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Political Parties. AP U.S. Government Chapter 8. A Two Party System. America has had essentially a two party system since its existence, though the two dominant parties have changed over time.

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political parties

Political Parties

AP U.S. Government

Chapter 8

a two party system
A Two Party System
  • America has had essentially a two party system since its existence, though the two dominant parties have changed over time.
  • Even between Democrats and Republicans, their ideological positions have shifted over time, reversing polarity.
    • What it means to be a Republican today is not identical to what it meant to be a Republican during the Civil War.
    • Democrats of the 1830s would not recognize the Democratic Party of today.

Why and how did they change?

the development of the two party system
The Development of the Two-Party System

Opposing parties developed initially over the ratification of the United States Constitution:

Federalists vs. Anti-federalists

But these are not considered political parties because they were not vying for control of the government, rather whether we should have one at all.

The winners of that contest – the Federalists – did become the first political party, but not everyone who fought for ratification agreed with their policies. They formed the Democratic-Republican Party.

1 1796 to 1824 the first party system
1. 1796 to 1824: The First Party System


Democratic-Republicans Jeffersonian Republicans

  • Led by Alexander Hamilton
  • Presidents:
    • George Washington,
    • John Adams
  • Priorities:
    • Strong national government
    • Support of commerce through the national bank
    • Tended to be pro-British
    • Vision of industrial and commercial America
  • Led by Thomas Jefferson and James Madison
  • Presidents:
    • Thomas Jefferson
    • James Madison
    • James Monroe
    • John Quincy Adams
  • Priorities:
    • Vision of agrarian society
    • Tended to be pro-French
    • Opposed national bank and debt
    • Small national government
1 1796 to 1824 the first party system1
1. 1796 to 1824: The First Party System


Democratic-Republicans Jeffersonian Republicans

  • Who?
    • New England stronghold, plus other places early on, but quickly lost out to Democratic-Republicans from 1800 on.
    • John Marshall on the Supreme Court.
  • Who?
    • Stronger below the Mason-Dixon line
    • Grew dominant over time, especially in election of 1800 b/c of unpopularity of Adams
    • Even Adams’ son became a D-R (I-R 1st run)
critical election

Federalists maintained local power, particularly in the NE, but as the founding generation died out, so did the Federalists.

  • Each party worked to destroy the other, hoping to establish a nation-wide, unified vision for America. Thus, the stakes were much higher and the campaigning far more personal. The future of the nation depended on it.
Critical Election:

1800: Jefferson defeats Adams in a rematch of 1796.

Mostly a response to Adams’ overreaching with the Alien & Sedition Acts, and pro-British stance.

Federalists never won again, and stopped running for president after 1816.

2 1828 1856 sectionalism
2. 1828-1856: Sectionalism



  • Led by Henry Clay and Daniel Webster
  • Presidents:
    • William Henry Harrison
      • John Tyler
    • Zachary Taylor
      • Millard Fillmore
  • Led by Jackson, but organized by Van Buren
  • Presidents:
    • Andrew Jackson
    • Martin Van Buren
    • James K. Polk
    • Franklin Pierce
    • James Buchanan
2 1828 1856 sectionalism1
2. 1828-1856: Sectionalism



  • Priorities:
    • Tariffs to support northern industry
    • Internal improvements in the West and North
    • Block the spread of slavery westward
  • Priorities:
    • Mixed, based on wings w/in the party
    • Pro-slavery or at least apologists
    • Broaden suffrage
    • Populism
critical election1

Both parties will have varied coalitions, which will morph over time as they bend and break over the issue of slavery and its expansion into western territories.

  • Sectional economic policy differences will eventually fall behind slavery in importance.
Critical Election


Andrew Jackson wins, having lost to John Quincy Adams in 1824 (“Corrupt bargain” anyone?)

clicker question
Clicker Question

What makes an election “critical”?

a.) It is very contentious.

b.) It happens at a time the country is being threatened.

c.) It results in a realigning of the voters in different coalitions and often shifts control of government from one party to another.

d.) The candidates attack each other personally.

e.) None of the above.

