What are Political Parties?

What are Political Parties?


There are two main political parties in the
United States, the Republicans and the Democrats. What is a political party? Why are there only two main parties? A political party is a group of people who
have joined together because they share common principles, common beliefs, and common values,
and they seek to control government by winning elections. Members of a party work to convince the government
to adopt laws, regulations, and programs which reflect their party’s beliefs. Political parties have a long history, both
in the United States and in other countries as well. The United States has what is known as a two
party system. A two party system is a political structure
in which only two political parties have a genuine chance of winning elections. However, it does not mean that only two parties
are allowed to exist, as there are numerous other smaller parties. The two party system developed in Great Britain. In the latter half of the 1600s, and throughout
the 1700s, two political parties, the Whigs and the Tories, emerged and established themselves
as the dominant parties. This long-standing tradition of two main parties
probably led to the eventual adoption of a similar system in the United States. Initially, the Founding Fathers intended for
the American government to avoid politics. In fact, in his farewell address, George Washington
warned against the existence of political parties, suggesting that such organizations
were the “enemies of government” and would only distract government from its intended
purpose. However, early political disagreements gave
rise to the Federalist Party and Democratic-Republican Party. Since that time, the United States has nearly
always had two dominant parties. Currently, the two main political parties
in the United States are the Democratic Party and the Republican Party. Every political party has what is known as
a platform. A platform is a public statement of the party’s
main beliefs and guiding principles. Each of the stated principles of a platform
is known as a plank. Party platforms can be rather lengthy, with
modern parties having hundreds of planks. The party will adopt or update its platform
every four years at the party’s national convention. Political parties serve a wide variety of
purposes. One of the most important functions a party
serves is to nominate candidates. This helps a voter narrow his or her choices. Instead of voters studying a potentially limitless
field of candidates, each party selects nominees. This allows the voter to focus attention on
two or three candidates and make a more informed decision. Another function of political parties is to
inform voters. Whether it’s through local, grassroots involvement
such as letter writing campaigns, or party leaders speaking on television, parties attempt
to let the general public know what’s going on. This could also take the form of passing out
flyers or pamphlets, or staging a large protest rally. The party that is in power can also set the
agenda. This means that the party leaders will establish
a course for the nation to follow. Whether it is a good course, or a bad course,
would likely determine how long that particular party stayed in power. One final function of political parties is
to serve as a watchdog. Both parties do an effective job of watching
the other to make sure they are doing the things they are supposed to. If one party becomes corrupt, the other will
surely inform the public. Even though the Founding Fathers did not desire political parties to exist, they will surely continue to be a part of the American political system for years to come.

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