Political parties in the United States: Wikis


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United States

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This article presents the historical development and role of political parties in United States politics and outlines more extensively the significant modern political parties.



The first president of the United States, George Washington, was not a member of any political party at the time of his election or throughout his tenure as president. Furthermore, he hoped that political parties would not be formed, fearing conflict and stagnation. Nevertheless, the beginnings of the American two-party system emerged from his immediate circle of advisers.


First Party System

The First Party System of The United States featured the Federalist Party and the Democratic-Republican Party. The Federalist Party grew from Washington's Secretary of the Treasury, Alexander Hamilton, who favored a strong central government. The Democratic-Republican Party was founded by James Madison and by Washington's Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson, who strongly opposed Hamilton's agenda.

The Era of Good Feelings (1816-1824), marked the end of the First Party System. Political consequences of Federalist opposition to the War of 1812 as well as other factors first reduced the Federalist Party to merely local significance, and ultimately to total disappearance. The Era of Good Feelings thus marked a brief period in which only one party, the Democratic-Republican party, was significant at the Federal level.

Second Party System

In 1824,1828, The Second Party System saw a split of the Democratic-Republican Party into the Jacksonian Democrats, who grew into the modern Democratic Party, led by Andrew Jackson, and the Whig Party, led by Henry Clay. The Democrats supported the primacy of the Presidency over the other branches of government, and opposed the Bank of the United States as well as modernizing programs that they felt would build up industry at the expense of the taxpayer. The Whigs, on the other hand, advocated the primacy of Congress over the executive branch as well as policies of modernization and economic protectionism. Central political battles of this era were the Bank War and the Spoils system of federal patronage.

The 1850s saw the collapse of the Whig party, largely as a result of deaths in its leadership and a major intra-party split over slavery as a result of the Compromise of 1850. In addition, the fading of old economic issues removed many of the unifying forces holding the party together.

Third Party System

The Third Party System stretched from 1854 to the mid 1890s, and was characterized by the emergence of the anti-slavery Republican Party, which adopted many of the economic policies of the Whigs, such as national banks, railroads, high tariffs, homesteads and aid to land grant colleges.

Fourth Party System

The Fourth Party System, 1896 to 1932, retained the same primary parties as the Third Party System, but saw major shifts in the central issues of debate. This period also corresponded to the Progressive Era, and was dominated by the Republican Party.

Fifth Party System

The Fifth Party System emerged with the New Deal Coalition beginning in 1933. There is debate over whether it ended in the 1960s along with the New Deal Coalition, in the mid 1990's, or continues until today.

Modern U.S. Political Party System

Registered Democrats, Republicans and independents in millions as of 2004. Third party membership is too small to show; in millions, major third party memberships are: Constitution Party, .37; Green Party, .31; Libertarian Party, .2 [1]

The modern political party system in the United States is a two-party system dominated by the Democratic Party and the Republican Party. These two parties have won every United States presidential election since 1852 and have controlled the United States Congress since at least 1856. Several other third parties from time to time achieve relatively minor representation at the national and state levels.

Democratic Party

The Democratic Party is one of two major political parties in the United States. It is the oldest political party in the United States and among the oldest in the world.[2][3][4]

The Democratic Party, since the division of the Republican Party in the election of 1912, has consistently positioned itself to the left of the Republican Party in economic as well as social matters. The economically left-leaning philosophy of Franklin D. Roosevelt, which has strongly influenced American liberalism, has shaped much of the party's economic agenda since 1932. Roosevelt's New Deal coalition usually controlled the national government until the 1970s. The civil rights movement of the 1960s has continued to inspire the party's liberal principles, [5] despite having lost the more conservative South in the process.

In 2004, it was the largest political party, with 72 million voters (42.6% of 169 million registered) claiming affiliation. [6] The president of the United States, Barack Obama, is a Democrat, and since the 2006 midterm elections, the Democratic Party is the majority party for the 110th Congress. The party holds an outright majority in the House of Representatives and the United States Senate. Democrats also hold a majority of state governorships and control a plurality of state legislatures.

Republican Party

The Republican Party is one of the two major contemporary political parties in the United States of America. It is often referred to as the Grand Old Party or the GOP.

Founded in 1854 by anti-slavery expansion activists and modernizers, the Republican Party rose to prominence with the election of Abraham Lincoln, the first Republican president. The party presided over the American Civil War and Reconstruction and was harried by internal factions and scandals toward the end of the 19th century. Today, the Republican Party supports a conservative platform (as far as American politics are concerned), with further foundations in economic liberalism, fiscal conservatism, and social conservatism.

