Have there always been political parties in the United States of America?
No, in the beginning there were no political parties.
George Washington, one of the “Founding Fathers” and 1st President of the United States of America (1789-1797), assumed himself as a non-partisan and was elected without a party. However, the absence of political parties on American soil would not last long.
George Washington defended the thesis that opposing political parties could have a positive impact on government control, but he firmly believed that these parties also contributed to the coming to power of men without principles and with authoritarian pretensions.
The “Founding Father” was particularly concerned with the emergence of regional parties that sought to combat geographical discrimination, which would challenge the intended national unity. If independentist demagogues reached the local power, they could easily propose autonomous governments – which would represent a problem in relation to the construction of the United States of America in the middle of the 18th century.
When did the Democratic and Republican parties appear as we know them today?
Regardless of the non-partisan thesis defended by George Washington, it is from two members of his team that the first political parties in the United States of America are born.
Alexander Hamilton, Secretary of the Treasury between 1789 and 1795, emerges the Federalist Party, defender of a strong central government and a national financial system. However, such a party would eventually disappear in the 1812 war, a conflict that pitted federalist and British forces against Americans driven by the ideals of “Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity” of the French Revolution of 1789.
From Thomas Jefferson, Secretary of State between 1790 and 1793 and the 3rd president of the USA, with James Madison (4th President of the USA) emerges, in 1792, the Democratic-Republican Party, defender of a more limited and decentralized government .
At the entrance of the 1930s, under the aegis of a single great Democratic Party (nomenclature for which the Democratic-Republican Party came to be known), appears the figure of Andrew Jackson, president between 1829 and 1837, whose decentralizing policies, lead to the creation of the Party Whig, in 1834, fixing American politics in two big blocks.
In 1854, the Party Whig joins the small parties of Free Soilers and the Americans to form the new, modernist Republican Party, at odds with the “Kansas-Nebrasca Act”, which allowed the legalization of slavery in different states through a popular referendum.
As early as 1860, a division between Democrats of the South (in favor of slavery in all territories) and Democrats of the North (who thought that each territory should decide for itself through such a popular referendum), allowed the Republican candidate Abraham Lincoln the presidential victory .
Slavery was abolished by Lincoln, through the 13th Amendment, in 1863, after the American Civil War, but the theme of racial segregation would continue to mark the history of the Democratic and Republican parties and was far from being materially finished.
Thus, the protection of the civil rights of the black population continued to be led by the hand of the Republican Party and gave rise to a bipartition of the country.
In the North, republican rule would mark the entire second half of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century, at a time of industrial innovation and the enrichment of great tycoons by the exploitation of factory workers.
In the South, the rural and agrarian world, of more conservative values, had the support of Democrats, who in the 1970s had already suppressed several laws against racial segregation.
In the first half of the 20th century, ocrash of the stock exchange in 1929, on the so-called “Black Friday”, triggered the “Great Depression”. The American population blamed the Republican faction in power, and in 1932 Democrat Franklin Roosevelt won the presidency, putting an end to the Republican command of the past 70 years.
Roosevelt is famous for New Deal, the famous US economic recovery program, and marks the beginning of an era of Democratic rule. Between 1932 and 1968, Democrats were 28 years in presidential power and Republicans only 8.
However, the development of policies that expanded by expanding federal power, strengthening workers’ unions and supporting civil rights, would contribute to the migration of the Democratic Party’s proclaimed “Dixiecrats” to the Republican Party.
At the same time, according to historical reports, on the night that he signed the “Civil Rights Act”, on April 11, 1964, Democratic President Lyndon Johnson (1963-1969) said to Bill Moyers, his assistant: “I think we just hand over the South to the Republican Party for a long period ”. This law, which began to be thought of by the assassinated President John F. Kennedy (1961-1963), together with the “Voting Rights Act” of 1965, was of enormous importance, as it ended the “Jim Crow Laws” – a set of practices of racial segregation in the South, which remained since the end of the 19th century and imposed, for example, different installations for whites and blacks in public spaces.
Democrats ended up losing 5 out of 6 presidential elections between 1969 and 1988, and since 1992 we have seen a very equal shift in power between the two parties (16 years of presidential power for Democrats and 12 years for Republicans).
All told, Democrats have been in power for approximately 120 years (counting the Democratic Republican Party’s 28 years) and Republicans have been in power for 92 years. In these almost 232 years of history, there have been 8 years of presidential power for the Whig Party, 4 years for the Federalist Party (with John Adams, between 1797 and 1781) and 8 years for the independent and non-partisan George Washington, 1st President of the United States of America.
Are there other political parties?
Although traditionally we know the Democratic Party better, today in Joe Biden’s race for the White House, and the Republican Party, for which Donald Trump is competing, there are other parties in which the electorate can vote.
The Libertarian Party, founded in 1971, is the only one of the smallest parties to go to presidential elections in all American states, with candidate Jo Jorgensen.
The Green Party goes to vote with Howie Hawkins, and while it is not possible to vote for the party in all states, it can reach 270 votes at the Electoral College.
In addition to these parties, it is also possible to vote for certain states in the Constitution Party, the Alliance Party or the Party for Socialism and Liberation, or any of the 34 candidates, including independents and candidates with party structures. However, these candidates cannot reach the 270 votes needed in the Electoral College to secure the Presidency.
Research and text by João Maldonado