Political parties are groups of people who have certain sets of beliefs about how a country should be governed, and hold political power in electing new government officials. These parties are usually present in republics and democracies, but also sometimes in monarchies and Communist countries, though in Communist countries they are mainly symbolic. Parties represent broad groups of voters who have certain ideas. These ideas, such as the idea that the working class should have certain rights, or that government should set aside money to help the poor, are the party's platform.
In very basic terms, most mainstream political parties fall across a political spectrum, or a measure of their beliefs in relation to each other. The most standard example of this spectrum is left-wing, center, and right-wing.
The number of political parties differs from country to country. Most countries have many political parties which fall in different places on the spectrum. Germany, for example, has twelve parties. A few countries, usually Communist ones like China, only have one party. Several countries, notably the United States, have a two-party system.
In the US, there are only two parties which hold all the power in politics-the Republicans and Democrats. There are a few third parties, like the Libertarians, the Green Party, the Constitution Party, and numerous small local ones, but these have only a small minority of elected officials in places of power compared to the big two.
The Republican Party, also called the Grand Old Party or the GOP, had Abraham Lincoln as its first president. It is on the right-wing side of the spectrum. Republicans support low government interference in the economy and traditional values. They represent conservative thought.
The Democratic Party was founded in 1828 by Andrew Jackson, and is the oldest still-active party in the world. They are on the left-wing side. They support high government interference in the economy, and social justice. They represent liberal thought.
In a presidential election, right-wing candidates for president will run under a right-wing party, left-wing candidates under the left-wing party. Both parties will try to make sure voters who agree with the party platform vote along party lines. Both parties will spend a lot of their time trying to convince voters in the center of the political spectrum who might not be signed up with either party, or with any party at all. This center makes up most the voters in the United States.
The first political parties in history formed in England in the 1600s. The country was a kingdom at the time. The parties which formed were the Whigs, who believed in greater personal liberties, and the Tories, who believed in more power for the king. Political parties, ever since, have symbolized the split beliefs of the people of a country. During campaigning for office, each party does its best to make sure the other party is viewed as wrong or evil.
This led U.S. President George Washington, during his Farewell Address in 1796, to warn that the United States should not have a two-party system. He was worried that each party would try to gather as much power as possible, and would weaken the country in the process.
A notable example of a political party gone wrong was the Nazis in Germany. The Nazi regime under Hitler started out as the National Socialist German Workers' Party, with a far-right ideology.
To link to this Political Parties page, copy the following code to your site: