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History of Political Parties

Page history last edited by Zach Mulder 11 years, 10 months ago

Previous Section: Political Parties

History of Politcal Parties

 

Political parties did not always have such an important role in elections. Formal political parties were almost completely absent from the political sphere for many years after the Constitution was ratified and our modern form of elections began. In fact, many opposed the ideas of political parties because they feared that the majority party would always try to pass legislation and make decisions that benefited their party, not what was best for the country. James Madison, the man known as the “father of the Constitution” wrote vehemently against political parties in his Federalist Papers No. 10,  stating that “When a majority is included in a faction, the form of popular government, on the other hand, enables it to sacrifice to its ruling passion or interest, both the public good and the rights of other citizens.”

 

You be the Judge: This issue is still present today, does a majority rule system with political parties give too much power to the majority, while exploiting the minorities? Should every voice be heard? Or just the majority?

 

 

While there no formal parties at the time of the ratification of the Constitution, there were opposing political ideals that of course where split over the Constitution. One side, the Anti-Federalists favored a weaker national government because they were worried that the Constitution guaranteed very few if any personal liberties, and gave too much power to a national government. They mostly believed that the states should have the most power, while the national government should be relatively weak. Anti-Federalists worried that the national government, using the power to tax and the “necessary and proper” clause could essentially do whatever they liked and take away power from the states and the people. Whereas on the other hand, Federalists liked a strong national government, and believed that the checks and balances of the Constitution would prevent one branch of the government from becoming too strong. They believed a strong national government would help create an economically successful nation, while also creating a strong military that would be necessary to hold the attacking British at bay. As the Constitution was submitted to the states to be ratified, the federalists won the battle and all thirteen original colonies ratified the Constitution.

 

Do you think you know everything about the Constitution?

http://www.texaslre.org/crelay/constitutionrelay.html

 

Following the popular majority, the Federalists held the Presidency for twelve years, and controlled much of the national government. Under the leadership of Alexander Hamilton, a national bank was created, and under the Presidency of John Adams, the Alien and Sedition Acts were passed during the Quasi War with France, which demonstrated exactly what the Anti-Federalists feared, an overly strong national government. The Alien and Sedition Acts were a set of Acts that were supposed to protect Americans during a time of war by making it harder for immigrants to become citizens, giving the President the power to deport many of these immigrants, and banning people from publishing anything that criticized the government. Needless to say, Adams showed how the President could overstep his boundaries laid out by the Constitution, and he was not reelected. Instead, Thomas Jefferson was elected as a representative from a new ideal of thinking, he was a Jeffersonian-Republican.

 

The Jeffersonian-Republicans, also known as Democratic-Republicans, where almost completely opposite from the Federalists. For the most part, they opposed a strong national government, favored neutrality, and favored farming above trade and industrialization. The Jeffersonian Republicans hold power for 24 years, and effectively ended all colonization in America as well as European military presence thanks to James Monroe and the Monroe Doctrine. As America finally established itself in the world as an independent, completely sovereign nation, the key issue that divided political ideals shifted from the role of the national government, to the issue of slavery. At the same time, the Jeffersonian-Republicans morphed into a new party, the Democrats.

 

How about a quick study break? Go on.... do it.

Fun Stuff!

 

 

Something that always makes me laugh: The Republican Party is sometimes referred to as the "Grand Old Party," but the Democratic Party is actually older than the Republican Party.

 

 

But wait! Before you turn your brain off and think “Democrats! I know who those people are.” These Democrats are actually the complete opposite of what Democrats believe in today (I know its confusing, I promise they become our Democrats today soon, stick with it just a little longer).

 

The Jeffersonian-Republicans become the Democrats, and have almost the exact same beliefs; however, now the issue of slavery is added into the mix. As American territory begins to expand, the issue of whether to expand slavery or not also arises, and unfortunately none of the parties have a clear stance on the issue. The issue is mostly regional. In the North, the abolitionist movement was gaining more and more support, while in the South, some believed that Slavery should be allowed in new states, while others thought that it should not be allowed in new states, but permitted where it is already present.

