KC Johnson

American Political Parties (Fall 2020–1)

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.


My Contact Information:


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


9/1: The First Party System

  • Chernow, Hamilton, chapters 19-end

9/8: 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 (Dzhenet)

Supplementary reading

  • 1828 (Daryl)
  • 1840 (Najrana)
  • 1844 (Joseph)

9/15: Creating the Republican Party

  • Eric Foner, Free Soil, Free Labor, Free Men: The Ideology of the Republican Party before the Civil War (Isaiah)

Supplementary reading:

  • 1852 (Danyelle)
  • 1856 (Zachary)
  • 1860 (Seth)

9/22: The Onset of the Gilded Age

  • Michael F. Holt, By One Vote: The Disputed Presidential Election of 1876 (Daryl)

Supplementary reading:

  • 1884 (Mike)
  • 1892 (Najrana)
  • 1896 (Joseph)

10/6: Reform Sentiments

  • Michael McGerr, A Fierce Discontent: The Rise and Fall of the Progressive Movement in America, 1870-1920 (Zachary)

Supplementary reading:

  • 1900 (Isaiah)
  • 1912 (Danyelle)
  • 1916 (Seth)

10/13: New Deal and Reform Sentiment

  • Alan Brinkley,  The End of Reform (Najrana)

Supplementary reading:

  • 1924 (Dzhenet)
  • 1928 (Mike)
  • 1932 (Joseph)

10/20: Research Day

10/27: Cold War Liberalism

Supplementary reading:

  • Richard Fried, “‘Operation Polecat’: Thomas E. Dewey, the 1948 Election, and the Origins of McCarthyism,” Journal of Policy History (Isaiah)
  • Manfred Berg, “Black Civil Rights and Liberal Anticommunism: The NAACP in the Early Cold War,” Journal of American History (Danyelle)
  • Anthony Badger, “The South Confronts the Court: The Southern Manifesto of 1956,” Journal of Policy History (Zachary)

11/3: 1960 & A New Generation

Supplementary Reading:

  • Kim Phillips-Fein, “‘As Great an Issue as Slavery or Abolition’: Economic Populism, the Conservative Movement, and the Right-to-Work Campaigns of 1958,” Journal of Policy History (2011). (Dzhenet)
  • Laura Gifford, “’Dixie is no longer in the bag’: South Carolina Republicans and the Election of 1960,” Journal of Policy History (Daryl)
  • Lawrence McAndrews, “Beyond Appearances: Kennedy, Congress, Religion, and Federal Aid to Education,” Presidential Studies Quarterly (1991). (Najrana)

11/10: 1964 & The Transformations of the Parties

  • Rick Perlstein, Before the Storm: Barry Goldwater and the Unmaking of the American Consensus

Supplementary reading:

  • Hugh Davis Graham, “The Origins of Affirmative Action: Civil Rights and the Regulatory State,” Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science (Isaiah)
  • Thomas Sugrue, “Crabgrass-Roots Politics: Race, Rights, and the Reaction Against Liberalism in the Urban North, 1940-1964,” Journal of American History (Danyelle)
  • Kenneth O’Reilly, “The FBI and the Politics of the Riots, 1964-1968, ” Journal of American History (Seth)

11/17: Beyond New Deal Liberalism

Supplementary reading:

  • Andrew Johns, “Achilles’ Heel: The Vietnam War and George Romney’s Bid for the Presidency, 1967 to 1968,” Michigan Historical Review (2000). (Daryl)
  • Dan T. Carter, “Legacy of Rage: George Wallace and the Transformation of American Politics, “ The Journal of Southern History (Najrana)
  • Kyle Longley, “Target Number One: The Nixon Administration and Foreign Policy Issues in the Efforts to Unseat Senator Albert Gore, Sr. in 1970,” Diplomatic History (2004). (Joseph)

11/24: The Onset of Modern Partisanship

  • Andrew Busch, Reagan’s Victory (Isaiah)
  • Supplementary reading:
  • Daniel Williams, “The GOP’s Abortion Strategy: Why Pro-Choice Republicans Became Pro-Life in the 1970s,” Journal of Policy History (2011). (Danyelle)
  • Robert Freedman, “The Religious Right and the Carter Administration,” The Historical Journal (Zachary)
  • Jerome L. Himmelstein and James A. McRae, Jr., “Social Conservatism, New Republicans, and the 1980 Election,” The Public Opinion Quarterly (Mike)


12/1:  The Contemporary Party System

  • Heilemann and Halperin, Game Change 

Supplementary reading:

  • Stephen Borrelli, “Finding the Third Way: Bill Clinton, the DLC, and the Democratic Platform of 1992,” Journal of Policy History (Daryl)
  • WJ Rorabaugh, “Critical Perspectives: Did Prosperity Contribute to the South’s Abandonment of the Democratic Party?,” Journal of Policy History (Najrana)
  • Norman Graebner, “The End of Liberalism,” Journal of Policy History (Joseph)

12/8: 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.

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

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