2 1828 1856 sectionalism2
2. 1828-1856: Sectionalism



  • Who?
    • The “anyone but Jackson” party
    • Northern middle class and industrialists
    • Some westerners
    • South: wealthiest classes, early on
    • Some anti-immigrant, anti-Catholic
    • Only won presidency with war heroes
  • Who?
    • North: lower classes, immigrants, Catholics
    • South: lower classes at first, then shifted to wealthier planters as slavery issue dominated
    • Some westerners
3 1860 1928 two republican eras
3: 1860 – 1928: Two Republican Eras

Republicans (Part I)

Democrats (Part I)

  • Leaders:
  • Presidents:
    • Abraham Lincoln
      • Andrew Johnson (sort of)
    • Ulysses S. Grant
    • Rutherford B. Hayes
    • James Garfield
      • Chester A. Arthur
    • Benjamin Harrison
  • Priorities:
    • End slavery, preserve union
    • Black suffrage
    • Industrialization, Tariffs, Gold
  • Leaders:
  • Presidents:
    • Grover Cleveland (x 2)
  • Priorities:
    • Northern Dems. opposed the Civil War, obstruct reconstruction
    • Southern Dems.: white supremacy
    • Free-silver
    • Pro-farmer, anti-railroad
critical election2

Republicans consolidated control after the Civil War by extending suffrage to black males in southern states (not yet northern), along with white southerners who had opposed secession and carpetbaggers.

  • After the Civil War, Republicans waved the “bloody shirt” and assured northern veteran support through pensions.
  • All of the Republican presidents until McKinley had been Union officers.
Critical Election:

1860: Abraham Lincoln elected as a Republican.

Southerners secede under belief that Lincoln intends to abolish slavery.

Civil War ensues, leading to abolition of slavery, black male suffrage, and 100 years of a “Solid South”

first republican era continued
First Republican Era, continued
  • Who?
    • Formed from coalition of the “not-Democrat” parties:
      • Conscience Whigs (after collapse)
      • Know-Nothings
      • Free Soil Party
    • Only in the North at first
    • African Americans
    • Union veterans
    • White southerners, during Reconstruction
    • Industrialists, middle class
  • Who?
    • Former Confederates and anyone who hated Lincoln for “starting the war” by being elected (= almost all)
    • White supremacists
    • Catholics, Immigrants
    • Lower classes in North
    • Western and southern farmers
    • Silverites
second republican era mckinley to hoover
Second Republican Era(McKinley to Hoover)
  • Presidents:
    • Woodrow Wilson
  • Presidents:
    • William McKinley
    • Teddy Roosevelt
    • William Howard Taft
    • Warren Harding
    • Calvin Coolidge
    • Herbert Hoover
second republican era mckinley to hoover1
Second Republican Era(McKinley to Hoover)



  • Priorities:
    • Dominated by pro-business faction
    • But also a progressive wing (e.g., T. Roosevelt)
    • High Tariffs
    • Little regulation
    • Laissez faire
    • Low taxes
  • Priorities:
    • Still hate Lincoln (South)
    • Free Silver (W.J. Bryan)
    • Anti-RR
    • Good government reforms
    • More government regulation of life, including safety, health, business, labor, environment
second republican era mckinley to hoover2
Second Republican Era(McKinley to Hoover)



  • Who?
    • African Americans
    • Upper and middle class
    • Northerners*
    • Progressives (in both)
  • Who?
    • Solid South
    • Immigrants
    • Catholics
    • Poor
    • Progressives (in both)
clicker question1
Clicker Question

Why did Republicans win 14 of 18 elections between 1860 to 1928?

a.) Memories of the Civil War lingered until the end of the 1800s.

b.) Northern population growth exceeded southern growth.

c.) Industrialization grew the middle class.

d.) Republican machines controlled most major northern cities until the Great Depression.

e.) All of the above

4 1932 1964 new deal coalition
4. 1932 – 1964: New Deal Coalition



  • Presidents:
    • Dwight Eisenhower
  • Presidents:
    • Franklin D. Roosevelt (x4)
    • Harry S Truman
    • John F. Kennedy
    • Lyndon B. Johnson
4 1932 1964 new deal coalition1
4. 1932 – 1964: New Deal Coalition



  • Priorities:
    • Smaller government
    • Free market (laissez faire)
    • National security
    • Rooting out communism
    • Civil Rights*
  • Priorities:
    • Responded to the Great Depression with New Deal
      • Massive government regulation of the economy
      • Broad social welfare programs such as Social Security, welfare
    • Broadened by Johnson in the Great Society
      • Medicare, Medicaid, public housing, food stamps, HUD
    • Civil Rights*
    • Unionization
clicker question2
Clicker Question

Based on the foregoing priorities of the Democratic Party during the New Deal coalition, which groups would you expect to realign with that party?

a.) Middle class voters.

b.) Southern voters.

c.) Catholics.

d.) African Americans.

e.) Progressives.

