“Tippecanoe to George Bush Two”

 U.S. Presidential Elections in Historical Context

Syllabus and Survival Guide

History 498 – Fall 2004

Wednesdays, 7-9:50 pm, Sierra Hall 288




Dr. Thomas W. Devine

Office Hours: Sierra Tower 624, Tu,Th 2:30-3:30 pm and by appointment gladly given.  Phone: (818) 677-3550 E-mail




The following books are at the Matador Bookstore and are listed in the order in which we will read them.  Any other readings will be provided in class.


1.      Gil Troy, See How They Ran: The Changing Role of the Presidential Candidate [Rev. ed.]

2.      Robert Shogan, The Double-Edged Sword: How Character Makes and Ruins Presidents, from Washington to Clinton

3.      Roy Morris, Jr., Fraud of the Century: Rutherford B. Hayes, Samuel Tilden and the Stolen Election of 1876

4.      Brett Flehinger, The 1912 Election and the Power of Progressivism

5.      Irwin Ross, The Loneliest Campaign: The Truman Victory of 1948

6.      Lewis L. Gould, 1968: The Election that Changed America

7.      Anonymous [Joe Klein], Primary Colors: A Novel of Politics

8.      James W. Ceaser and Andrew E. Busch, The Perfect Tie: The True Story of the 2000 Presidential Election


To subvert the system and save yourself some money, you might consider buying used or discounted copies of the books available at the following web sites: bookfinder.com; amazon.com; half.com; campusbooks4less.com


Requirements & Grading


Class Participation                                                                    30%

Quizzes/1-page Reaction Papers                                                20%

Paper Assignment [due October 18 or November 22]                   20%






Semester Project [final version due December 6]                       30%


All grading will be done on the +/ – system.  Any assignment not completed will be counted as a “zero” in calculating the final grade.


Spirit of the Course


In this course, we will be looking at U.S. presidential elections throughout American history, focusing particularly, but not exclusively, on the twentieth century.  We will discuss, among other issues, the changing role of the presidential candidate; the impact of the media on presidential campaigns; the “material culture” – buttons, balloons, slogans, songs, and so on – that accompanies a presidential election; the financing of elections; candidates’ use (and abuse) of the race issue; the significance of “character” as a qualification for the presidency (an especially salient issue in the current and last few elections); and, through examining several case studies, how a presidential election can be a watershed moment in our nation’s history.


Since the course coincides with the 2004 presidential election, we will also concern ourselves with two topics historians rarely consider – the present and the future.  On occasion, we will set aside time in our weekly meeting to discuss the Bush-Kerry contest with an eye toward how the current election demonstrates both change from and continuity with the past.  If there is sufficient interest, we will watch one of the presidential debates and the election night returns as a class. (Attendance will be optional, but I’ll be providing free food.)


In essence, this course, along with your 497, is the capstone of your academic experience in college.  Most of you will not have the opportunity to engage in this kind of exercise again. Make the most of it by giving the course your full effort and doing the assigned work.  Believe it or not, in later years you’ll appreciate that you did.


Explanation of Requirements



Since class meets only once a week, it is important, and it is expected, that you will be at every session.  Inevitably, an occasion may arise when you are unable to attend.  Out of fairness to your classmates who do attend every week, however, each absence past the first two will adversely affect your final grade.  Also, given the heavy weight placed on in-class discussion, any absence is likely to detract from your participation grade.  To make up for a missed class, you may turn in a 2-page, single-spaced précis summarizing the reading for the class you missed.


Completion of Assigned Reading

There’s no getting around it – this class will require extensive reading. But, as a senior seminar, it is supposed to.  To succeed in this course, you will need to complete the reading, but you will also need to have given it some thought.  Read with a pencil in hand – take notes in the margins.  Record terms that are unfamiliar to you or that you don’t understand, points that you find interesting or surprising, arguments with which you strongly agree or disagree, or ideas that connect to things we’ve talked about in previous classes.  Also, read smart – don’t read every single word of the first 4 chapters and nothing thereafter because you ran out of time. If you catch the argument the author is making, don’t sweat all the details or supporting examples – skim over them and get on to the next major point.  It is more important to have gotten the gist of an entire book than to master every aspect of the first one-third of it.


Class Participation

The class will be conducted in a seminar format, which means interaction and discussion rather than note taking and lecturing (and sleeping).  Our meetings will be conversations – free, open, and informal exchanges of ideas based on the assigned reading – and I expect everyone to take an active part.  I will do my best to insure each student has ample opportunity to contribute, but, ultimately, it will be up to you to make certain that you remain an active participant rather than a passive observer. 


Leading Discussion

One person will be responsible for leading the discussion each week. That person will compose a list of 8 questions that address the major themes and issues raised in the reading.  The discussion leader will meet with me briefly ahead of time to go over his or her questions.  Before the seminar begins, he or she will also provide each member of the class a copy of the questions.  Alternatively, the leader may employ other pedagogical techniques – small group discussions, an in-class debate, the use of audio-visual materials, or some other approach to stimulate discussion.  This is all to the good, and I encourage you to structure your discussion in the way you think will be most effective.


