Republican or Democrat: A history

Category:  Opinions
Wednesday, April 3rd, 2019 at 8:05 PM

In the U.S. political system, we have two main parties. They hold all the power in each of the three main government branches. There are a few parties much smaller, but with few to no seats in our current system. So what is a republican and a democrat?

Many people get their history mixed up, especially around the Civil War. In 1792, these two parties started as one party, called the Democratic-Republican Party. Supported by both Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, they believed in limited government while their opposition, the Federalists, favored a government with more control. Even though George Washington was a Federalist, he warned the country of political parties.

After The War of 1812, the Federalists lost all power. With the Democratic-Republican party having full control, a split began to form. A highly controversial election split the party in two. Four party members were fighting for the presidency. Andrew Jackson won the popular vote, but failed to win the electoral vote. With this, John Quincy Adams became president. 

After this upset, Martin Van Buren decided to build a new party with Andrew Jackson. With this came the creation of the two parties we now know of today.

From 1826 to 1856, the democrats dominated the presidential seat, only losing two elections. Another split rose within the democratic party. Slavery split what people thought, by where they lived. Southern democrats believed in slavery for the whole country, whereas northern democrats believed the states had the right to choose. For the most part, the newly formed Northern Democratic Party opposed slavery.

At the end of the 19th Century, The democrats reformed into one party, again believing in conservative ideas, while the Republican Party valued big business. A change then happened during the progressive era. The Democratic Party’s values would once again be in question. The presidential election of 1896 would create a heavy progressive movement through William Jennings Bryan. Social justice and more government control would be the new ideology.

Republicans were strong in the early 1900s, but after the Great Depression of 1929, trust in the party faltered and a democrat president was elected.  Franklin Roosevelt began implementing the democrat’s new ideology by announcing the New Deal. This was the start of yet another long period of domination by democrats.

Even though the republicans spearheaded anti-slavery before the Civil War, it was the democrats who pushed civil rights through, solidifying the party as a progressive movement.

Today, not much has changed between the two parties. Republicans are for big business and little government, while democrats are for small business and heavy government control. They both are also being haunted by their pasts. Both sides still struggle with the extreme nature of parties. Republicans being conservative has been affected by far-right ideologies, whereas the democrats being liberals are affected by a far-left movement. Since the recent election of 2016, these extremes have made a major impact in current politics. 

Whatever political party you choose or do not choose, we must remember what George Washington has said and must heed his warning. “However [political parties] may now and then answer popular ends, they are likely in the course of time and things, to become potent engines, by which cunning, ambitious, and unprincipled men will be enabled to subvert the power of the people and to usurp for themselves the reins of government, destroying afterwards the very engines which have lifted them to unjust dominion.” 

Beau Bruneau | edinboro.spectator@gmail.com

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