America Through The Years

This is a quick summary on how the two major parties of America, the Democrats and the Republicans, have transformed since they were established in the 18th century. To understand this, you must understand what traditions and ideologies are. A tradition is a long established custom or belief and ideology is a system of ideas and ideals of how people think, for example a conservative ideology.

In the 18th century the Federalists and the Anti-Federalists were established which would form the basis of the Democrats and the Republicans. The Federalists believed in centralised government and are what is known today as the Republicans. The Anti-Federalists (otherwise known as the ‘Democratic-Republicans) believed in decentralised government and are what is known today as the Democrats. In 1828, Andrew Jackson (who was the president from 1829-37) renamed the ‘Democratic Republicans’ the Democrat Party and began to establish a liberal ideology which believed in protecting the interest of the poor.

By the 1860s, Slavery was a big issue on the agenda. Southern Democrats, in contrast to today, preached the economic virtues of slavery whilst Lincoln’s Republican Party, in the North, opposed it, and as a result won the civil war (1861-1865). This created an era of Republican domination in America.


However, in the 1930s, there was an economic depression which sent the Republicans into political wilderness – exactly what the Republicans did in the 1860s. The Democrat ‘New Deal Coalition’ helped to establish a coalition of support between minorities, poor, unionists, blue-collar workers, less educated, and liberally minded people causing support for the party to soar. This created a reversal in the beliefs of the parties on the role of the federal government. The Democrats now wanted a centralised government, whilst the Republicans wanted a decentralised government.

Democrat support continued into the 1960s where they promoted civil rights through affirmative action. Affirmative action is programmes that entails giving those members of a previously disadvantaged minority group a head start in such areas as higher education and employment. The term is often regarded as being synonymous with ‘positive discrimination’. Affirmative action is now required by law for all federal government agencies and for those organisations in receipt of federal funds.

More recently though, trends in party dominance are not so clear. With each one or two terms leading to a president from a different party. This is most likely the result of increased partisanship. Partisanship is an adversarial political system in which parties compete for power and hold sharply different ideologies. In this system politicians from one party wholeheartedly supports their party policies and are often reluctant to acknowledge the accuracy of their political opponents. This could be seen in the recent Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act which was signed into law by Obama in 2010. With ALL Republicans voting against it and virtually all Democrats voting for it – the result was 219:212.

What is your ideological position and why?

Thanks for reading,

Digestible Politics