Simple Civics 101- The Party System
Did you know that George Washington was against having political parties? He represented no party and invited those with differing opinions to serve in his administration. Washington, in his Farewell Address, claimed that political parties were a distraction. He said that partisan politics “…agitates the community with ill-founded jealousies and false alarms; kindles the animosity of one part(y) against another, foments occasionally riot and insurrection.” (I can’t help but wonder if Washington’s point is relevant to what is going on today).
Another opinion on political parties came from none other than the Father of the U.S. Constitution, James Madison wrote in Federalist 10, “the public good is disregarded in the conflicts of rival parties.” (Our good is disregarded amid political party rivalries?? Think about it. Madison wrote this statement in 1787).
So, how did we end up with two major political parties? It’s no surprise that We the People, while united as a country, were divided on how much power our government should have. Our first two major political parties were the Federalists and the Democratic-Republicans.
The Federalists wanted a strong centralized national government. The Democratic-Republicans wanted the federal government’s power to be limited in favor of individual and states’ rights.
In 1828, the Democratic-Republicans split. Andrew Jackson became the leader of the Democrats. Those who did not join Jackson formed a party called “Whigs,” led by Daniel Webster and Henry Clay. The differences between the two parties centered around the economy and slavery issues.
The Democrats were originally for a smaller national government and were pro-states’ rights. The party’s base was in the South, which also was the home of the Confederacy. During the Franklin Delano Roosevelt administration, the party emphasis changed. Democrats began supporting a larger federal government with a greater focus on economic relief and welfare.
The Northern Democrats joined the Whigs, and the smaller American Party to form the Republican party in the 1850s. (For a short time, the new coalition was called the Free Soil Party). Abraham Lincoln was the Republicans’ first successful presidential candidate. Republicans were pro-business, anti-slavery, and anti-Confederacy.
While the United States is a two-party system, other parties called “third parties” exist. These smaller parties offer alternatives to those whose beliefs do not coincide with either the Democrats or the Republicans. Some examples of third parties are:
The Constitution Party- believes that the U.S. government should follow the Constitution.
The Green Party- values environmental protection, consumer protection, ecology, and social justice.
The Libertarian Party- believes in non-government regulation of the economy (free markets) as well as individual and civil liberties without government interference.
Communist Party USA- is described as leftist; defines itself as being a party for a sustainable world and one that puts people before profits; pro-democracy, socialism, equality.
Independents- do not align themselves with any political party.
Is this your first time learning a bit of history about political parties? . Perhaps you have had experience in party politics or in being a member of a third party. Let us know at: https://www.facebook.com/commonsensecivics/photos/a.509773832747426/1310975205960614/?type=3&theater¬if_t=page_post_reaction¬if_id=1597260386765215
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