Former President George W. Bush is the 19th Republican to hold that office. Republicans currently fill a minority of seats in both the United States Senate and the House of Representatives, hold a minority of state governorships, and control a minority of state legislatures. The party's nominee for President of the United States in the 2008 presidential election was Senator John McCain of Arizona. It is currently the second largest party with 55 million registered members, encompassing roughly one third of the electorate. [6]

Major Third Parties

Constitution Party

The Constitution Party is a conservative United States political party. It was founded as the U.S. Taxpayers Party in 1992. The party's official name was changed to the Constitution Party in 1999; however, some state affiliate parties are known under different names.

According to ballot access expert Richard Winger, the editor of Ballot Access News, who periodically compiles and analyzes voter registration statistics as reported by state voter agencies, it ranks third nationally amongst all United States political parties in registered voters, with 366,937 registered members as of November 2006.[7]

The Constitution Party advocates a platform that claims to reflect the Founding Fathers' original intent of the U.S. Constitution, principles found in the U.S. Declaration of Independence, and morals taken from the Bible.[8]

In 2006, Rick Jore of Montana became the first Constitution Party candidate elected to a state-level office[9][10], though the Constitution Party of Montana had disaffiliated itself from the national party a short time before the election.

The Constitution Party's 2008 presidential nominee was Chuck Baldwin.

Green Party

In the United States, the Green Party has been active as a third party since the 1980s. The party first gained widespread public attention during Ralph Nader's presidential runs in 1996 and 2000. Currently, the primary national Green Party organization in the U.S. is the Green Party of the United States, which has eclipsed the earlier Greens/Green Party USA. There are Green Parties in many nations.

The Green Party in the United States has won elected office mostly at the local level; most winners of public office in the United States who are considered Greens have won nonpartisan-ballot elections (that is, the winning Greens won offices in elections in which candidates were not identified on the ballot as affiliated with any political party).[11] In 2005, the Party had 305,000 registered members in states that allow party registration.[12] During the 2006 elections the party had ballot access in 31 states.[13]

Greens emphasize environmentalism, non-hierarchical participatory democracy, social justice, respect for diversity, peace and nonviolence.

The 2008 Green Party presidential nominee was Cynthia McKinney.

Libertarian Party

The Libertarian Party was founded on December 11, 1971.[14] It is one of the largest continuing Third parties in the United States, claiming more than 200,000 registered voters and more than 600 people in public office,[15] including mayors, county executives, county-council members, school-board members, and other local officials. It has more people in office than all other third parties combined.[15]

The political platform of the Libertarian Party reflects that group's particular brand of libertarianism, favoring minimally regulated, laissez-faire markets, strong civil liberties, minimally regulated migration across borders, and non-interventionism in foreign policy that respects freedom of trade and travel to all foreign countries.

The most recent Libertarian Party nominee for United States President was Bob Barr.

Politics comparison

The following table lists some political ideologies most often associated with the two major parties and three largest third parties, as well the official party positions on a number of reformist issues where positions diverge. Nuances may be found in the parties' respective platforms. It must be remembered that not all members of a party subscribe to all of its officially held positions, the usual degree of variation generally being higher for the larger parties. Note that party members may hold different views on legislation to be enacted at the state or federal levels---most Libertarians, for example, believe that the federal government has no proper role at all with regard to marriage of any sort, but believe that the several states have the right to legislate therefor.

Comparison of politics of the two major and three largest minor United States Political parties
Issue Green Party Democratic Party Libertarian Party Republican Party Constitution Party
Primary related ideologies
Issues framed as
changes to the
status quo.
Abortion restrictions No[16] No[17] No[18] Yes[19] Yes[20]
Public campaign finance Yes[16] Yes[17] No[18]  ? No[21]
Legal same-sex marriage Yes[16] Partial[17] Yes[22] No[23] No[24]
Universal health care Yes[16] Yes[17] No[18] No[25] No[26]
More-progressive taxation Yes[16] Yes[17] No[18] No[27] No[28]
Strengthening Immigration Laws No[16] No[17] No[29] Yes[30] Yes[31]
Withdraw from Iraq War Yes[32] Yes[17] Yes[33] No[34] Yes[35]
End capital punishment Yes[16] No[17]  ? No[36] No[37]
Drug liberalization Yes[38] No [17] Yes[39] No No[40]
Civilian gun control Yes[41] Partial[17] No[18] No[23] No[42]

