Lesson Plan: The Functions of Political Parties

The Role of Political Parties in U.S. Government

Professor Sean Wilentz talked about the role that political parties play in enacting societal change.


Political parties serve as linkage institutions that connect people to the government. This lesson has students explore the functions of political parties by viewing video clips of Democratic and Republican party officials and elected officials performing these functions. Students will use these examples to explain how political parties recruit and nominate candidates, get candidates elected, monitor the party in power and organize government.


  • WARM-UP:

    Before beginning class have students answer the following questions:

    • In your own words, what are political parties?

    • What actions do political parties take in the United States?

    Review the students' answers to the warm-up questions and address any misconceptions that students might have about political parties. To introduce the role that political parties play in the United States, students should view the following video clip and answer the questions.

    Video Clip 1: The Role of Political Parties in U.S. Government (3:17)

    • What were the founders' opinions of political parties? How are they viewed today?

    • How does the structure and rules of the U.S. political system lead to political parties and partisan politics?

    • According to Professor Wilentz, how have political parties addressed issues throughout U.S. History?

    After reviewing the students' answers to the introductory questions, have the students use the chart on the handout to view video clips showcasing examples of the functions of political parties.

    Handout: Functions of Political Parties (Google Doc)

    Students will provide the following information on the chart.

    • A definition of this function of political parties

    • Examples of actions relating to this function

    • Keywords and terms associated with this function

    • Information on how this function helps connect citizens to the political process

  • Recruiting and Nominating Candidates

  • Getting Candidates Elected


    Using the notes that the students took on the chart, students should address the following prompt. This can be either through a written response, class discussion, creation of a graphic organizer or other type of response.

    • Based on examples from the video clips, how do the functions of political parties help connect citizens to the government and political process?

    Create a Meme- For each of the four functions of political parties, create a meme that represents the purpose and actions related to this function.

    Party National Committee Research- Using the Republican National Committee or Democratic National Committee website, research and provide specific examples of how the party fulfills each of these functions. Explain how each of these examples illustrates this function of political parties.

    Political Party Current Events- Find a news story that relates to an action by a political party. Read the articles and provide the following:

    • Summary of the article

    • Explanation of how the party is fulfilling the specific function(s) of political parties

    • Which function of political parties is the most important for connecting citizens to the political process? Explain why using examples from the video clips.

    • Do political parties have too much power in the political process? Why or why not?

    • How are the four functions of political parties connected to each other?

    • How do the functions of a political party change when that party is not in power?

Additional Resources


  • Cabinet
  • Candidates
  • Caucus Meeting
  • Debate
  • Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee
  • Democratic National Committee
  • Down Ballot
  • Fundraising
  • Grassroots
  • Ground Game
  • Majority Party
  • Messaging
  • Nomination
  • Partisanship
  • Political Parties
  • Primary
  • Recruitment
  • Republican National Committee


Campaigns & ElectionsPolitical Parties


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