posted on Jun, 7 2011 @ 12:27 AM
For a while now I have encountered people both on AboveTopSecret and off whom consistently criticize the entire premise of a two-party system.
Arguably their justification for opposition to the present system is valid, who among us is not angry with one or both of the parties? Most certainly
at this present time the current platform of both parties irritate me to no end yet there is a reason that I believe it should be at least tolerated.
Allow me to explain.
At the founding of our Republic the Washington administration brought in all bright men fit for job of federal government civil service. Division
however resulted as Alexander Hamilton and John Adams had a particular vision for the United States, one different than that of Thomas Jefferson and
James Madison. George Washington remained non-partisan the entirety of his life, even going so far as to oppose all partisan politics. He however
aligned himself more with Hamilton and Adams, this was the reason Jefferson resigned from his post.
Members of the Congress then either sided with the policies of the administration or they opposed them. Those who opposed the policies became known as
Democratic-Republicans who rallied behind Thomas Jefferson when he ran for President in 1796. Those who supported the policies of the Washington
administration generally sided with Adams and became known as Federalists. Many issues divided the two parties but it was hardly about ideology,
rather it was about a general philosophy of America, position on key issues non-ideological issues, and the religion/ethnicity/region.
Defining issues which shaped the two-party system were: States’ rights v. Federalism, Pro-Tariff v. Free-Trade, Nativism v. Immigration, Pietistic
moralism v. Liturgical freedoms, Isolationism v. Internationalism, and Industrialization v. Agrarianism. The parties which endorsed Federalism,
Tariffs, Nativism, Pietistic moralism, Isolationism, and Industrialization were located in the Northeast, especially New England and as Northern
migrants went west they brought their beliefs with them to the Northern prairies and Great Lakes. The political parties which represented these ideas
were first the Federalists, National Republicans, Whigs, Know-Nothings, and finally the Republican Party.
Those who endorsed States’ rights, Free-trade, Immigration, Liturgical freedoms, Internationalism, and Agrarianism were located mostly south of the
Mason-Dixon line. These migrants moved west as well bringing with them their beliefs into the Louisiana territory. They remained further south in the
prairies. The political parties which represented these ideas were first the Democratic-Republicans then the Democratic Party.
First issues which divided Americans were the federalism, trade, foreign policy, and national economy. This defined the First Party System which
lasted from 1792-1824 and collapsing during the Era of Good Feelings. During the Second Party System new issues arose due to the largest influx of
immigration into the United States yet. Immigrants from Ireland bringing with them ethnic diversity and religious diversity angered many of the
nativists who belonged to the Whig Party. These new immigrants came into New York City and were welcomed in by Boss Tweed who ran the Tweed-Ring which
would later become Tammany Hall political machine.
Boss Tweed was a staunch Democrat so he brought the Irish votes into the Democratic Party thus transforming it into one which accepted the Roman
Catholics, Episcopalians, and German Lutherans, thus they became the party of immigration. The Whigs were increasingly divided over the issue of
immigration and finally collapsed when the issue of abolition arose to the national scene. When the Whig Party collapsed in the early 1850s the gap
was filled in largely by the Know-Nothings which were a staunch Nativist group which also collapsed due to the issue of abolition.
Republican Party soon arose to fill the void, being founded as a party supportive of federalism, tariffs, nativism, and industrialization. It did well
in the election of 1856 but did not win the Presidency until 1860 with the ascension of Abraham Lincoln ushering in the Civil War. He proposed ending
the extension of slavery into new territories, this the Democrats largely felt was an assault entirely upon not only the constitution, private
property, and their rights but upon their entire philosophy.
Expressing their staunch belief in states’ rights they seceded from the union to create the Confederacy which they believed was the true
representation of the United States founding fathers. Abraham Lincoln and the Republicans believing in federalism did not accept secession as
constitutional and thus forced them back into the union through war. This also allowed for industrialization of southern lands to begin with the
Scalawags (wealthy northern republicans) to relocate there and employ cheap labor.
Arguably the entire Civil War was more about the entire partisan conflict than about slavery itself. After the assassination of Lincoln Radical
Republicans tried to seize the party, they believed Reconstruction in its present form did not go far enough and wanted very harsh punishments placed
upon the Southern Democrats. Moderates within the party were able to block them from taking control.
When Reconstruction was finished this solidified the Solid South, giving the Democratic Party near unshakeable control over Southern politics for well
over 80 years. Beginning in the 1880s as the nation stabilized and the two parties became solidified they took opposing positions on each of the
crucial issues which the United States had always argued about. Leaving room inside each party for factions to develop, giving both parties their own
Liberal, Moderate, and Conservative factions.
