Political Parties

In the U.S.

Political Parties In U.S. History

The United States has seen a variety of political parties since its founding, but two major parties have typically dominated the political landscape at any given time. Here's a summary of the main political parties in the U.S. since its founding:

Over the years, both of the major political parties in the U.S. have seen various factions or affiliated parties emerge. These factions often arise due to differences in ideology, regional concerns, or specific issues.

Factions of Major Political Parties:

Democratic Party

Republican Party

Internal Divisions and Deadlocks in U.S. Political Parties

Throughout American history, the two major political parties have experienced internal divisions, splinter groups, and ideological deadlocks. These moments of tension have often been driven by ideological differences, regional disparities, or the influence of charismatic leaders.

Democratic-Republican Party Split Over Money (1820's)

The Democratic-Republican Party, often just called the Republican Party in its early years, was founded in the 1790s in opposition to the Federalist Party. The First Bank of the United States had been a point of contention since its inception in 1791, and while it expired in 1811, economic turmoil after the War of 1812 led to the creation of the Second Bank in 1816. Many Democratic-Republicans, especially those in the West and South, opposed it, viewing it as benefiting the commercial North at their expense, and the regionally representative presidential election of 1824 was the catalyst for the party's split. Andrew Jackson won the popular vote, but without a majority in the Electoral College, the decision went to the House of Representatives, which selected John Quincy Adams for president. As a result, the Whig Party, led by Adams, favored a strong central government, internal improvements, and the National Bank, and the Democratic Party, led by Jackson, championed states' rights, opposed the National Bank, and appealed to agrarian and frontier interests.

Whig Party Demise over Slavery (1850's)

Before the rise of the Republican Party, the Whigs were one of the two major political parties in the U.S. However, by the 1850s, the Whig Party was in turmoil, primarily due to internal disagreements over the expansion of slavery into new territories. Northern Whigs, who were generally anti-slavery, found themselves at odds with their Southern counterparts, leading to the party's eventual disintegration. This fracturing paved the way for the emergence of the Republican Party, which took a firm stance against the spread of slavery.

Democratic Party Progressive Era Tensions (1890's)

The early 20th century saw the rise of the Progressive movement, which sought to address societal ills from income inequality to corporate monopolies. While many Progressives identified as Democrats, they often found themselves at odds with the party's conservative wing. This ideological tension was evident in the 1896 Democratic National Convention when William Jennings Bryan, a staunch Progressive, delivered his famous "Cross of Gold" speech, advocating for the free coinage of silver. Bryan's nomination as the Democratic presidential candidate that year underscored the growing influence of the Progressive faction within the party.

Republican Party Bull Moose Revolt (1910's)

One of the most famous splinter movements in U.S. political history occurred within the Republican Party in 1912. After failing to secure the Republican nomination, former President Theodore Roosevelt formed the Progressive Party, commonly known as the "Bull Moose Party." Championing progressive reforms, from women's suffrage to labor rights, the Bull Moose Party sought to challenge the political establishment. While Roosevelt's third-party bid was unsuccessful, the movement highlighted deep-seated divisions within the Republican Party between its progressive and conservative wings.

Democratic Party Dixiecrat Rebellion (1940's)

In 1948, a significant faction within the Democratic Party, known as the "Dixiecrats," broke away in protest against the party's growing support for civil rights and racial integration. Formally called the States' Rights Democratic Party, the Dixiecrats were primarily Southern Democrats who championed racial segregation and states' rights. Led by Strom Thurmond, they even fielded their own presidential candidate in the 1948 election. While the Dixiecrats eventually dissolved, their legacy lingered, foreshadowing the South's political realignment in the latter half of the 20th century.

Republican Tea Party Movement (2010's)

Beginning in 2009, the conservative Tea Party movement emphasized limited government, fiscal responsibility, and a strict interpretation of the Constitution. The Tea Party's influence was evident in the 2010 midterm elections when several Tea Party-backed candidates won seats in Congress. This new faction within the Republican Party often clashed with the "establishment," leading to policy deadlocks and challenging primary contests.

