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1. What are political parties, and what do they do?

1.  What are political parties, and what do they do? Why are there only two competitive parties in the United States?  What are the consequences of having only two viable parties in a nation as large and diverse as the U.S.?

2. What are interest groups, and what do they do? In the U.S., thousands of interest groups – groups on all conceivable sides of virtually every issue — compete with each other. Does this mean that James Madison’s goal of faction control through interest group pluralism has been achieved? Do interest groups compete equally, thereby offsetting each other so that no one set of interests dominates?

3. In theory, what is the role of the news media in democracy? What is the role of the media in reality? Are their theoretical and realistic roles compatible or in conflict, and why? Today, we are in the middle of a technological revolution that gives us access to more information that at any other time in human history — are most Americans better informed citizens as a result?

4. For democracy to function, its citizens must have some level of knowledge and understanding of government and politics. Do U.S. citizens live up to this expectation? Why or why not?

5. Voting in elections is the one responsibility of democratic citizenship — and yet large numbers of Americans do not vote. Why is that? Why is U.S. voter turnout so much lower than in most other democracies? And for those who do vote: what factors influence how they vote in elections?

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