4 1932 1964 new deal coalition2
4. 1932 – 1964: New Deal Coalition



  • Who?
    • Middle and upper class
    • Midwest
    • West
    • Some African Americans
    • “Conservatives”
    • Those who thought Roosevelt over-reached
    • Small-government people
    • Anti-communists
  • Who?
    • White southerners (still solid, still hate Lincoln)
    • Catholics and Jews
    • Increasing numbers of African Americans
    • Most people who were hit hard by the Depression or lived through WWII
    • “Liberals”
    • Urban dwellers
    • Labor Unions
critical election3

Voters attracted to positive attitude and willingness to do much more to overcome the Depression.

  • Third and fourth generation black voters realign based on economic hardship of the Depression.
  • What might cause black voters to switch again?
Critical Election:

1932: FDR brings in a large majority of Democrats into Congress, taking both houses.

Allows FDR to push through massive changes – only Supreme Court in the way.

Democrats will dominate Congress for decades.

5 1968 to present divided government
5. 1968 to present: Divided Government



  • Presidents:
    • Richard Nixon
      • Gerald Ford
    • Ronald Reagan
    • George H.W. Bush
    • George W. Bush
  • Presidents:
    • Jimmy Carter
    • Bill Clinton
    • Barack Obama
5 1968 to present divided government1
5. 1968 to present: Divided Government



  • Priorities:
    • National Security
    • Ending communism around the world
    • Pro-business (including ag.)
    • Less government*
    • Pro-life, pro-family
    • Split between social conservatives, national security hawks, deficit hawks, and compassionate conservatives
    • States’ rights
  • Priorities:
    • Expand and refine social welfare programs from previous era
    • Greater government regulation (EPA)
    • Affirmative Action
    • Labor Unions  government unions
    • Women’s rights
    • Pro-choice
    • Redistribution of wealth
5 1968 to present divided government2
5. 1968 to present: Divided Government



  • Who?
    • Southerners turn to the Republicans as Dems. Shift focus to labor unions, urban voters, and affirmative action
    • Midwest, Mountain, West* (“fly-over” states)
    • Conservatives:
      • Evangelical Christians
      • Deficit hawks
      • National security hawks
      • Libertarians
    • White-collar workers
  • Who?
    • Labor Unions (shrinking)
    • Blue collar, sort of
    • The poor
    • The coasts and upper Midwest
    • NE
    • African Americans
    • Latinos (except Cubans)
    • Social Catholics and Jews
    • Urban dwellers
    • New Deal legacy voters
    • The yutes
    • Women
clicker question3
Clicker Question

Why did southern voters leave the Democratic Party?

a.) The shift to a focus on black voters, including civil rights laws, desegregation, and welfare.

b.) The shift away from traditional, Christian values.

c.) Their opposition to the Vietnam War.

d.) Excessive government spending and taxation.

e.) Nixon’s resignation.

critical election4

1968 breaks the Democratic Party.

  • Nixon wins in an electoral landslide, but 43.4% of the popular vote, because Democratic vote is split between:
    • Hubert Humphrey (MN senator)
    • George Wallace – anti-civil-rights candidate running as “American Independent”.
  • Vietnam-War protests undermine unity, but big break is over color.
Critical Election:


Johnson opts to not run because he is terribly unpopular due to the Vietnam War.

Bobby Kennedy gets in late, but is winning CA when shot.

Anti-war activists protest Hubert Humphrey’s nomination outside of Chicago convention hall; Chicago police bust heads.

Leads to party nomination reforms.

clicker question4
Clicker Question

Why has the modern era become divided? Choose the most compelling reason:

a.) The public cannot make up its mind.

b.) The parties are not fundamentally different.

c.) Overreaching by one party drives voters to the other.

d.) Voters have shifted registration to “Independent”.

e.) Voters want to force the politicians to compromise by building in different power bases.

f.) Population shifts have made each congressional district and state more liberal or conservative respectively.

g.) Something other.