Freedom Caucus in the Trump Era (2020's)

The Freedom Caucus of the Republican Party formed in 2015 in the U.S. House of Representatives, and in the 2020's had even more dramatic confrontations with the Republican "establishment" than the Tea Party movement. The Freedom Caucus consists of three to four dozen representatives on the right flank of the House GOP conference, and after nearly half of the caucus initially opposed selection of U.S. Rep. Kevin McCarthy for House Speaker in January 2023, a core group of eight caucus members were responsible for the unprecedented removal and replacement of the House Speaker in October 2023.

Hurdles to Coalition Government Beyond Democrats & Republicans

In the intricate web of politics, established political parties like the Democratic Party and the Republican Party play a pivotal role. Beyond the public rallies, debates, and media appearances, these parties offer a plethora of services to politicians, political candidates, and smaller political entities. Let us look at the myriad of services provided by these parties, which act as the backbone of the U.S. political process.

Political Candidate Recruitment

One of the primary roles of a political party is to identify and nurture potential leaders. This involves:

Election Petitions

Election petitions are crucial for any candidate to officially contest in an election. Established parties assist in:

Campaign Staff, Advertising, and Outreach

A successful election campaign is a massive undertaking, requiring a blend of strategy, manpower, and resources. Here's how parties pitch in:

Legislative and Policy Research, Drafting, and Process

Once elected, the real work begins. Crafting policies, drafting legislation, and understanding the legislative process is paramount. Established parties support their members in:

Embedded Established Parties

Established political parties, such as the Democratic Party and the Republican Party, are not just platforms for politicians to voice their opinions. They are intricate systems that support, nurture, and guide politicians and political entities at every step. From identifying potential leaders to helping them draft policies, these parties are instrumental in shaping the political landscape of a nation. The next time you see a politician delivering a speech or introducing a bill, remember the massive machinery of support behind them, working tirelessly to ensure the smooth functioning of the democratic process.

Inspiration for Unity Speeches in Divisive Times

The Third Way

by Rigoberta Menchú (1992)

The indigenous K'iche' woman from Guatemala, and Nobel Peace Prize laureate, spoke about the struggles of indigenous peoples in Central America. She emphasized the importance of understanding and unity between indigenous communities and the broader national community, advocating for a "third way" that bridges the gap between opposing forces without resorting to violence.


Faith in Democracy

by Aung San Suu Kyi (1991)

The Burmese leader and Nobel Peace Prize laureate spoke about the importance of democracy and the need for national unity. Even under house arrest, she continued to advocate for peaceful resistance and unity in Myanmar.


The Silent Majority

by Benazir Bhutto (1986)

Upon her return to Pakistan after years in exile, Bhutto addressed a massive crowd, emphasizing the need for democracy and unity in the country. She spoke against dictatorship and called for a united front to restore democracy.


The Challenge of Greatness

by Robert F. Kennedy (1968)

Following the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr., Kennedy called for unity and understanding among Americans. He urged the nation to come together and address the deep-seated issues of racism and inequality.


Wind of Change

by Harold Macmillan (1960)

Delivered by the British Prime Minister in South Africa during the apartheid era, this speech acknowledged the growing demand for independence across Africa. Macmillan emphasized the inevitable winds of change sweeping the continent and the need for peaceful transition and unity.


A Time for Choosing

by Ronald Reagan (1964)

While this speech was made in support of Barry Goldwater's presidential campaign, Reagan emphasized the importance of unity and the dangers of division.


The Tryst with Destiny

by Jawaharlal Nehru (1947)

Nehru spoke about India's newfound independence and the challenges and responsibilities that lay ahead.


The Sinews of Peace (Iron Curtain Speech)

by Winston Churchill (1946)

Churchill warned about the expansion of communism in Europe and called for a united front against it.


The Man in the Arena

by Theodore Roosevelt (1910)

In this speech, Roosevelt spoke about the importance of unity and collective effort. He emphasized that it's not the critic who counts, but the man who is actually in the arena, striving valiantly.


House Divided

by Abraham Lincoln (1858)

Lincoln highlighted the growing divide in the United States over the issue of slavery with the argument that for the nation to thrive and endure, it must come together and resolve its most pressing and divisive issue.