The History of Political Parties

Contributor: Meghan Vestal. Lesson ID: 11000

Why are they called "parties" when they always seem angry? What are Democratic-Republicans? Learn from a fast video, the parties' sites, a scholarly article, and a diagram, and create your own party!


United States, United States

learning style
Auditory, Visual
personality style
Lion, Beaver
Grade Level
Middle School (6-8)
Lesson Type
Dig Deeper

Lesson Plan - Get It!

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  • Did you know the Founding Fathers strongly opposed political parties?

Yet, it seems political parties existed as early as 1787.

  • If the founding fathers were so opposed to political parties, how is it they have become such a large part of the U.S. government today?

In the first Related Lesson of our Political Parties and American Government series, found in the right-hand sidebar, you learned the purpose of political parties.

Take a few minutes to review the information you have already learned. Write down the five main functions of political parties. Use your notes from the previous Related Lesson to check your responses.

In this lesson, you will study the history of political parties and learn about the major political parties that exist today.

After the Revolutionary War ended and the government of the United States was established, the Founding Fathers were wary of political parties. They feared factions within the people and government could create problems.

Flash forward 200 years, and political parties now define the way the American government operates. Today, you will learn the history of political parties and how they came into existence.

Watch this Party Systems: Crash Course Government and Politics #41 video (below) to learn about the history of political parties and the types of political parties that exist today. As you watch the video, answer the following questions:

  • When and why did political parties begin?
  • What are the two major political parties that exist in the United States today?
  • What are the main differences between the two major political parties in the United States?
  • What is a third party?
  • Why do third parties exist?

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When you finish watching the video, read the article Political Parties from This article will share additional information about the history of political parties and political parties that exist today. If you did not find an answer to any of the questions while watching the video, find the answer in the article.

Before moving on to the next section, let's review the answers to those questions:

  • Political parties began as early 1787 with Alexander Hamilton. Hamilton and his supporters wanted to join together to push the policies they favored. From there, more political parties began to emerge. Over the years, political parties and the policies they favor have changed.
  • There are two main political parties in the United States today: Democrats and Republicans.
  • Today, Democrats tend to favor a strong central government, while the Republicans favor a more limited federal government, and giving more rights to the individual states.
  • A third party is a political party that is not one of the two major political parties.
  • Third parties typically are not large enough to have their candidates win elections, but they are effective in getting their agenda heard. Examples of third parties in the United States today include the Tea Party and the Green Party.
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