Political Parties and Unfair Elections

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Political Parties and Unfair Elections

The Civil War and the Vietnam era of the 1960s forever changed the political party systems of our country. Those two time periods and the issues involved led to America embracing a two-party system, which is intact to this day. Due to the two-party system, it is extremely difficult for a candidate to be elected if he is not a member of either the Democratic or Republican party. This is not a situation that our founders would have encouraged, as they "disliked parties, thinking of them as factions motivated by ambition and self-interest" (Wilson and DiIulio, Jr. 194). Considering the political atmosphere in our country today, the founder’s views ring true. True to the founder’s attitudes towards political parties, the Constitution did not specify parties. Two differing viewpoints emerged in the 1790s, however; leading to the development of the first political party. John Adams and Alexander Hamilton both favored a strong national government, business development, a loose interpretation of the Constitution and they were very outspoken about their opinions. “It was to counteract Hamilton’s commanding influence over policy that Jefferson and Madison developed the constitutional arguments on which they founded their opposition Republican Party” (Rakove 399). Jefferson’s followers called themselves Democrat Republicans and were the first political party in American history. Their ideology called for a society based on small farms, a relatively weak central government, and a strict interpretation of the Constitution. What is often called the second party system emerged around 1824 with Andrew Jackson’s first run for the presidency (Wilson and DiIulio, Jr. 195). At that time the country was growing quickly and many states dropped the property qualifications for voting, resulting in a much larger electorate. Andrew Jackson took advantage of this and upon his election in 1828; the Democratic Party represented an alliance of small farmers, Westerners, and "mechanics," the term used for the working class. The Whig Party, which consisted of opponents of Jackson, also developed during this time period and supported business, a national bank, and a strong central government. This party system was the first ‘truly national system’, consisting of the Democrats (followers of Jackson) and Whigs (opponents of Jackson) fairly balanced in most regions (Wilson and DiIulio, Jr. 196). The Civil War split the political parties in several ways. There was a deep difference in opinion between the parties over the issue of slavery and sectionalism. Both parties tried to ‘straddle the issues’ to avoid dividing their followers and losing the election to their rival (Wilson and DiIulio, Jr. 196). But the old parties divided and new ones emerged. As a result of the Civil War the modern Republican Party began as a third party. The Republican Party’s strength lay in the North; Abraham Lincoln did not receive a single electoral vote from a Southern state in 1860. The Democrats in the North divided into War Democrats, who supported the war effort but claimed the Republicans were doing a poor job of leading the Union, and the Peace Democrats, or Copperheads, who opposed the war and were suspected of disloyalty to the Union. To win the election of 1864, the Republicans reorganized themselves as the Union party to attract votes from the War Democrats and nominated War Democrat Andrew Johnson for vice president. When Lincoln was assassinated, Democrat Johnson became president. Following the Civil War, Republicans moved quickly to consolidate their control of the United States government. They quickly added a series of Western states to the Union, states that they expected would remain firm in their support for Republicans. The Republican Party’s pro-business positions played well in the industrial North and Midwest, while the Democrats held the "solid South." The large number of immigrants who came to...
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