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external image Roosevelt_and_Johnson_after_nomination.jpg

Topics on this page

Politcal Parties
  • Parties in American History
    • Resources for Teaching about Political Parties
Disputed Elections in American History
Election Information Resources

Image to the right shows Theodore Roosevelt & Hiram Johnson, Bull-Moose Party Candidates, 1912

Political Parties

rotating gif.gifFor more on political parties, see:

See Third Party Elections from Fairvote.org

What is a political party?
A group of individuals, who share a variety of beliefs, that organize to win elections, control the government, and influence policy making.

What are the political parties in America?
Throughout American history, there have been a wide variety of political parties. Many of these parties have faded away or were replaced with other parties. Today, the Democrat and Republican parties are the two most common. Here is a list of various political parties throughout US history:
  • Anti-Federalist
    • Years active: 1787-1791
      house of reps.png
      Breakdown of 113th House of Representatives. Red is Republican, Blue is Democrat, White is Vacant
    • Famous member: Patrick Henry
    • Platforms: States' rights, separation of powers, class equality
    • For more info, click here.
  • Democratic-Republican
    • Years active: 1792-1798
    • Famous member: Thomas Jefferson
    • Platforms: States' rights, agrarian interests, supporting democracy
    • For more info, click here.
  • Federalist
    • Years active: 1789-1801
    • Famous member: Alexander Hamilton
    • Platforms: Strong central government, tariff system, assumption of state debts
    • For more info, click here or see Federalism.
  • Whig
    • Years active: 1834-1854
    • Famous member: William Henry Harrison
    • Platforms: Opposing tyranny, industrialization, expansion of roads, creating schools
    • For more info, click here.
  • Liberty
    Breakdown of 113th Senate. Red is Republican, Dark Blue is Democrat, Light Blue is Independent
  • American (Know-Nothing)
    • Years active: 1850s
    • Famous member: Millard Fillmore
    • Platforms: Anti-immigrant
    • For more info, click here.
  • Progressive
    • Years active: 1924
    • Famous member: Theodore Roosevelt
    • Platforms: Tax reduction, public ownership of roads, public control of natural resources
    • For more info, click here.
  • Constitutional Union
    • Years active: 1859-1860
    • Famous member: John Bell
    • Platform: Support the Union pre-Civil War
    • For more info, click here.
  • Libertarians
    George HW Bush, Barack Obama, George W Bush, Bill Clinton, Jimmy Carter
    • Years active: 1971-present
    • Famous member: Gary Johnson
    • Platform: Individuals should have sole authority over their lives
    • For more info, click here.
  • Democrat
    • Years active: 1792-present
    • Famous member: Bill Clinton
    • Platform: Greater government intervention, more social programs
    • Fore more info, click here.
  • Republican
    • Years active: 1854-present
    • Famous member: Ronald Reagan
    • Platform: laissez-faire, low taxes
    • For more info, click here.

Resources for Teaching about Political Parties

Re-Engineering Politicians: How Activist Groups Choose Our Candidates: Long Before We Vote, Brookings (December 7, 2017)
  • Activist groups are by-passing traditional political party organizations to select candidates in what are invisible primaries

Link here for a website analyzing political parties and their relationships.

Here are tests to determine what political party you might belong in: PBS and Political Compass.

  • Link here for a look at past political commercials and their influence.
    • Link here for the Crash Course video "Where US Politics Came From"

Female_Rose.pngWho Leads Us, a new 2014 report from the Reflective Democracy Campaign documents that 71% of elected officials are men.
dollarsign.pngHow Much Did Your Vote Cost? Spending Per Voter in 2014 Senate Races from Brookings Institution.
game_icon.svg.pngClick here for the game "One Big Party?" from iCivics.
lessonplan.jpgClick here or here or here for a lesson plan on American political parties.


  • According to the 26th Amendment, a US citizen must be at least 18 to vote.
  • There are two main types of elections:
    • Primary election
      • Nominating election
        Electoral College, 2012
      • Candidates compete within the same political party to win support and endorsement from that party.
      • Occurs prior to the general election.
        • Each individual state sets the date.
    • General election
      • The citizens make the final choice between the finalists from each political party.
      • Occurs the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November.
    • Multimedia.pngClick here for a video explaining the consequences of primary elections v. general elections.
  • The 17th Amendment ensures the direct election of Senators, meaning they are elected by popular vote, not through the Electoral College (for more on the Electoral College, see USG 5.2).
    • The majority party of the Congressmen elected in the Senate, have control of the Senate.
    • Senators are elected for 6 year terms.
  • Each state is divided into districts based on population.
    • Each district elects one representative for the House.
    • The majority party of the Congressmen elected in the House, have control of the House.
    • Representatives are elected every two years.
  • The President and Vice President are elected through the Electoral College.
    • Each state has the same amount of electors as it does in the House of Representatives and the Senate.
    • When people vote in elections, they actually vote for the candidate they want the elector to vote for.
    • In most states, all of the electoral votes go to the candidate that received the popular vote.
    • There have been electors who have not followed the popular vote in 1948, 1956, 1960, 1968, 1976, and 1988.

Disputed Elections in American History

For an overview, see Disputed Elections in American History from Colonial Williamsburg.

  • Election of 1800
    • House of Representatives chose Thomas Jefferson on 36th ballot in 1800 after neither he nor John Adams had a majority of electoral votes

  • 1824, 1876, 1888 and 2000 are the elections in which a candidate won the popular vote but lost the election:
    • House of Representatives chose John Quincy Adams over Andrew Jackson in 1824 although Adams received fewer popular votes, but neither had an electoral college majority
    • Rutherford B. Hayes defeated Samuel Tilden in 1876 It was decided by an electoral commission following disputes over electoral votes in four states See also The Disputed Presidential Election of 1876
    • Benjamin Harrison defeated Grover Cleveland in 1888 even though Cleveland won the popular vote; Harrison won the electoral college
    • George W. Bush defeated Al Gore in 2000 after a Supreme Court decision upheld Florida's electoral votes for Bush

Presidential election facts from the History Channel
Multimedia.pngClick here for a video titled "Electing a US President in Plain English."
congressional districts.gif
Congressional Districts of MA

  • Click here for the US Presidential Election Results from 1789-2008.
  • Click here for a video on US elections compared to UK elections.
game_icon.svg.pngClick here to play "The Campaign Trail."
  • Click here to play "eLECTIONS: Your Adventure in Politics" (Requires Adobe Shockwave Player).

lessonplan.jpgClick here and here for lesson plans on elections and voting.

Election Information Resources

Special Topic Page on Voting Rights and Voter Suppression

  • Link here for a map of the US and Congressional Districts and to search for the name of your Representative.

  • Link here for a list of the number of Representatives for each state. Shows the number from 1910, 2000, and 2010.

  • Link here for more info on voting in each state. Includes how to register to vote, ID requirements, and polling locations.

  • Link here for a list of upcoming elections in the United States.

1. Electoral College. http://history.house.gov/Institution/Electoral-College/Electoral-College/