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Political Parties
Guide: Two-Party System

These resources highlight the development and functioning of the two-party system in U.S. politics. Use this content to enhance students' understanding of the how the two-party system works in the U.S. political environment as well as how third parties present alternatives to the Democratic and Republican parties. Use the Export to My Lists button above to turn this into a research list for your students.

Theme Key Understandings

  • A government's structure determines how political parties will form and operate
  • Political parties strongly influence the operation of democratic governments
  • Media, public opinion, and policy are interrelated in a democracy
  • The type of media a public consumes influences their understanding of policy and government action
  • Interest groups can be both an effective citizen tool for expression and, if too powerful, a threat to democracy
  • Voting rules and regulations affect election outcomes
  • Interpreting campaign contributions as free speech allows those with money greater access to lawmakers

Key Questions

  • What are three key ways that American history shaped the development of political parties in the United States?
  • How does the American winner-take-all system make it so difficult for third parties to gain momentum?


  1. Overview: Two-Party System
  2. Outline: Outline
  3. Transcript: Transcript
  4. Lesson: Introduction
  5. Lesson: 1-Persistence of the Two-Party System
  6. Lesson: 2-Post-Civil War Parties
  7. Lesson: 3-Parties in the 20th Century
  8. Lesson: 4-Republican and Democratic Parties Today
  9. Lesson: 5-Third Parties
  10. Lesson: Closing
  11. Photos & Illustrations: Election of 2016: Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton debate
  12. Reference Articles: first and second party systems
  13. Reference Articles: Political Philosophy: Conservativism
  14. Reference Articles: Political Philosophy: Liberalism
  15. Reference Articles: Republican Party
  16. Reference Articles: U.S. Party Systems
  17. Reference Articles: Democratic Party
  18. Reference Articles: Third Party
  19. Political Cartoons, Posters & Document Images: Political cartoon: Awaiting the "Third Party" (Puck, 1906)
  20. Political, Government & Court Documents: Democratic Party Platform (2012)
  21. Political, Government & Court Documents: Republican Party Platform (2012)

MLA Citation

"Two-Party System." History Hub, ABC-CLIO, 2019, historyhub.abc-clio.com/Search/Display/2156164. Accessed 23 Aug. 2019.

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Entry ID: 2156164

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