Skip to content

Fall 2020 Reading Group

Political Parties in the Law of Democracy

Prerequisites: None

Exam Type: No Exam

Political parties play an essential role in our democracy. But they sit in an uneasy position in the legal framework that regulates our elections. On the one hand, as expressive organizations of private citizens, political parties can claim First Amendment rights of speech and association. On the other hand, as critical pieces of the electoral machinery, they have obligations not to infringe on the fundamental rights of voters. And at a time when partisanship and polarization are high, political parties appear surprisingly weak as institutions. This reading group will examine the role of political parties in the law of democracy. It will consider their rise against the background of a Constitution that contemplates no role for them, their sometimes sordid relationship with minority representation, and the functions they play in organizing representation and governance. We will read leading Supreme Court cases, foundational political science literature, and recent legal scholarship on political parties. We will consider whether political parties have contributed to, or been victims of, polarization, how the law shapes the political environment, and the role of political parties in presidential elections.

Note: This reading group will meet on the following dates: 9/15, 9/22, 9/29, 10/6, 10/20, and 10/27.