School Improvement in Maryland
Clarifications: Each clarification provides an explanation of an indicator/objective to help teachers better understand the skills and/or concepts.

Standard 1.0 Political Science

Topic B. Individual and Group Participation in the Political System

Indicator 1. Analyze the influence of individuals and groups on shaping public policy

Objective c. Examine the roles and functions of political parties in the American system of government

Clarification

Political parties are groups of people that join together to elect candidates to serve as government officials. Members of political parties usually have similar views about government and the issues of the day. Believing they were dangerous factions, the Framers were opposed to the idea of political parties, and political parties are not mentioned or provided for in the Constitution. The Framers feared that political parties and other types of factions could gain control of the government and then the government would serve the interests of the factions instead of the people (Madison famously writes about factions in Federalist 10).

In spite of the Framers’ concerns, for most of the nation’s history political parties have been an essential component of the American system of government. They were particularly prominent during the 19th century, after leaders during the Jacksonian era promoted their role by rewarding their Democratic supporters with jobs and other benefits of political patronage. Beginning during this time, political visionaries such as Andrew Jackson and Martin Van Buren saw political parties as a vehicle for uniting public officials from different locales and different branches of government who shared common ideas about public policy. They also staged elaborate events such as parades, rallies, and other public meetings to instill in their supporters a sense of belonging to the party.

Since the 1800’s, political parties have performed several important and unique functions in the political process, including

  • mobilizing popular participation in the recruitment, nomination, and election of candidates for public office;
  • providing the public with information about current affairs and serving a “watchdog” role over the opposition;
  • providing a means for officials from various levels and branches of government to connect with one another;
  • playing a prominent role in operating and staffing the government, through party organization of the legislative branch and dispensing patronage;
  • providing forums for deliberations about public policies;
  • promoting the overall stability of the political system and ensuring a peaceful transfer of power
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Resources for Objective 1.B.1.c:
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