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Who Are the Political Parties and What Are They Fighting About?

If you’re a kid who is starting to learn about government, you are probably hearing

a lot about “politics” and “politicians” and “political parties.” Do you know what

those words mean?

Politicians are the people who try to get elected to positions in government; politics

are the different ideas people have about what the government should do and how

the government should do it. Political parties are organized groups of people that

share the same opinions on those political subjects.

For example, one important topic that people have disagreed about in the United

States ever since it was created is the role of government. Should there be a strong

central government for all of the states that makes lots of laws and is very involved

in the day to day lives of people, or should the central government have very few

powers and responsibilities and let the states make the laws based on what the

people in each state want?

Back when the Constitution was written in 1787, there were no political parties in

the United States. The first political parties began because of that question of

whether or not to have a strong U.S. government. The first political party, the

Federalists, were the ones who supported the Constitution which at that time was

considered a step in the direction of strong central government. The Anti-

Federalists were the people who were afraid that the new government created by

the Constitution would become too strong and take away their rights.

Over time, the parties changed names, but that key question of how strong the

government should be was one of the main subjects that made one party different

from the others. Today, the Democrats are considered to be the party that is in

favor of a strong U.S. government, while the Republicans are the ones who

generally want to limit the powers of the government.

There are other important subjects on which most of the members of the two main

political parties disagree, of course. How much people should pay in taxes to the

the government and what those tax dollars are used for is another important issue

on which the parties take different sides. How we get along with other countries

and whether to go to war is another subject that political parties have disagreed

about, too. But most of these disagreements usually come down to this: What

should the government do, and how should it do it.

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