Political Science

POLS 4402 Midterm Paper

Instructions: Choose ONE of the following prompts and write a 5-8 page paper on that

subject. The prompts provided are broad and can be addressed in several ways. Therefore, I am

not looking for a right or wrong answer to the question but rather for you to think critically about

the American political party system. Each question is multi-faceted which means that students

have the opportunity to write in both an expository and a persuasive manner. While I encourage

you to incorporate current events and your own perspective into the paper, note that this should

not be a pure opinion piece. Demonstrate that you’ve learned from this class by clearly

referencing theories, concepts, and examples from the required readings. Remember to cite all

sources, including those within the syllabus.

Paper formatting should be in the standard 12 point Times New Roman font, double-

spaced, with normal margins. You may use any citation format (e.g., MLA, APA style). Papers

should be uploaded to the Dropbox in D2L by 11:59pm Sunday October 7, 2018.

1) Given geographical heterogeneity (e.g., a Democrat from New York is not ideologically

identical to a Democrat from Mississippi), how well does the theory of issue ownership (Module

4) explain electoral outcomes? Defend your position and provide current examples. Historically,

parties have been able to both form and fracture according to one issue (Module 3). Which

current political issues have the ability to splinter today’s Democratic and Republican Parties?

Why? In what ways might the national party machine (Module 2) prevent this from happening?

Due to the rapidly changing landscape of (digital) political communication (Module 8), in what

ways might future office-seekers have more or less freedom in shaping their own political

image? Explain your rationale.

2) Evaluate the work of Fiorina and others as it relates to political polarization (Module 5).

Which author, in your opinion, provides the truest representation of American political ideology?

Justify your position. To what extent do the concepts of attitudinal independents vs. behavioral

independents support or refute the notion of a ‘culture war’? Explain your reasoning. Is

‘partisanized’ language (Module 7) the catalyst for or the result of ideological divisions within

politics? Support your position with current examples. Considering the historical development of

American parties (Module 3), identify one specific era or event which defined our trajectory

towards a polarized party system. Why was this era/event so influential? In all, what is more

harmful to society: a polarized elite class or a polarized electorate? Justify your response.

3) Aldrich argues that three factors- ambitious office-seekers, American institutions, and

historical setting- contribute to the structure of political parties (Module 1). Which factor best

explains today’s American party system? Has this always been the case throughout history?

Provide examples to justify your thinking. The original formation of parties was rational in the

sense that parties solved many types of collective action problems (Module 1). Which collective

action problem is most important for parties to address: mobilizing members of the electorate or

coordinating legislative behavior? Why? As the United States continues to fulfill its reputation as

a racial, ethnic, religious, linguistic, and attitudinal melting pot, how will both state and local, as

well as national, party organizations (Module 2) cope with mobilizing such a diverse group of

individuals (Module 5)? Speculate on specific party strategies, including those of third parties

(Module 3), and the possibility of a future realignment.

Note: To avoid plagiarism, students should rephrase information in their own words and

students should cite all sources used. Students may not collaborate with one another on this

assignment. Be aware that I will be checking for plagiarism as it applies to both outside

sources and to within-class collaboration. Refer to the syllabus for more information about

plagiarism and its consequences.

Grading Rubric

Critical Thought

(45 points)

Arguments within the paper display a great deal of thought by the

student, student has contemplated the issues and has provided deep

insight to the questions raised, inclusion of required and supplemental

material is well-balanced with the student’s personal arguments

Amount and quality of

information provided

(30 points)

Sources used are appropriate and relevant towards the student’s

arguments, supplemental information provided is well incorporated into

the overall position, direct quotations do not compromise the length of

the paper


(10 points)

Addresses all relevant questions raised, presents material in a way

which is easy to comprehend, arguments of the paper flow and build

upon one another


(10 points)

Paper contains few grammatical errors, formatting guidelines are

followed, student avoids the use of slang/abbreviations

Citation of sources

(5 points)

Sources are properly cited, student has been careful to avoid plagiarism

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