The first two major polititcal parties were the Jeffersonian and the Federalists.
The Jeffersonians believed in a decentralized government and foreign policy
that supported France rather than England. The Federalists were in existance
only a short time because of disagreement of the leaders, John Adams and
The United States was a one party nation from 1800 to 1820. In 1828 the
Jeffersonain (Democratic Republican) Party split into the Democrats and the
Whigs. The Democrats wanted the states to have more power and the Whigs wanted
stronger federal government. When Andrew Jackson was elected President in 1828,
his attempts to decentralize the government were opposed by the Whigs. That
party later deteriorated when the conflict over slavery began.
The Republican Party started in 1854. This party was former Whigs who were
opposed to slavery. Abraham Lincoln, the first Republican President, was
elected in 1860. This party was dominant until 1932. It has a platform based
on probusiness policies, a belief in volunteerism and the ability of the
American people to take care of their own problems without government
intervention. The Democratic Party came back into control during the Great
Depression when the Republican Policy was ineffective in relieving the economic
problems. The Democrats dominated for the most part through the 1960s. However,
the Republicans have won five of the last seven presidental elections. The
current President is a Democrat but it is not clear if the Democratic Party will
be able to continue to dominate. There have been 900 other “third” parties
throughout history but the Republican and Democratic Parties have remained the
leaders of the two party systems since 1854.
Realignment of the parties have occurred about every 30 years. The first four
were in 1828, 1860, 1896 and 1932 due to democratization of parties, slavery and
the Great Depression. The Vietnam War and urban unrest caused what may have
been the most recent realignment of the parties but the Republicans have not
been altogether successful in this attempt, partly due to the Watergate scandal.
We may be in the midst of another realignment at this time but it will take some
time to tell if it is realignment or dealignment.