See also


  1. ^ "Neuhart, P. (22 January, 2004). Why politics is fun from catbirds' seats. USA Today.". http://www.usatoday.com/news/opinion/columnist/neuharth/2004-01-22-neuharth_x.htm. Retrieved 2007-07-11.  
  2. ^ Witcover, Jules (2003). "1". Party of the People: A History of the Democrats. p. 3.   "The Democratic Party of the United States, the oldest existing in the world, was in a sense an illegitimate child, unwanted by the founding fathers of the American Republic."
  3. ^ Micklethwait, John; Wooldridge, Adrian (2004). The Right Nation: Conservative Power in America. p. 15.   "The country possesses the world's oldest written constitution (1787); the Democratic Party has a good claim to being the world's oldest political party."
  4. ^ Democratic Party, Encyclopædia Britannica Online, Accessed August 21, 2007.
  5. ^ "Economist Intelligence Unit. (July 11, 2007). Political Forces". http://www.economist.com/countries/USA/profile.cfm?folder=Profile%2DPolitical%20Forces. Retrieved 2008-02-15.  
  6. ^ a b "Neuhart, P. (22 January, 2004). Why politics is fun from catbirds' seats. USA Today'.". http://www.usatoday.com/news/opinion/columnist/neuharth/2004-01-22-neuharth_x.htm. Retrieved 2007-07-11.  
  8. ^ http://constitutionparty.com/party_platform.php "Constitution Party Preamble"
  9. ^ "State Legislature results", Missoulian, November 8, 2006, retrieved November 8, 2006
  10. ^ Control of state Legislature unclear, Helena Independent Record
  11. ^ Green elected officials
  12. ^ "Green Party Ballot Status and Voter Registration Totals (United States)". Greens.org. Retrieved April 12, 2006.
  13. ^ "Greens Win Ballot Access in 31 States, Up From 17 in January". Green Party press release, September 5, 2006.
  14. ^ Libertarian Party:Our History, LP.org
  15. ^ a b "Frequently asked questions about the Libertarian Party", Official Website of the Libertarian National Committee. Retrieved on July 25, 2006.
  16. ^ a b c d e f g Green Party 2004 Platform
  17. ^ a b c d e f g h i j The 2008 Democratic Party Platform: Renewing America's Promise
  18. ^ a b c d e Libertarian Party Platform
  19. ^ "2004 Republican Party Platform: on Abortion". United States Republican Party. 2004. http://www.ontheissues.org/Archive/2004_GOP_Platform_Abortion.htm. Retrieved 2007-02-12.  
  20. ^ "Constitution Party Platform (Sanctity of Life)". http://www.constitutionparty.com/party_platform.php#Sancity%20of%20Life. Retrieved 2008-03-25.  
  21. ^ Constitution Party Platform: Election Reform
  22. ^ "Libertarians press Congress on DOMA, ‘don’t’ ask, don’t tell’". Libertarian Party. 2009-08-17. http://www.lp.org/news/press-releases/libertarians-press-congress-on-doma-‘don’t’-ask-don’t-tell’. Retrieved 2009-08-26. "Libertarians are the only party committed to equal justice under the law, whether it is protection from violence, marriage equality or the ability of a qualified person to serve in the military"  
  23. ^ a b Republican Platform: Values
  24. ^ "Constitution Party Platform (Family)". http://www.constitutionparty.com/party_platform.php#Family. Retrieved 2008-03-25.  
  25. ^ Republican Platform: Health Care
  26. ^ "Constitution Party Platform (Health Care and Government)". http://www.constitutionparty.com/party_platform.php#Health%20Care%20and%20Government. Retrieved 2008-03-25.  
  27. ^ Republican 2008 Platform: Government Reform
  28. ^ "Constitution Party Platform (Taxes)". http://www.constitutionparty.com/party_platform.php#Taxes. Retrieved 2008-03-25.  
  29. ^ Libertarian Issues: Immigration
  30. ^ Republican 2008 Platform: National Security
  31. ^ "Constitution Party Platform (Immigration)". http://www.constitutionparty.com/party_platform.php#Immigration. Retrieved 2008-03-25.  
  32. ^ gp.org - Global Greens Action Proposal - April, 2003
  33. ^ "Current Issues". http://www.lp.org/issues/current.shtml. Retrieved 2008-05-11.  
  34. ^ Republican 2008 Platform: National Security
  35. ^ "Bush to Lawmakers on Iraq: Do You Have a Better Idea? Constitution Party: Yes!". http://www.constitutionparty.com/news.php?aid=420. Retrieved 2008-03-25.  
  36. ^ Republican 2008 Platform: Crime
  37. ^ "Constitution Party Platform (Crime)". http://www.constitutionparty.com/party_platform.php#Crime. Retrieved 2008-03-25. "We favor the right of states and localities to execute criminals convicted of capital crimes and to require restitution for the victims of criminals."  
  38. ^ Ii. Social Justice
  39. ^ faqs.org - Libertarian FAQ: Frequently Asked Questions
  40. ^ Constitution Platform: Drug Abuse
  41. ^ Green Party Platform: Criminal Justice
  42. ^ "Constitution Party Platform (Gun Control)". http://www.constitutionparty.com/party_platform.php#Gun%20Control. Retrieved 2008-03-25.  

