If there is one thing about politics that unites Americans these days, it is their contempt for political parties and partisanship. More Americans today identify as independents than with either of the two major political parties. Party leaders in Congress are held in disrepute, criticized by one side for being too soft and condemned by the other for being too extreme. The partisan coalitions that defined the Democratic and Republican parties for decades seem to be breaking apart, as insurgent, “outsider” politicians — like Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders — continue to rise.

Yet while both major parties are less popular than at any time in recent history, partisan antipathy has only intensified. Party affiliation is now a bigger wedge between Americans than race, gender, religion, or level of education. Rather than being one two-party nation, the polarized U.S. is in danger of becoming “two one-party nations.”

What is the origin of this bitter and seemingly irreconcilable divide? Is there an ideal level of party difference? How much is too much?  In this one-week seminar, students will examine the roots of party polarization and its implications for our national politics. The 2016 election and the 2018 midterms will provide the backdrop for our discussion of the significance of parties.

Dan DiSalvo on party reform in America


Daniel DiSalvo

Daniel DiSalvo is a Senior Fellow at the Manhattan Institute’s Center for State and Local Leadership and an Assistant Professor of Political Science at The City College of New York-CUNY.  His scholarship focuses on American political parties, elections, labor unions, state government, and public policy.

Preview the Syllabus by Week/Session

Other Courses You Might Be Interested In

Varieties of American Conservatism

Discover the intellectual roots of modern conservatism.

Can Partisanship Be Fixed?

Investigate the debate over parties by examining their nature and role in American political life.

Left & Right in America

Study the two great rival partisan interpretations of liberal democracy in America.

Understanding Populism

Understand the resurgence of populism in America.

Administration & Crisis

Examine case studies in American history to better understand presidential crisis management.

Can Free Speech Survive the Internet?

Consider the impact of the Internet on our political discourse and associational life.