School Improvement in Maryland

Lesson Seeds: The lesson seeds are ideas for the indicator/objective that can be used to build a lesson. Lesson seeds are not meant to be all-inclusive, nor are they substitutes for instruction.

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

Students can examine the role of political parties in the American system of government in a variety of contexts in early United States history. In this lesson, it will be examined in the context of the last half of the 19th century, which has been called “the golden age of parties.”

Be sure students can define the term political party, and recall details about the earliest origins of the American party system from their study of the Jefferson/Hamilton rivalry. Introduce students to the roles of political parties listed in the content explanation above and see if they can provide modern examples of each role. Then, distribute primary source documents from presidential elections from the period between 1840 and 1876, as well as source materials from contemporary politics, and have the students categorize the source materials by addressing the focus question, “Which role(s) of political parties is/are illustrated by each source?” (Make available to students one early U.S. history era-source for each role and one contemporary source for each role).

Suggested source materials include:

  1. From early U.S. history:
    "Great democratic and anti-tariff meeting of the young men of Portland" – illustrates parties providing forums for deliberation about public policies (Note: It is not necessary for students to read the full text in the body of this source. However, a helpful link to this text is available)
    "Jackson Delegate Ticket" – illustrates parties providing a means for officials from various levels and branches of government to connect with one another (Note: This sources does not specifically mention the Democratic party, so common party affiliation of the candidates must be inferred. The next source provides a more straightforward illustration of this role)
    "Regulary Democratic Ticket: Ward 8" – illustrates parties providing a means for officials from various levels and branches of government to connect with one another
    "First Republican Elephant" – the first known use of an elephant to depict the Republican party, this victory broadside from the election of 1864 illustrates political parties promoting popular participation in the political process (and also shows how parties are a means for unifying officials from different locales)
    "Municipal Election" – illustrates role of parties in mobilizing popular participation in elections
    "Why Col. Ingesroll Opposes the Democrats" – illustrates parties performing a “watchdog” role and providing the public with information about public affairs
    Proclaim the Truth! – also illustrates parties providing the public with information about public affairs
    "Record of the Republican Party on Behalf of Liberty and Equal Rights" – illustrates role of parties operating the government
    "An act to prescribe and declare the mode of appointing certain officers" – illustrates role of party in operating/organizing the government (implicit)
  2. Contemporary sources:
    http://www.democrats.org/news/blog/organizing_on_independence_day?source=DSH – blog post on Democrats’ 4th of July efforts. Illustrates parties’ role in mobilizing popular participation in elections
    http://www.democrats.org/news/blog/category/twitter_town_hall?source=DSH – Democratic Party’s online “follow up” to President Obama’s “Twitter Town Hall.” Illustrates role of parties educating the public about issues and providing forums for deliberations about public policy
    http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/john-boehner-speaker-republicans-pledge-cut-grow-majority/story?id=12541614 – news article on John Boehner’s election as Speaker of the House. Illustrates party system ensuring peaceful transfer of power and party system playing a role in organization of the government
    http://www.obamagetaway.com/Default.aspx - Republican Party-organized initiative for citizens to send electronic “Obama postcards” to one another during his 2011 vacation. Illustrates parties’ role mobilizing popular participation and serving watchdog role.
    http://www.gop.com/index.php/page_content/issues - Republican Party’s “On the Issues” Web page – illustrates parties’ role educating the public about issues
    http://www.icivics.org/curriculum/politics-and-public-policy - online Politics and Public Policy curricular unit, from iCivics.org
/toolkit/vsc/lessons/social_studies/grade8/1B1c.xml
Resources for Objective 1.B.1.c:
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