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Political Parties

Political Parties

Home Civics Political Parties Teaching Discussion and Essay Questions

Discussion and Essay Questions

Available to teachers only as part of the Teaching Political PartiesTeacher Pass

Teaching Political Parties Teacher Pass includes:

  • Assignments & Activities
  • Reading Quizzes
  • Current Events & Pop Culture articles
  • Discussion & Essay Questions
  • Challenges & Opportunities
  • Related Readings in Literature & History

Sample of Discussion and Essay Questions

  1. The Founding Fathers and Political Parties
    • What is philosophical (small r) republicanism?
    • Is this an attractive political philosophy?
    • Is it a realistic political philosophy?
    • Does this philosophy persist at all in our political ideology or practices?
    • Why are political parties fundamentally contrary to this philosophy?
  2. Role of Political Parties
    • What are the four fundamental functions of political parties?
    • How would you rank these in order of importance?
    • Can other institutions, entities, or individuals fill any of these roles?
  3. Two-Party System
    • Do you agree with the suggestion that there is an ideological consensus in America?
      • If so, what are the fundamental beliefs within this consensus?
      • If not, where do the major disagreements lie?
      • Do Americans believe essentially the same thing about?
        • The economy
        • America’s role in the world
        • Race? Education? The role of government?
  4. Third Parties
    • Third Parties form for different reasons. Some are short-lived protest parties responding to some temporary condition. Ross Perot’s Reform Party of the 1990s fit this description. Others are more enduring and organize around some set of beliefs or issues—the Libertarian and Green Parties are examples of this type.
      • What sort of third party might emerge in the next few years? Would it be a protest party or more ideological in nature?
        • How about an anti-Wall Street party?
        • Or a healthcare reform party?
  5. The First Party System
    • How would you summarize the difference between Federalists and Democratic-Republicans?
    • Can you see any similarities between these parties and the Democrats and Republicans of today?
      • In what ways were the Federalists like today’s Democrats? And today’s Republicans?
      • In what ways were the Democratic-Republicans like today’s Democrats? And today’s Republicans?
    • Which of these parties would you label conservative? Liberal?
      • How useful are these terms?
  6. The Second Party System
    • In what ways were the Whigs like and unlike the Federalists?
    • With what contemporary political party were the Whigs similar?
      • In their support for government spending on internal improvements and education?
      • In their willingness to use government power to “moralize” public life?
    • With what contemporary political party were Jackson’s Democrats most similar?
      • In their opposition to Whig “meddling and moralizing?”
      • In their support for Indian removal and the use of government power to expand economic opportunities in the West?
    • Which of these parties would you label conservative? Liberal?
      • How useful are these terms?
  7. The Third Party System
    • Institutionally, the Republican Party that forms in the 1850s is the Republican Party of today. To what extent can you identify a constant ideological thread within the party?
  8. The Fourth Party System
    • What role did the Populist Party play in redrawing party alignments?
    • In what ways did the Democratic Party start to take on its contemporary character during these years?
    • Why is it incorrect to simply label the Republican Party as the party of big business?
    • To what extent is there a persisting reform thread within the Republican Party?
  9. The Fifth Party System
    • To what extent is the Democratic Party still the party of Roosevelt?
    • To what extent is the New Deal Coalition still the backbone of the party?
    • What was the central ideological component within Ronald Reagan’s revitalization of the Republican Party?
    • Can you find traces of earlier parties in the Democrats and Republicans of the Fifth Party System?
  10. The Future of Political Parties
    • What conclusions have you reached about America’s political parties?
    • What recurring themes or issues define the parties?
    • Can you break America’s political traditions down to a handful of key contesting ideas?
    • Did Obama’s election in 2008 signal an enduring realignment or just a temporary shift in the electorate?
    • Will political parties adapt to or be replaced by new political conditions?
      • What fact should be most troubling to people committed to the party system?
      • What fact should be most reassuring to people committed to the party system?
    • If parties fade away, will American politics become less partisan?
    • Will other institutions or organizations take their place?
      • Interest groups? Unions? Television networks?