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Politics on Point: What is a Political Party?

It's time to party! Well, a political party, that is. Nick explains the differences between the Republican Party and the Democratic Party.

Class Discussion Questions:

1) Pretend you are starting your own political party. What three things would be most important to your party? Explain why.

2) Create a Venn diagream comparing the Democrats and Republicans.

Read the Script:

It's time to party! Whoa, it's a political party. What? You mean it's not that kind of party? Actually a  political party is a group of people that share many of the same beliefs about how the government should work. Political parties are the main way we elect people in the United States. Usually we pick between the two major parties, the Democrats and the Republicans.

The Democrats are associated with the color blue and the donkey, which has been their symbol since president Andrew Jackson's political campaign in 1828. Political rivals said, Jackson, a Democrat was stubborn as a donkey and Jackson latched onto it. So did political cartoonist Thomas Nast who made the symbol famous. Since then, the donkey has forever been associated with the democratic party.

Nast also had a hand in the other famous symbol, the Republican elephant. In one of his cartoons, he drew a scene at the zoo and the Republicans were depicted as an elephant. And that's all it took. Republicans embraced the caricature remarking that the elephant is powerful, strong, and dignified. Republicans are also associated with the color red. And sometimes the party is referred to as the GOP, that stands for Grand Old Party.

But these parties are at odds, not because of their symbols, but because of their beliefs. Most differences between the parties come down to an overall disagreement about the role the government should play in our lives. Although not all Republicans agree with each other on every issue, generally Republicans tend to believe a smaller limited government is best. They usually believe in personal responsibility, low taxes, and a strong military.

Republicans are sometimes called conservatives. One famous Republican is Ronald Reagan who is known for cutting taxes for every American in 1981.

REAGAN:  I think the people of this country today want more than anything for government get off their backs and out of their pockets.

On the other side, we have the Democrats. They are the oldest party in the United States, and they believe that the government should take a more active role in people's lives, especially those in need. The democratic party typically believes in equal opportunity protecting the environment and healthcare for everyone. Democrats are sometimes called liberals or progressives. One example of a Democrat is Franklin D. Roosevelt who started a bunch of government programs to create jobs during the great depression.

ROOSEVELT:  Let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.

We've seen the two sides trade barbs and debate over the past few months. And now finally, it's all about to come to an end, at least until the next election.