Lesson Plan: Political Parties

History of Political Parties

Iowa State University professor Steffen Schmidt discussed the history of political parties from their origins to the present. ** This clip is part of C-SPAN Classroom's FREE resources for teachers and students. Visit www.c-spanclassroom.org for more info. **


Political parties have played a significant role in American politics. The U.S. has evolved into a two party system; although, third parties have historically played a varying role in the political system. View the video clips below to learn about the history of political parties, their platforms, and their current roles in the U.S.


  • STEP 1.

    Assign background reading from a textbook or another appropriate source relating to political parties.

  • STEP 2.

    As a class watch the following video clips and discuss the history of political parties and their significance in the electoral process.

  • STEP 3.

    Break students up into groups and have each group view the following video clips. Students should take notes using the handout below or complete the individual Bell Ringer questions, and then share their findings with the rest of the class.


    • Kansas Nebraska Act and the Formation of the Republican Party (2:34) Heather Cox Richardson discusses the importance of the Kansas Nebraska Act as it relates to the Republican Party.

    • The Know Nothing Party (3:32) Terry Golway talks about the Know Nothing Party and Tammany Hall.

    • The Prohibition Party (2:26) Iowa State University Professor Steffen Schmidt discussed the history and platform of the Prohibition Party.

    • Libertarianism (2:52) Author Jason Brennan broadly defines three categories of libertarian thinkers as classical liberals, hard libertarians, and neo-classical liberals.

    • The Constitution Party Platform (2:07) Former Constitution Party Presidential Nominee Chuck Baldwin discussed the platform and beliefs of the Constitution Party.

    • The Founding of the Tea Party Patriots (1:51) Jenny Beth Martin talks about founding and political philosophy of the Tea Party Patriots.

    • The Green Party Platform (4:50) Jo Chamberlain, Steering Committee Co-Chair, and Mike Feinstein, Mayor of Santa Monica, CA, poke about the launch of a national Green Party.
  • STEP 4.

    Conclusion: Watch the following videos and discuss the current state of political parties in the U.S.

    • Political Party Affiliation in the U.S. (3:23) Pew Research Center Public Research Director Carroll Doherty discussed a study his organization conducted examining party affiliation in the U.S.

    • The Modern Two-Party System (3:03) Iowa State University professor Steffen Schmidt discussed the modern two-party system, including geographic and constituency trends.

Additional Resources


  • Constitution Party
  • Democrats
  • Green Party
  • Know Nothing Party
  • Libertarian Party
  • Platforms
  • Political Parties
  • Politics
  • Prohibition Party
  • Republicans
  • Tea Party
  • Third Parties


Political Parties


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