Paper Assignment

This paper assignment will focus on the material covered in the assigned reading and during class discussions.  There will be a choice of topics, which will be handed out well before the due date.  There will also be two separate assignments – one at the one-third point of the semester and the second at the two-third point. You may choose the option that works best for you.  Papers should be four to six pages with reasonable margins.  Grades will be based on the quality of your ideas and how effectively you present them.


Semester Project

This assignment allows you to be Mark Hanna, Jim Farley, Clark Clifford, Susan Estrich, Lee Atwater or Carl Rove. (If you don’t know who these folks are, you will by the end of the semester.) Your task is to choose one US presidential election, and one candidate and then devise a comprehensive campaign strategy that you believe will get your guy elected.  We will discuss the specifics of this assignment in more detail as the semester progresses.  Your final product will be the equivalent of a 10-page paper. I will ask you to submit a draft and a final version.


Presidential Quiz

The last, and undoubtedly most onerous requirement is to memorize all of the presidents in their proper order.  There will be a quiz which you can take as many times as you want, but you will need to get a 100% by the end of the semester.


Surviving History 498…


Common Courtesy & Academic Honesty

Since I assume that all of you possess impeccable manners and are of upstanding character, most of this should go without saying, but I put it in writing here so that there will be no misunderstanding.  Please turn off all cell phones and pagers while you are in class.  Please arrive on time and do not walk out in the middle of class or leave at the break unless it is an emergency or you have spoken to me about it ahead of time.  Do not tell me things that are not true and expect me to believe them.  Do not cheat. Do not plagiarize.  If you do so, I will find you out and make your life miserable. (References available upon request.)



I appreciate that many CSUN evening students are stretching themselves quite thin, often working full time while taking classes at night.  If you are feeling overwhelmed, find yourself falling behind, or are having any problems outside of class that are adversely affecting your performance in class, be sure to let me know.  Do not wait until the end of the semester when it will be too late.  I am more than willing to work with you to insure you “survive,” but I need to know you are having difficulties.  You will find that as long as you keep me up to speed, I will be very sympathetic.


Discussion Topics and Assignments




25 August             Introduction: An explanation of course objectives, mechanics, and procedures.


1 September         The Evolution of the Presidential Campaign: The 19th Century

                             Reading: Troy, See How They Ran, pp. 1-132


                             Discussion Leader: Tom Adams


8 September         The Modern Campaign: The 20th Century and Beyond

                             Reading: Troy, See How They Ran, pp. 133-282     


                             Discussion Leader: Devin Engebretsen


15 September       Presidential Character (and Characters)

Reading: Shogan, The Double-Edged Sword, pp. 1-102

              Dallek, Hail to the Chief, Chapter 4


                             Discussion Leader: Matt Vacca


22 September       The “Character Issue” in Recent Presidential Campaigns

                             Reading: Shogan, The Double Edged-Sword, 103-287


                             Discussion Leader: Art Nelson, Blanca Rivera



29 September       Racial Politics in the Modern Presidential Campaign

                             Reading: Excerpts from Jeremy D. Mayer, Running on Race


                             Discussion Leader: Jonathan Sharpe


6 October             “We’ll Sell Him Just Like Soap Flakes:” Mass Media Campaigning

Reading: Excerpts from Kathleen Hall Jamieson, Packaging the Presidency


                             Discussion Leader: Ilana Lopez, Tom Taverner


13 October           “The Best President Money Can Buy:” Campaign Finance Reform

Reading: Steven Gillion, That’s Not What We Meant To Do, Chapter 5

              Excerpts from Jeff Birnbaum, The Money Men

Bradley A. Smith, “Campaign Finance Regulation: Faulty Assumptions and Undemocratic Consequences”


                             Discussion Leader: Cris Canchola


20 October           “The Stolen Election:” Hayes vs Tilden

                             Reading: Roy Morris, Jr., Fraud of the Century


Discussion Leader: Steve Batham


27 October           “The Struggle to Define ‘Progressive:’” A Four-Way Contest

Reading: Brett Flehinger, The 1912 Election


                             Discussion Leader: Karen Cantarero


3 November             “Tippecanoe and Trinkets Too:” The Material Culture of Presidential Campaigns

                                    Reading: Excerpts from Keith Melder, Hail to the Candidate


                             Discussion Leader: Jennifer Elliott


10 November        “Dewey Defeats Truman:” The Democratic Upset of 1948

                             Reading: Ross, The Loneliest Campaign

To listen to Truman’s acceptance speech CLICK HERE


                             Discussion Leader: Melinda Crisler


17 November        “The Hard Year:” The 1968 Campaign

                             Reading: Gould, 1968: The Election That Changed America

                             To listen to RFK’s announcement of MLK’s death CLICK HERE


                             Discussion Leader: Holly Estes


24 November        On The Campaign Trail in the 1990s

                             Reading: Anonymous, Primary Colors


                             Discussion Leader: Thomas Williams


1 December          Bush vs Gore: The Election of 2000

                             Reading: Ceaser and Busch, The Perfect Tie


                             Discussion Leader: Jeremy Williams