Republicans became the party of the racial minorities and Anglo-Saxon Protestants which dominated the Northeast, New England, Great Lakes, upper
Midwest, and California. Democrats became the party of Southern whites and white ethnic immigrants which dominated the Southeast, Southern plains, and
By this time the two parties filled out and took their positions on the issues. Republicans advocated Federalism, Tariffs, Nativism, Pietistic
moralism, Isolationism, and Industrialization while Democrats advocated States’ rights, Free-trade, Immigration, Liturgical freedoms,
Internationalism, and Agrarianism. By the end of the 19th century populism sprung up across the prairies and Rocky Mountains leading to the
transformation of the Democratic Party away from the Liassez-faire led Bourbon Democrats to the Liberal populist Democrats.
1896 seen another change of national politics where populism took hold in the Democratic Party and Progressivism took hold in the Republican Party. By
1901 the Progressives took control of the Republican Party advocating progressive income tax, lower tariffs, central bank, nationalization of rail,
trust-busting, and electoral reform, the party was led by Theodore Roosevelt. His attempt at transforming the party fell when in 1912 he left the
party and brought his Progressives with him. The conservatives were able to retake the party and that they did.
Due to this division 1912 saw the first election of a Democratic President since 1892 and the only one until 1932. Woodrow Wilson began his political
career as a Bourbon Democrat but then later joined the populist liberals and to bring on board many of the disenfranchised progressives he pushed the
Federal Reserve, electoral reform, prohibition (17th and 18th amendments) and appeased the liberal Democrats by pushing income tax (16th amendment)
and equal voting rights for women. The Income Tax was pushed so that it could be a replacement for the tariff, which under Wilson was reduced to its
lowest levels on record.
With World War I however Wilson sealed the fate of the Democratic Party for the next election due to his alienation of two key voting groups; Germans
and Irish. The Germans wanted the US to remain neutral in the conflict over in Europe. The Irish were angry that the US sided with their enemy Great
Britain and preferred the US to remain neutral. Wilson tried to bring the Irish back with his promise to push Great Britain into creating an
independent Ireland but did not end up actually pushing Britain for it so the Irish sat out the 1920 election or voted for Harding.
In 1920 election Harding, a strong conservative Republican, won with the largest popular vote percentage margin since the Era of Good Feelings winning
with a 26% advantage over the Democrat. By 1924 the election was based around conservative politics as the Democrats nominated a conservative to
battle the conservative Republican Calvin Coolidge who passed new tariff and immigration reforms. The immigration reforms were passed so that the
large number of immigrants already in the US could be assimilated before we bring in any more immigrants from abroad.
Democrats did not stand a chance in the 1920s at winning any election with the economy doing amazingly well all the thanks were given to the
Republicans. This is until the Great Depression occurred where the Republican Herbert Hoover lost in a landslide to Democrat Franklin Roosevelt. With
the triumph of Roosevelt Democrats ushered in a new era and created a new political system known as the New Deal Coalition which brought over all the
minorities into Democratic columns.
With this coalition Democrats held control of the Congress almost constantly from 1932-1980. Blacks, Catholics, southern whites, union workers,
farmers, the poor, and many intellectuals allied themselves with the Democratic Party. As Liberals began to take control over both political parties a
Conservative Coalition was formed which broke between the both parties aligning Conservative Republicans and Conservative Democrats together
ultimately leading to the transformation of both parties in the 1960s.
Beginning in 1972 the Liberals seized control over the Democratic Party while it took until 1980 for Conservatives to seize control over the
Republican Party. At this time the parties began to abandon the 180 year old system which allowed two-parties to flourish. They became parties based
on ideology rather than principle. Instead of allowing factions within their parties based around the interpretation of the principles which the
parties stood for they abandoned that in favor of partisan ideology.
The change was not only bad for the parties themselves but for the nation in general. Divisions became sharp with both sides accusing each other of
un-American beliefs and a tradition of deep skepticism becoming apparent to the point that both sides find almost no mutual ground to stand upon. To
be a Liberal you almost have to be a Democrat and to be a Conservative you almost have to be a Republican (not including the independents).
By this point a question must be raised now that you know why we only have two parties and that question is; how can a two-party system work when the
parties are based around political ideology rather than national principles? There are numerous political ideologies; communism, socialism, anarchism,
liberalism, environmentalism, conservatism, fascism, and nationalism. So how can we justify only having Liberal and Conservative when ideologies
In my opinion to legitimize the maintaining of our present two-party system we must abandon parties based upon political ideology and instead return
to parties based around national principles. Let the issues of Federalism v. States’ rights, Nativism v. Immigration, Tariff v. Free-trade,
Pietistic moralism v. Liturgical freedoms, Industry v. Agriculture, and Isolationism v. Internationalism become the points from which we align
ourselves on the political spectrum and let our political ideology define our other stances.