Disputes over slavery in the territories first erode, then destroy what had become America's second two-party system. The erosion began in the 1840s as various factions opposed to the post-Jackson Democratic political coalition begin to form.
Free Soil Party
Run abolitionist candidate James Birney, for president in 1844.
Won only 2% of the vote but drew votes from the Whigs, especially in New York.
Not abolitionist but opposed to expansion of slavery in the territories.
Won 10% of the popular vote with Martin Van Buren as their candidate in 1848.
Lost 50% of their support in 1852 when their candidate repudiated the Compromise of 1850
Split over slavery into:
1. Southern, "Cotton" Whigs who eventually
drifted into the Democratic Party.
2. Northern, "Conscience" Whigs who moved to
new parties, i.e. Free Soil and, later, into the
Popularly known as the "Know Nothing" Party.
Nativist party based on opposition to immigration and on temperance.
Run Millard Fillmore in 1856 and win 21% of the popular vote.
Absorbed by the Republican Party after 1856.
Formed in 1854 when a coalition of Independent Democrats, Free Soilers, and Conscience Whigs united in opposition to the Kansas-Nebraska Bill.
Stressed free labor and opposed the extension of slavery in the territories ("Free Soil, Free Labor, Free Men!").
Moderates, like Abraham Lincoln, could, therefore, oppose slavery on "moral" grounds as wrong, while admitting that slavery had a "right" to exist where the Constitution originally allowed it to exist.
John C. Fremont was the first Republican presidential candidate in the election of 1856.
The Election of 1860
Split at its 1860 Convention in Charleston, South Carolina when a platform defending slavery was defeated and Deep South delegates walked out.
At a splinter convention held at Baltimore, Maryland, Stephen Douglas of Illinois was nominated as presidential candidate on a platform opposing any Congressional interference with slavery..
Southern delegates met and nominated John Breckenridge of Kentucky as a candidate on a pro-slavery platform.
The Republicans, by this time a overtly sectional and decidedly opposed to slavery draw in most northerners with a platform favoring a homestead act, a protective tariff, and transportation improvements.
The platform opposed the extension of slavery but defended the right of states to control their own "domestic institutions."
Abraham Lincoln is nominated presidential candidate on the third ballot.
Politics of the Gilded Age
Republicans & Democrats
Party differences blur during this period with loyalties determined by region, religious, and ethnic differences.
Voter turnout for presidential elections averaged over 78 percent of eligible voters; 60 to 80 percent in non-presidential years.
Both parties were pro-business and opposed to any type of economic radicalism or reform.
Both parties advocated a "sound currency" and supported the status quo in the existing financial system.
Federal government and, to some extent, state governments tended to do very little.
Republicans dominate the Senate; Democrats dominate the House of Representatives.
Republican Party splinter groups during this period: Stalwarts, Halfbreeds, Mugwumps.
Formed in 1891 by remnants of the Farmers' Alliances.
Big government party with a healthy list of demands that included:
Political parties were singled out as corrupt, undemocratic, outmoded, and inefficient.
Power of corrupt government could be diminished by increasing the power of the people and by putting more power in the hands of non-elective, nonpartisan, professional officials.
The progressives eventually co-opt many of the Populist demands such as referendum, initiative, direct election of Senators, etc. Some of these are incorporated in the "Progressive" Amendments to the U. S. Constitution: 16th, 17th, 18th, and 19th Amendments.
The Republican Era (Presidents Harding, Coolidge, and Hoover).
From 1921 to 1933 both the presidency and Congress were dominated by Republicans
The position of the government was decidedly pro-business.
Though conservative, the government experimented with new approaches to public policy and was an active agent of economic change to respond to an American culture increasingly urban, industrial, and consumer-oriented.
Conflicts surfaced regarding immigration restriction, Prohibition, and race relations.
Generally, this period was a transitional one in which consumption and leisure were replacing older "traditional" American values of self-denial and the work ethic.
The Political Legacy of the New Deal
Created a Democratic party coalition that would dominate American politics for many years including ethnic groups, city dwellers, organized labor, blacks, as well as a broad section of the middle class.
Awakened voter interest in economic matters and increased expectations and acceptance of government involvement in American life.
The New Deal coalition made the federal government a protector of interest groups and a mediator of the competition among them.
"Activists" role for government in regulating American business to protect it from the excesses and problems of the past.
Fair Deal of the post-war Truman administration continued the trend in governmental involvement: i.e. advocated expanding Social Security benefits, increasing the minimum wage, a full employment program, slum clearance, public housing, and government sponsorship of scientific research.
In 1948, the "liberal" or Democratic coalition split into two branches:
Southern conservative Democrats known as "Dixiecrats."
Opposed the civil rights plank in the Democratic platform.
Nominated South Carolina Governor Strom Thurmond for President.
"Liberal" Democrats who favored gradual socialism, the abolition of racial segregation, and a conciliatory attitude toward Russia.
Nominated Henry A. Wallace for president.
Post-World War II Politics
The Democrats maintain what by this time had become their "traditional" power base of organized labor, urban voters, and immigrants.
In the 1952 election, the Democrats run Illinois Governor Adlai Stevenson, a candidate favored by "liberals" and intellectuals.
As the post-World War 2 period progresses, the Democratic Party takes "big government" positions advocating larger roles for the federal government in regulating business and by the 1960s advocate extensive governmental involvement in social issues like education, urban renewal, and other social issues.
The Democratic Party very early associates itself with the growing civil rights movements and will champion the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act.
In 1952, the pro-business Republican Party ran General Dwight D. Eisenhower for president.
The Republicans accuse the Democrats of being "soft" on communism.
Republicans promise to end the Korean War.
Conservative Southern Democrats, the "Dixiecrats," increasingly associate themselves with Republican candidates who oppose civil rights legislation.
The Democratic Party by the late 1960s is deeply fragmented and seemingly incapable of dealing with the violence and turmoil, social and political, caused by the Vietnam War.
In 1968, the Democratic Party candidate is Vice President Hubert Humphrey.
In the post-Vietnam War period, Democrats advocate a range of "liberal" social issues including the extension of civil rights, support for "reproductive rights" (i.e. birth control and abortion rights), fair housing legislation
Opposition to the War in Vietnam and to growing federal social programs "converts" southern Democrats to vote Republican in increasing numbers.
Republicans run former Vice President Richard Nixon for president in 1968. He runs on a small-government, anti-war campaign as a defender of the "silent majority."
Nixon advocated a policy of cutting back Federal power and returning that power to the states. This was known as the "New Federalism."
Reagan and the "New Right"
Strongly support environmental legislation, limiting economic development, halting the production of nuclear weapons and power plants.
Pro-choice movement emerged during the 1980s to defend a woman's right to choose whether and when to bear a child.
Affirmative Action, the use of racial quotas to "balance" the workforce, to one degree or another, becomes an issue of political disagreement with Democrats favoring it and Republicans opposing it.
Fueled by the increasingly "liberal" social agenda of the Democrats and the rise of a militant and well-organized Evangelical Christianity, most southern states begin voting Republican in considerable majorities.
Conservative Christians, Southern whites, affluent ethnic suburbanites, and young conservatives form a "New Right" that supported Ronald Reagan in 1980 on a "law and order" platform that advocated
stricter laws against crime, drugs, and pornography,
opposition to easy-access abortions,
an increase in defense spending,
a cut in tax rates.
Curbed the expansion of the Fed. Govt., but did not reduce its size or the scope of its powers.