Lesson Objectives:- The two-party system and its history
- The Formative Years
- One-party rule
- The Civil War and Post-Civil War period
- The Ascendancy of the Republican Party
- The New Deal Era
- The Modern Period
- Red states and blue states
The Two-Party System is a political system in which only two parties have a reasonable chance of winning.
The history of the two-party system can be summed up into seven general eras:
It all began when the first parties were formed, from 1789 to 1816.
Then, from 1816 to 1828 was the era of one-party rule.
The third era was from 1828 to 1856, from the time of Andrew Jackson to the Civil War.
1856 to 1896 is the era encompassing the Civil War and Afterward.
1896 to 1932 was the era of the Republican Party's ascendancy.
The New Deal Era ran from 1932 to 1968.
Finally, the Modern Period covers from 1968 to the present.
The Federalists and Anti-Federalists were in place before America was born; they struggled over the ratification of the Constitution. Even though George Washington himself was against any political parties, the country found that they might play an important role for choosing candidates and to represent different political viewpoints.
The Federalists continued with John Adams when he became the second president in 1797. They supported a strong national government and represented the interests of commercial industries.
The Republicans were formed, but were not related to the Republicans of today or during Lincoln's time. The Jeffersonian Republicans primarily focused on representing the interests of the small guy like the artisans and the farmers. Thomas Jefferson was a Republican and when he took office in 1800, it went down in history as one of the world's first peaceful transitions of power.
Most Americans identified with the Jeffersonian Republicans and the Federalists started to fade into history. There was really no opposition to the Republicans and that continued through the presidency of James Monroe from 1817 to 1825.
With the election of John Quincy Adams, the Republican party split into the Democratic Party and the National Republicans (who would later change their name to the Whig Party).
The Democratic Party is one of the two major American political parties to evolve out of the Republican Party of Thomas Jefferson. It was formed in 1828 by supporters of Andrew Jackson.
They favored personal liberty and opportunity for what they termed was the "common man."
The Whig Party was a major party in the United States during the first half of the nineteenth century, formally established in 1836. The Whig Party was anti-Jackson and advocated infrastructure spending.
The Civil War was over slavery. This issue had the interesting effect of splitting both parties. The Whigs were first. That split would lead to the formation of the Republican Party.
The Republican Party is one of the two major American political parties we have today. It emerged in the 1850s as an antislavery party and consisted of former northern Whigs and antislavery Democrats.
After the war, the Democratic Party was able to pull itself back together. Democrats dominated the South for the next century out of resentment toward Republicans and fear that the government would pass more laws protecting African Americans. It was during this timeframe that the Republican party named itself the GOP, or the Grand Old Party.
The Republicans pushed for business and economic growth. They also wanted government to enforce Protestant moral values. They wanted public schools to adopt a Protestant curriculum and even wanted to ban the sale of alcohol.
The Democrats saw these measures as being culturally coercive. Also, with Republicans pushing for a Protestant curriculum in schools, Catholics for the most part went Democrat.
In the 1890s, a major shift occurred over economic management that worked to the benefit of the Republicans, who came out on top. Shifts such as this are termed by Political Scientists as Realignment.
Realignment is a large-scale, lasting change in the types of voters who support each of the major political parties.
The Republicans enjoyed their dominance for over thirty years until the Great Depression. Republican Herbert Hoover opposed any federal relief programs, and when Democrat Franklin D. Roosevelt came along in 1932, he won by a huge margin.
He created what he called the New Deal, which was a system of interventions in the economy that offered relief programs. African Americans shifted to the Democratic Party in another realignment.
In the 1960s, the civil rights movement and the Vietnam War brought about another major realignment. Economically moderate, socially conservative voters left the Democrats and started voting Republican.
From 1968 into the 1990s, the Republicans had more success winning the presidency. At the same time, Democrats pretty much controlled Congress. But, a good bit of the Democrats were actually conservatives who sided with Republicans on many issues. As they left office, they were replaced with Republicans for the most part and in 1994, Congress was dominated by Republicans.
Republican states are marked in red on the map while Democrat states are marked in blue. In the 2000 race, Al Gore lost to George W. Bush, but he won the popular vote. That brought many analysts to look at a state-by-state review and one interesting thing was observed. States that had voted for Democrat William Jennings Bryan in 1896 had gone red for George W. Bush in 2000. It demonstrated the shift that Democrats had made from anti-civil rights to pro-civil rights and from limited government to favoring government intervention.
When voters are dissatisfied with the parties, they have ways of demonstrating it. Wave elections are temporary, but is how the voters punish parties for not performing.
The United States' intervention in Iraq led to Democrats taking control of the House and Senate in 2006. The economic downturn of 2008 led to Barack Obama being elected. A Democrat Sweep had taken place.
Once Democrats took control, voters found their expansion of government unacceptable. The Republicans won control of the House in 2010 by a narrow margin. The 2014 midterm elections widened the gap for greater Republican control.
When looking at voting patterns, they are hard to predict. The wave that put Republicans in the House is hard to describe as opposed to the wave that put Obama in office. One glaringly obvious observation is that young voters voted for Obama. That could mean that young voters are starting to take an interest in voting for the president, but they still do not take the midterms seriously.