History of political parties in the United States
History of political parties in the United States
For many years, there have been two major political parties in the United States. Today’s American political parties, Democratic Party and the Republican Party developed from the federal and anti federal parties. However, although no other major political parties have developed, the constitution of the United States does not restrict creation of more parties. The reason for dominance of the United States politics by the democrats and the republicans has been due to the belief among the Americans that their candidate will win only if they are from a major political party.
The founding fathers of the United States of America had a negative view of political parties. They were influenced by classical republicans who argued that political parties would promote factional interests and misconduct of public officials. However, the Jeffersonian and Hamiltonians later emerged which was followed by the federalists and anti federalists which led to the formation of a federal government towards the end of 18th century.
As the political leaders tried to address issues related to economical and social interest of different regions, they mobilized support from different regions to secure political influence during the election. The federalist focused on the interest of the elites in New England and states in Middle Atlantic. They advocated for a more vigilant government that will secure and give room for their economic development. The Republicans, who were anti federalist, on the other hand promoted social pluralism and supported commercial policies that promoted an economy dominated by agriculture (Boyer, Para 1).
Although the fight between the Federalist Party and the Republican Party was severe, the activities of political parties in the early 19th century were limited and the voters’ turnout was low. Parties did not develop extensive systems to promote their interest while voters were less committed to their parties. In 1815, the Federalist Party collapsed while the Republican Party split into different factions. In 1820, political parties reappeared with more struggles and battle for authority and influence in the central government. By mid 19th century, a need for an organized electorate and election process had evolved.
The Republicans and the Federalists evolved into the Democrats and the Whigs respectively. A Democratic President, Andrew Jackson, was elected in 1828 who favored a limited government. He was opposed by the Whigs who supported an economically oriented government. During the same time, the political parties were greatly influenced by religion. Political parties used campaigns extravaganza and newspaper to spread their ideologies and gather support among the voters while the voters increased their loyalty to the parties and large number were involved in elections. The authorities of the political parties increased.
The presence of Electoral College in the constitution restricted the number of major political parties while parties limited the number of candidates at the local level (Aldrich, p 126). War between political parties became unusually intense after the civil war. The fight was between two parties in an election that was considered the best structured and most partisan in the history of the United States. With the increased industrialization, the federal economic policies were supported by the economic elites which called for the Republican to strengthen their pro commercial positions.
On the other hand, the Democrats had support from the agricultural states in the south and among the town immigrant laborers who had run away from the Republicans’ hostility. However, the Democrats did not win all support from the agricultural states and the laborers while the Republicans were favored by partisan loyalty, war memories and hostility of ethnic groups. The less economically empowered workers and farmers in the west did not give room for the developing third parties in the populist era and the gilded age.
These parties included the Greenback labor in the gilded age and the Populist Party in the populist era. In the mid 1890s election campaigns, the Democrats led by Bryan attracted these small factions in a bid to beat the Republicans in the 1896 general election. However, this strategy did not work as they were beaten by the Republicans led by McKinley. This election transformed the politics of the United States and the Republicans dominated the American politics for a long time (Payan, pg 23).
The progressive era also saw some changes in the political parties. More and more economic elites started gaining interests in politics and political parties. Businessmen combined efforts with political reformers to strengthen the remaining anti-party opinions among the Americans and completely changed political culture in the United States. Using their anti partisan ideologies, they pushed for politics which are unselfish and corruption free. They pushed for legislations that limited the parties control over nominations and election processes.
This was a big blow for the political parties since this was their major source of funds to fund their activities and this limited the operations of political parties. This move had far reaching consequences on political parties (Boyer, Para 8). In 1930s, major reshuffling of ideologies affected political parties. Among the Democrats, a group of urban politicians rose to seek federal welfare policies which were a major blow to their dedication to limited government. The great depression also led to alignment of the electoral systems which had a negative impact on Republican Party.
Led by Roosevelt and his New Deal promise to the Americans, the Democrats took the advantage of the situation by expanding the role of the central government and promised the Americans prosperity socially and economically. However, they received some resistance from the south who opposed the liberal democrats’ idea about civil right although many republican loyal African American defected to support the New Deal. For survival, some of Republican politicians adopted democrats’ ideas as the Republican Party lost popularity among the voters.
However, they were able to revive their political influence during the reign of President Eisenhower in mid 20th century. In 1960s, Democrats rose to power and with the backup from some liberal Republicans; they promoted their social policies including civil rights of minority groups (Schlesinger, p 177). Some political alignment took place in 1960s where several republicans defected and joined the democrats while many white Americans in the south defected and became republicans. The effects of progressive era event become increasingly evident and political parties were becoming less influential in the election process.
The advent of television as a means of passing political ideologies also transformed political parties. The identification of voter with political parties and loyalty weakened as voters became less settled. Voter reacted to every day’s political crisis and supported a more charismatic politician as opposed to pegging on party loyalty (Boyer, Para 10). The alleged abuse of office and powers by the politicians, such as in the Vietnam War and the involvement of White House officials in the Watergate scandal which accompanied defections from political parties destabilized the electoral systems.
The antigovernment disposition of the public favored the republican in the 1980s which led to election of the conservative President, Reagan. The Democrats were accused of poor policies that led to inflations and riots over civil rights. Reagan administration weakened the Democrats’ policies which increased the polarity between the two parties in terms of ideologies. In 1994, the Republican reacted against the incumbent democrats and controlled the congress for the first time in four decades. However, their gains were limited since the democrats dominated the presidency in 1990s.
Towards the end of the 20th century and beginning of 21st century, the role of political parties deteriorated where voters shifted parties depending on the candidate (Boyer, Para 10). Today, the Republican Party and the Democratic Party controls the politics of the United States. However, the party loyalty has completely faded in many parts of the country where voters supporting a candidate and not the political party. People have had different views about the future of political parties. Some people suggest that the current political parties will not survive for the next generation while other opposes that view.
Others have suggested some conservatives may break away from the current parties and form a third major party. Conclusion Political parties have played an eminent role in the politics of the United States for many years. They unite people with same political principles and have always been used as channels of change. However, the American politics have been dominated by two parties all way long. Many changes have however affected the political parties. The power of influence of political parties reduced significantly in the 20th century where voters became less loyal to their parties.
Subject: United States,
University/College: University of Chicago
Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter
Date: 22 September 2016
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