Political parties are an important force in American politics. NBC News' Kristen Dahlgren explains what political parties are, the different major parties in the United States and what they stand for, and what they do to help elect their candidates to public office.
What are Political Parties?
KRISTEN DAHLGREN, anchor:
Political parties are an important force in American politics. They help people decide how they want the government to be run. But what is a political party, exactly?
It's an organized group of people with common interests that join together to support policies or ideas on things they believe in--from taxes to civil rights.
Their aim is to get their candidates elected to public office to carry out these policies in state, local, or national government.
There are two major political parties in the United States: the Democrats and the Republicans.
Democrats generally support what many consider to be a liberal position, meaning they believe that the federal government is responsible for the welfare of every citizen. Democrats often believe in more government regulations, additional oversight on industry, and higher taxes on businesses and the wealthy.
Republicans generally support a conservative position, meaning that the federal government should not play a big role in people's lives, and less government involvement ensures more social and economic equality. Republicans often favor fewer regulations on businesses, lower taxes for everyone, and reduced spending by the government.
Sometimes elected officials serve without being a member of any political party. They're called independents--like Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont.
There are also "Third Parties." This is any political party that isn't one of the two major parties-- like the Green Party that wants to create policy based on environmentalism, and the Libertarian Party that favors little or no government interference on a social or economic level.
Although no third party candidate has ever been elected to federal office, they can still influence elections by raising issues to a national level, and can persuade the Democrats and Republicans to add certain ideas to their own platforms.
Some believe that third party candidates act as a "spoiler" for close races, pulling votes away from the major party candidates and potentially impacting the outcome of the election.
The Republicans and Democrats both have national committees that develop and promote their parties' platforms. They also fundraise for their candidates and advertise their positions.
You can show your support for a political party by voting, volunteering for a candidate, and supporting them on social media, and at rallies and events.
Just make sure your voice is heard, no matter what party you support.
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