Sunday, April 11, 2010

Ripped From the Headlines: Party Dealignment in the Making

Dealignment Revisited: A Ross Perot Type Movement on Steriods???

Reference: CNN Editorial

Reference: Hippocampus Lesson 11

My last post featured the Tea Parties and Mid-term elections (Sunday March 10, 2010) and once again I want to focus on the Tea Party Movement as seen in the headlines. This time, however, I would like to take a different approach to the topic and view it from Hippocampus Lesson 11 which looks at the topics of "Realignment and Dealignment" of political parties (covered specifically in Topic Two). The editorial referenced above by Ed Rollins is an example of many that I have view recently on this topic. I liked Rollin's comments particular because he has made a comparison between the 1992 Perot "grassroots movement" and the Tea Party movement of 2009-2010. His inside information on the Perot movement gives Mr. Rollins particular credibility and his editorial a unique slant.

Here is a simple class activity that I will be using with this article. This is a short activity and would be appropriate at this time of year for a review of the basic concepts of party purity, alignment, dealignment and even critical elections and realignment. I will first make a paper copy of this CNN piece and have the students do a quick 5 minute read highlighting key points of the editorial.

Next, I will ask students to create a t-chart of similarities/differences between the Perot 1992 movement and the 2010 Tea Party movement. Similarities should include distrust of government, dislike of budget deficits, desire to see lower taxes, and discontent with political parties. Differences could include that the 1992 movement was personality based whereas the 2010 movement is issue based, the Tea Parties are more "spontaneous" and less created by a 3rd party, no true leadership is found in the 2010 movement, and any other difference the students can pull out.

Once the t-charts are done we will move to a class discussion. I will put the terms (party purity, realignment, dealignment, critical election) on the board and we will define these as a class, insuring we are all speaking the same language. I will then as several questions such as: How are the two movements alike? How are the two movements different? Did the 1992 movement cause permanent realignment or dealignment? Will the current movement cause permanent party alignment changes? How would these movements compare to major movements that resulted in critical elections and permanent party membership changes? Hopefully, we can have a fruitful discussion on these topics and we will initiate some higher level thinking by the students including synthesis, analysis, and comparing and contrasting.

Once the class discussion reaches a conclusion, I will ask the students to look at a past AP Government and Politics Free Response Questions (if you don't know where to find these click on this AP Central link) . In particular, we we look at 2003 Question 2 on Citizen Participation, 2004 Question 3 on 3rd parties and 2004 Question 4 on Trust in Government, and 2006 Question 1 on Interest Groups and Political Parties. Time permitting, I will put the students in groups and have them OUTLINE answers to each of these questions as a group, or we will divide the class into 4 parts and have groups work on one question and then present the question and their answer to the class shotgun style. I will then give the students handouts on the AP scoring guides (see link above) and allow them to self grade their efforts.

The Tea Party movement offers us a unique look at American democracy in action. If you agree with the politics of the Tea Parties or not, we should all agree that the brilliance of our form of government is that it allows free speech, free assembly, and the right to petition the government with our grievances. A closer examination of the Tea Parties can help our students perform better on the AP Exam, but more important, it can encourage them to become an active participant in our political system as they mature and discover their own place in our republic.

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