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The study of political parties gets straight to the heart of American politics. The story of political parties is about how we get along with one another. Political parties grew outside the Constitution and the more formal framework of government. No one planned or even wanted them. Parties developed as a response to the dream of a unified government. While parties have taken the country to the brink of violence, and beyond, they have also been vehicles for avoiding violent conflict, and for channeling disagreements. This course provides an understanding of how American politics work and can help make sense of election results and political trends. By understanding political parties, we can better understand what is going on in American politics today and in which direction American politics may be going.