Barack Obama is the 44th president in the history of the United States. During the previous 43 presidencies we have passed through different “eras” of US history, periods of time that were defined by a main ideological position set by a single party in the United States. There was the era of the Civil War and Abraham Lincoln, the System of 1896 with McKinley and Teddy Roosevelt. After World War I we had an era focusing on domestic progress that consisted of both the New Deal and the Great Society under FDR, and LBJ. Lastly, the latest era the United States has seen is the Reagan Revolution.
The eras cited above consisted of similar patterns. This pattern in the presidencies included control by a single political party; each period featured a moderate candidate from the opposite party, and a realignment of the issues critical to the nation. Why has there historically been a rhythm to Presidential Eras, and have we reached the end of it? In order to answer these questions one must first understand the conditions of each era to see how they developed. CIVIL WAR/POST-BELLUM 19TH CENTURY (1861-1885)
The Civil War is widely considered the most turbulent time in the history of the United States. It pitted north versus south, brother versus brother, American versus American. The United States survived this conflict under Abraham Lincoln, the Republican from Illinois. After the war ended, Abraham Lincoln and the Republican Party were viewed as heroes. They had ended slavery in the United States and won the war. Most importantly they were able to keep a nation, divided by a monumental issue such as slavery seen as creating irreconcilable differences, together. As a result of the viewed successes of the Republicans during this era, they were able to dominate the White House, even though Lincoln’s Vice President, Andrew Johnson, was a Democrat. Johnson would only serve one term in office after Lincoln’s assassination, due to the poor policies he would enact as president. The following US Presidents would be Ulysses S. Grant, a Republican war hero, and three more Republicans, Hayes, Garfield and Arthur, before another Democrat would become president.
The most successful president of the era was Abraham Lincoln who is widely considered the greatest president in US history for his accomplishments during the Civil War. On the other hand Andrew Johnson is considered one of the worst, and is one of only two presidents to be impeached. Lincoln’s achievements, coupled with the distrust of southern Democrats after the Civil War, paved the way for Republicans to control the White House for the latter half of the 19th century. SYSTEM OF 1896 (1897-1933)
The System of 1896, also known as the Progressive Era, was another span of time that was dominated by the Republican Party, for all except an eight-year gap where a Democrat held the White House. The trend started under President McKinley as he expanded America’s borders with the Spanish American War, trade in China, and acquisitions of the Philippines and Hawaii, before he was assassinated.
Teddy Roosevelt, who followed McKinley, made many reforms that improved the United States in the long run. He went after monopolies, sought to improve quality of food (meat packing factories in particular), built the Panama Canal, and built up American naval strength, both of which fostered the theme of American Imperialism set by McKinley.
William Howard Taft continued the Progressive Era by reforming the American workplace at the time. Taft instituted the concept of an eight-hour workday as well as continuing to break up monopolies and trusts, such as American Standard Oil, more than Teddy Roosevelt had in his time as president . After the end of Taft’s first term, Roosevelt felt he hadn’t done enough as president and ran against him under the Bull-Moose party. This led to Taft and Roosevelt splitting Republican votes and a moderate Democrat, Woodrow Wilson, winning the election. From 1892 to...
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