This course explores scholarly debates surrounding the purpose, roles, and overall influence of political parties in the United States. We will focus primarily on three different conceptions of parties in American politics literature: parties as organizations (groups of people working to elect candidates), parties in the electorate (mass opinions and voter behavior), and parties in government (coalitions formed in governing institutions). In what ways do we define political parties? To what extent do our definitions capture the broad functions of political parties? What factors contribute to stronger and more polarized political parties in the United States? What is the relationship between political parties and democracy? We will continually return to these key questions throughout the course of the semester.