Simple English

In the United States of America (USA), there have always been two main parties. Since the 1860's, these two main parties have been the Republican Party and the Democratic Party. The current President of the United States Barack Obama is a Democrat and the Democrats are also the largest party in the Senate. The Republican Party has the most seats in the House of Representatives.

Democratic Party

The Democratic Party's first President was Andrew Jackson who was elected in 1828 and many Presidents such as Woodrow Wilson, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Harry S. Truman, John F. Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson, Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton and the current President Barack Obama are Democrats. They have 53 out of 100 seats in the U.S. Senate and 189 out of 435 seats in the House of Representatives. Twenty-six out of 50 state governors are also Democrats. The party generally promotes liberalism and is often classed as a centre-left party. Currently, the party has 72 million registered voters across America.

Most Democrats usually agree with the following ideas:

  • Many support a progressive income tax (rich people paying at higher rates than poor people)
  • Many are pro-choice (meaning that they believe women have the right to have an abortion)
  • Many support stem-cell research to cure sickness
  • Many support withdrawing U.S. troops out of Iraq.
  • Many support more government funding for education and infrastructure (road building).
  • Many consider minority groups (such as women and blacks) disadvantaged.
  • Many support gun control (which means that there should be strict rules about who can own guns and where they can use them)
  • Many believe in Keynesian economics
  • Many believe in global warming and want the government to do something about it.
  • Many believe in health care reform (some believe in universal health care)
  • Many believe that the economy should be regulated more.

Republican Party

The Republican Party was founded in 1854 as an anti-slavery party and it's first President was Abraham Lincoln in 1861. The party has led America with such figures as Ulysses S. Grant, Benjamin Harrison, Theodore Roosevelt, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush. The party has 47 out of 100 seats in the Senate and 240 out of 435 seats in the House of Representatives. Republican John Boehner will become the Speaker of the United States House of Representatives on January 4, 2011. Twenty-four out of 50 states have a Republican governor. It has around 55 million registered voters across America. Currently, the Republican Party is identified as conservative and right-wing.

Not all Republicans believe in all of the same things, but generally these are the things many Republicans support:

  • Many Republicans believe abortion should be illegal.
  • Many Republicans are against gun control and support the 2nd Amendment.
  • Many Republicans support the death penalty, rather than a life sentence (which sentences people to death if they do big crimes).
  • Many Republicans support the U.S. having a strong military.
  • Many Republicans support the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
  • Many Republicans are against illegal immigration.
  • Many Republicans want the government to control the economy less.
  • Many Republicans want the government to spend less money.
  • Many Republicans want taxes to be lowered.
  • Many Republicans oppose health care which is run by the government.
  • Many Republicans support a school voucher system (the government giving money to parents who send their kids to private school).
  • Many Republicans support supply-side economics.
  • Many Republicans believe the federal government should have less power over the states.

Minor American Parties

There are several minor parties in the United States, none of whom have any seats in the Senate or the House of Representatives.

  • Libertarian Party - A libertarian and liberal party which has around 225,000 registered voters. It promotes a non-interventionist foreign policy and is a supporter of civil liberties.
  • Constitution Party - A conservative party that promotes American nationalism, Paleoconservatism, Christian nationalism and greater attention on the U.S Constitution. Has around 440,000 registered voters.


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