  • Alan Ware, The Democratic Party Heads North, 1877-1962 [Michael Sundholm]
  • Steven Gillon, Politics and Vision [Solomon Fields]
  • Jennifer Delton, Making Minnesota Liberal [Stephanie Doirin]

October 27: 1964 & The Transformations of the Parties

  • Rick Perlstein, Before the Storm: Barry Goldwater and the Unmaking of the American Consensus [Carlos Santiago]

Supplementary reading:

  • Dan Carter, Politics of Rage [Chris Richtner]
  • Robert Dallek, Flawed Giant [Henry Aeyeung]

November 3: Research Day

November 10: Beyond New Deal Liberalism

  • Jacobs, Panic at the Pump [Michael Sundholm]

Supplementary reading:

  • Joseph Crespino, In Search of Another Country [Lawrence Bosket]
  • Matthew Lassiter, The Silent Majority [Nermin Cecunjanin]

November 17: The Onset of Modern Partisanship

  • Kruse, One Nation Under God [Chris Richtner]

Supplementary reading:

  • William A. Link, Righteous Warrior [Christopher Furnari]
  • Sean Wilentz, The Age of Reagan [Ben Cohn]

December 1:  The Contemporary Party System

  • Heilemann and Halperin, Game Change [Solomon Fields]

Supplementary reading:

December 8: Review

Learning objectives for this course include: (1) ability to read and interpret key historical sources, including primary sources, court cases, and congressional debates; (2) ability to determine how important themes in U.S. political parties change over time; (3) ability to present key research arguments in writing. Item (1) will occur throughout the course; item (2) will occur throughout the course; item (3) will occur in the final paper.

The faculty and administration of Brooklyn College support an environment free from cheating and plagiarism. Each student is responsible for being aware of what constitutes cheating and plagiarism and for avoiding both. The complete text of the CUNY Academic Integrity Policy and the Brooklyn College procedure for implementing that policy can be found at this site: http://www.brooklyn.cuny.edu/bc/policies. If a faculty member suspects a violation of academic integrity and, upon investigation, confirms that violation, or if the student admits the violation, the faculty member MUST report the violation.

In order to receive disability-related academic accommodations students must first be registered with the Center for Student Disability Services. Students who have a documented disability or suspect they may have a disability are invited to set up an appointment with the Director of the Center for Student Disability Services, Ms. Valerie Stewart-Lovell at 718-951-5538. If you have already registered with the Center for Student Disability Services please provide your professor with the course accommodation form and discuss your specific accommodation with him/her.

State law regarding non-attendance because of religious beliefs can be found on p. 56 in the Bulletin.

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