If you live in the U.S., you’re surely aware of the upcoming presidential election. Perhaps you saw the debate earlier this week. On November 8, American voters will choose our next president, Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump. Even when it’s not election season, you hear a lot in the news about the two major American political parties: the Democrats and the Republicans. What are the differences between the parties? What do they represent?

The Democratic Party

DemocraticLogo.pngSome words often associated with the Democrats are liberal and progressive. These terms refer to a belief in change and reform of laws and viewpoints over time. A person with this kinds of political views is also considered politically “on the left“.

In general, Democrats promote government programs to help Americans, such as healthcare and assistance for people with low incomes or no jobs. Democrats favor policies that help the working class and middle class, such as increasing the minimum wage, increasing taxes on the wealthy and corporations, and making college more affordable. They also tend to favor less military action.

The donkey is an unofficial symbol of the Democratic Party. Recent Democratic presidents include Bill Clinton and Barack Obama. Hillary Clinton is the party’s presidential candidate for the upcoming election.

The Republican Party

gopThe Republican Party, also called the GOP (Grand Old Party), is famously conservative. This means that its members favor policies that preserve traditional systems and values. We also call this point of view being “on the right“.

Republicans generally prefer fewer government social programs. They believe that individuals are responsible for taking care of themselves and their families. They support policies that protect businesses and want to limit taxes. Republicans also emphasize the power of each state to govern itself individually with minimal control from the federal (national) government. They are, however, in favor of a strong and active U.S. military.

The elephant often represents the Republican Party. Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, and George W. Bush are some of our recent GOP presidents. The party’s 2016 presidential candidate is Donald Trump.

Other Parties

While the Democrats and Republicans have the most power in American politics, there are some other, smaller political parties, often called third parties.

The Green Party has progressive values and emphasizes environmental protection, social justice, and nonviolence. Its 2016 presidential candidate is Jill Stein.

The Libertarian Party advocates for minimal government power, protection of individual rights, and less U.S. involvement in foreign affairs. Gary Johnson is its 2016 presidential candidate.