 

During this time, one party did not hold power for long; the presidency was constantly flipping between the Democrats and the Whigs. Andrew Jackson, a Democrat, won the presidency on the platform of being a working man, and dismantled the national bank, while relocating millions of Native Americans by the Indian Removal Act. But over the next coule decades, the presidency would alternate between two Democrats, and two Whigs, until finally the Republicans emerge as the Whigs die to stand opposite of the Democrats.

 

The first Republican ever to hold office was perhaps one of the most well known presidents in American History, Abraham Lincoln. From the beginning, Republicans opposed the expansion of slavery, eventually supported abolitionism, supported industry, but also gave free homestead to farmers. The Republicans held the presidency for 52 years, except for a brief respite as Grover Cleveland ruled.

 

 

The most vicious battle between the Republicans and the Democrats during this 52 year period occurred over the issue of what metal should be used to back American currency. The Democrats nominated William Jennings Bryan, who wanted to use silver to back to dollar, to devalue the dollar and help many repay their debt. However, the Republicans made clear their stance on keeping the gold standard, and reaffirming their backing of industrialization and banks. They then unleashed a flurry of criticism against the Democrats for endorsing silver, and as a result, the Republicans won the national election. The Republicans have essentially become what they are according to our modern standards, and maintain power for the next 30 years until the Great Depression.

 

With the election of Franklin D. Roosevelt, the Democrats have also completed the shift to be our modern Democrats. Within 100 days of being elected, Roosevelt took drastic steps towards halting the Great Depression through his New Deal programs. Because of his tremendous success, Roosevelt converted many Republicans to Democrats, such as urban residents as well as African Americans, and reaffirmed Democratic dominance for decades to come. 

 

However, after the election of Nixon, there has very rarely been similar voting patterns for the President and Congress. Out of the 38 years between 1969 and 2006, only 10.3 of those years have seen the same party in control of Congress and the Presidency. Long gone are the days where one party maintains control of the national government for long periods of time. Instead today, more than 90 percent of people who vote today insist “I always vote for the person whom I think is best, regardless of what party they belong to.” Because of this lack of party anchoring, Congress and the Presidency flip between the two major parties much more frequently than they have in the past.

 

But as I promised much earlier in this section, the Democrats and the Republicans have finally completed their journey to become the political parties that we know today. While recently, party affiliation has lost much of its importance in the election for President, it still is very important for local elections as well as primaries and caucuses. Thus, when a person registers to vote, they should have a basic understanding of the different political parties and their views and stances on key issues. In the next section, some of the stances of the Democratic and Republican parties will be compared, as well as how a few of the major third parties stand on the same issues.

 

Here's a summary of the journey that the Democratic and Republican parties took to become what they are today. Something different for those of you who tune out easily while reading. Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

 

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Next Section: Modern Political Parties

 

Images (in order of appearence):

"James Madison" < http://www.ts4.com/Quotes/Pictures/JamesMadison.jpg > (13 November, 2009).

"Thomas Jefferson" < http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/6/6b/Thomas-Jefferson.jpg > (13 November, 2009).

"Abraham Lincoln" < http://civilwarhistory.files.wordpress.com/2009/02/abraham_lincoln.jpg > (13 November, 2009).

"Franklin Roosevelt" < http://www.library.cornell.edu/olinuris/ref/fdrfire.jpg > (13 December, 2009).

 

Game taken from:

"Constitution Relay Game" < http://www.texaslre.org/crelay/constitutionrelay.html > (13 November, 2009).

 

James Madison Quote:

Madison, James Federalist Papers No. 10; Taken from Woll, Peter American Government Readings and Cases. 7th ed. (Pearson Longman, 2008), 174.

 

Information taken from:

George C. Edwards, Marin P. Wattenberg, and Robert L. Lineberry, Government in America. 12th ed. (Pearson Longman, 2006), 253-257).

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