The Constitutional Development of Political Parties: A Theory of Emergent Structures and Reoccurring Patterns of Political Opposition



Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title



This study addresses a long-standing puzzle in American political party development as scholars have attempted to understand why political parties first emerged despite strong opposition to them. The result of this puzzle leaves us to understand a constitutional order that is deeply entrenched with political parties, despite the scholarly perception that the founders created a "Constitution-against-Parties." As such, I reassess how political actors developed early constitutional rules that facilitated the emergence of political parties and established their purpose in American politics. Utilizing qualitative evidence, I assess how an opposition party gained its constitutional foundations through constitutional constructions and creations involving the First Amendment, the Twelfth Amendment, and general ticket Electoral College vote allocation. Accordingly, once these constitutional rules allowing an opposition political access were in place, I reassess the electoral strategies of the Federalist Party and Democratic-Republican Party in national elections. As such, I argue that, contrary to current party scholarship, the Constitution actually worked for rather than against parties, and parties served as an early means of checking political power, particularly executive power, by majoritarian means. More broadly, I conclude policy and legal rules should seek to strengthen the two-party system thereby facilitating a legitimate opposition capable of checking executive power.



Constitutional Development, Political Parties