Guiding Reading and activity
1. Why did George Washington fear political parties?
2. What role do third parties play in the American political system?
3. What is a party platform?
4. What is a platform plank?
5. Why are party platforms important?
("Parties, Platforms, and Planks" was adapted from The Challenge of Governance © Constitutional Rights Foundation)
A C T I V I T Y
Building a Party Platform
After reading about the origins and functions of political parties, students create a party platform to address political issues that are likely to arise during a national election.
1. Divide the class into 10 small groups. Assign each group one issue from the list below.
Foreign Policy Issues
• diplomacy and military force
• promoting democracy abroad (nation building)
Domestic Policy Issues
• jobs and the economy
• diversity and equality
• civil liberties & national security
• health care
2. Tell students to:
• Define the issue they have been assigned.
• Explain why it is an important campaign issue.
• Develop a position, or "plank," on how the issue should be addressed..
Optional: If time permits, have each group research its issue before proceeding to step 2.
3. Have each group present their findings to the whole class. After each presentation, vote as a class whether to (1) adopt, (2) modify, or (3) reject each position or "plank." Record the results of the vote.
4. Re-divide the class into small groups, and using the "planks" they have adopted, have each group create a presentation (a poster, display, speech, or campaign ad) that represents their position. Assemble all the groups' posters, displays, etc. to create a complete party platform.
5. Debrief the activity by having students compare their party platform to existing party platforms (Research the candidates").
• How is your platform similar to existing platforms? How is it different?
• Do candidates plan to address the issues you have chosen? How?
• In your opinion, which platform[s] are better? Which is the best? Why?