The Election Process

Political parties are an important part of the electoral process in the United States. Understanding political parties and their core values helps voters decide whom to vote for in an election. Voters can then choose the candidate that they believe most aligns most with their own personal beliefs.

Student Activities for Political Parties

Essential Questions for Political Parties in the United States

  1. What is a political party?
  2. What are the two major parties in the United States and what are two minor parties?
  3. What are the core beliefs and values of each party?
  4. How can understanding more about political parties help voters make decisions?

Political Parties in the United States

Political parties are defined as a team of politicians, activists, and voters whose goal is to win control of government through the winning of elections and the holding of public office. The members of each party share similar ideas about the ways they think the country should be governed. The purpose of political parties is for people with similar beliefs and values to collaborate, get candidates elected into office and once in office, work together to pass laws and influence policies that they believe are important.

In the United States, there are two main parties, the Republicans and the Democrats. This is why our political system is referred to as a “Two-Party System”. However, there are also smaller parties which try to challenge, albeit unsuccessfully thus far, the two-party system. The most well known minor parties are the Libertarian Party and the Green Party.

All political parties have their own views about how the government should function and what types of laws we should have.

Republican Party

Republicans generally believe in more conservative policies and laws. They believe in lower taxes on wealthy individuals or corporations whom they deem as “job creators”. They believe this promotes a stronger economy. They also endorse free market capitalism (less regulation of businesses and industries to promote growth). Other core values of the Republican party are: restrictions on immigration, increased military spending, gun rights, restrictions on abortion and restrictions on labor unions. The current presidential candidate for the 2020 election is President Donald Trump. Because he is already president, Donald Trump is referred to as the “incumbent”.

Democratic Party

The Democratic Party’s core beliefs are usually considered more liberal than the Republican party. They believe in a progressive tax which would create higher taxes on wealthy individuals and corporations. They also believe in a strong central government that regulates business and industry for the protection of the public. Democrats work to provide more social services that support the poor and unemployed, provide for health care and make college more affordable. They also believe in the protection of civil liberties for all people regardless of race, religion, gender or sexual orientation. Democrats believe in a strong separation between church and state. They generally work for more protections for the environment to combat climate change. They also promote stronger gun control laws, support labor unions, and abortion rights. The current Democratic candidate for president is former Vice President Joe Biden.

Libertarian Party

The Libertarian Party was established in Colorado in 1971. Their core belief is for maximum political freedom and autonomy. They believe in a small centralized government and they advocate for individualism and freedom of choice. They believe that as long as people are not hurting others, or infringing on the rights of others, they should be allowed to do whatever they want. Libertarians don’t believe in personal or corporate income taxes. They believe that most government-provided services like Social Security or the United States Postal Service should be abolished and those services should be provided by private companies. They also don’t believe in government regulations like a required minimum wage or gun-control laws. The current Presidential Candidate for 2020 for the Libertarian Party is Jo Jorgensen (who is also the first female candidate for president for the Libertarian party).

Green Party

The Green Party was established in Minnesota in 1984. They believe in saving the environment, nonviolence, and social justice. The Green Party advocates for stronger regulation and laws that will help protect the environment and humanity against the devastating impacts of climate change. They are anti-war, anti-racist and believe in gender equality and LGBTQ rights. They also believe in grassroots democracy, meaning that their party and their policies are driven by groups of ordinary citizens as opposed to large organizations or the wealthy. The 2020 presidential candidate for the Green Party is Howie Hawkins.

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