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GOVT 2301
Week Ten
Readings, Notes, and Assignment

Political Parties


- Washington’s Farewell Address
- History of the Democratic Party
- History of the Republican Party
- 2008 Republican Party Platform
- 2008 Democratic Party Platform.

While elections are written into the Constitution, political parties are not. Their usefulness in organizing and competing in elections, as well as organizing Congress, helps explain their longevity. In the above readings I want you to become familiar, first, with Washington's suspicions of political parties (a position he shared with others), then the history of the two dominant parties in existence since 1856, and finally the positions that the two parties take on current issues.


For internet students I want you to write three 200 word answers to the following questions:
1 - Explain, and critically evaluate, why Washington was opposed to the development of political parties.
2 - Detail very briefly how the Democratic and Republican parties were established and how they evolved over time.
3 - Outline the similarities and difference in the 2008 platforms of the Democratic and Republican parties.

For lecture students: be prepared to take a quiz on the following terms, names and concepts:

Also be prepared to answer questions about the following topics:

  • If political parties are not mentioned in the Constitution, where did they come from? What purpose, or purposes, do they serve?
  • Why did Washington argue against parties?
  • Why do we have a two party system?
  • How did the the two current major parties evolve?
  • What groups identify with each party? Why?
  • How do parties control Congress?