Decline of Political Parties



Write an essay in which you use evidence from the post-Trump political landscape to reevaluate Anis Shivani’s predictions. How do party politics today prove or disprove Shivani’s original arguments? Draw your own conclusions. As you conduct research, focus on at least some of the following topics from the 2003 article:

  • Divided government
  • Voter turnout
  • Candidate-centered elections
  • Party realignment
  • Changing trends in media
  • Polarization
  • The role of third parties

Start by examining the two articles about Donald Trump that are listed on the assignment page, but conduct additional research as needed.

After you have formulated your argument, anticipate readers who may disagree with your position by refuting at least one counterargument. You may devote an entire body paragraph to the counterargument. Alternatively, you may respond to a counterargument in the same paragraph in which you make a larger point.


Decline of Political Parties


During the 1990s, the U.S. government was split. Democrat Bill Clinton won the presidency, while Republicans held narrow majorities in Congress from 1994 to 2000. This led some observers to claim that the country was experiencing a period of party dealignment: a time when citizens have weak affiliations with either major party. As evidence, these observers pointed to very low rates of voter turnout and the persistence of a divided government.

In 2003, political analyst Anis Shivani wrote an article about this phenomenon and made bold predictions about how divided government, polarization, low voter turnout, and candidate-centered elections would persist. Since then, power in the federal government has changed hands in surprising ways, especially with the 2016 election of Donald Trump. Have Shivani’s predictions come true, or are party politics heading in an unforeseen direction? In this activity, you will reanalyze the topics that Shivani explored in light of recent events. You will then come to your own conclusions.


Suggested Reading

  • "Bleak Prospects for the Democrats," by Anis Shivani, Counterpunch
  • In this 2003 article, Anis Shivani argues that party alignment is less important than it was. As you read, think about what has happened since 2003 that either confirms or contradicts the author’s arguments.

Related Resources

  • "What Does Donald Trump Mean for Our Two-Party Political System?" by Lee Simmons, Insights by Stanford Business
  • In this interview, political economist David Brady reflects on the 2016 victory of Donald Trump and makes predictions about its effect on polarization and party politics. By the time you work on this assignment, you may be able to test some of Brady’s predictions.

  • "19 Things We Learned from the 2016 Election," by Andrew Gelman and Julia Azari, Columbia University
  • Two political scientists and statisticians analyze the results of Donald Trump’s 2016 victory. The sections on the weakening of party politics, on the media, and on polarization are particularly relevant to this assignment.


Tips for Success

Part of your assignment involves addressing a counterargument. Keep in mind that the purpose of this is to anticipate the reactions of people who may disagree with your argument or who have not yet decided. Responding to counterarguments is a way of taking people’s concerns into account and reassuring them. For that reason, you should only focus on a counterargument that is:

  • Serious and reasonable; even though silly or irrational counterarguments may be easy to refute, they do not usually represent the views of people who are weighing the issue thoughtfully. Therefore, rebutting such counterarguments would not likely persuade people to agree with you.
  • Widely held; a persuasive essay is meant to win people over, which means you should address as wide an audience as possible. Research can help you learn what some common beliefs about party politics are, but you may be able to predict some commonsense reactions to your position too.

Once you have selected a counterargument to respond to, keep the following in mind as you formulate a rebuttal:

  • Be civil. Your goal is to win over an audience. If you trash a counterargument, you are likely to alienate everyone except those who already agree with you.
  • Use evidence. You should support your rebuttal with researched sources in the same way you support your thesis and key points. Also, point out gaps in the evidence that supports the counterargument, if any, and use research to identify any flaws in the evidence that the counterargument relies on.
  • Use logic. Besides using research, you can often refute counterarguments through superior logic.


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