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US Government

Two-Party System

What are political parties?

Political parties are groups of people that are organized based on their political beliefs and goals. In some cases, political parties are large powerful organizations that run much of the government.

Two Main Parties

In the United States there are two main political parties: Democrats and Republicans. These two parties run much of the government. Because these two parties are so powerful, the United States government is often called a "two-party system."

Elections in a Two-Party System

The elections in a two-party system are often held in two phases. The first phase is the primary election. In the primary election each party elects a candidate to represent their party. The next phase is called the general election. In the general election, the public votes between the winners of the primary election.

These elections are sort of like playoffs in sports. The primary elections are like the semifinals and the general elections are like the finals.


The Democratic Party was founded in 1828. It is generally associated with larger government programs and higher taxes. Members of the Democratic Party are often referred to as "liberals" or "progressives." The symbol of the Democratic Party is the donkey.


The Republican Party was founded in 1854 by anti-slavery activists. It is generally associated with smaller government and lower taxes. Members of the Republican Party are often referred to as "conservatives." The symbol of the Republican Party is the elephant.

Other Parties

There are other political parties in the United States, but they have not been able to make a significant impact in the government. Some of these parties include the Libertarian Party, the Green Party, and the Constitution Party. Political parties that have had power in the past include the Whigs, the Federalists, and the Democratic-Republicans.

Advantages and Disadvantages

There are good and bad things about a two party system. On the plus side, having only two parties helps the government to run smoother. Two-party systems can lead to a more stable government and less radical politics. On the negative side, two-party systems give the voters only two choices. Voters start to think that their vote doesn't count for much, causing them not to participate. It also makes it difficult for people with new ideas to have an influence in the government.

Left or Right?

Sometimes political parties are described as being "left-wing" or "right-wing." The Democrats are considered "left" and the Republicans "right." The terms "left" and "right" originally came from the National Assembly during the French Revolution when the supporters of the king stood on the right and the supporters of the revolution on the left.

Interesting Facts about the Two Party System Activities To learn more about the United States government:

Branches of Government
Executive Branch
President's Cabinet
US Presidents

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House of Representatives
How Laws are Made

Judicial Branch
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Serving on a Jury
Famous Supreme Court Justices
John Marshall
Thurgood Marshall
Sonia Sotomayor
United States Constitution
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First Amendment
Second Amendment
Third Amendment
Fourth Amendment
Fifth Amendment
Sixth Amendment
Seventh Amendment
Eighth Amendment
Ninth Amendment
Tenth Amendment
Thirteenth Amendment
Fourteenth Amendment
Fifteenth Amendment
Nineteenth Amendment
Checks and Balances
Interest Groups
US Armed Forces
State and Local Governments
Becoming a Citizen
Civil Rights

Voting in the United States
Two-Party System
Electoral College
Running for Office

Works Cited

History >> US Government

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