U. S. Government: Democracy In Action

Chapter 16: Political Parties

Chapter Overviews

A political party is a group of people with broad common interests who organize to win elections, control government, and thereby influence government policies. Chapter 16 discusses the large role political parties play in government decisions and describes how the parties work.

Section 1 discusses the different party systems used around the world: one-party systems, multiparty systems, and two-party systems such as the one used in the United States. The section also describes the major American parties and the role of third parties in the history of the United States.

Section 2 describes party organization. First, it defines the levels of party organization—from the basic local unit of the precinct to the national convention and national committee. Then the section emphasizes that the main focus of parties is winning elections. However, even when a party loses an election, it has a role to play as a government "watchdog."

Section 3 spells out how parties nominate their candidates. In our nation's early history, caucuses nominated nearly all candidates for office. Over the years, however, state party organizations have adopted other nominating systems—the nominating convention, primary elections, and petitions. By 1988 presidential primaries existed in 38 states and were part of the selection process for three-fourths of the delegates to the two national conventions. Today each major party gathers in a national convention to select candidates for president and vice president.

US Government: Democracy In Action
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