The Fifth Party System And American Liberalism And Conservatism
In more modern times we can to look at the Fifth Party System in which race, social justice, the currency debate, religious issues like Temperance and Prohibition, and other issues of modernization seen in earlier systems had already split the parties into many factions. In this era, we can see a telling split by comparing the socially conservative anti-communist classical liberal Republican Hoover to the big government pro-worker social liberal Democrat FDR .
To fully grasp what happens from Hoover and FDR on, itll help to quickly discuss American liberalism and conservatism and how they relate to other ideologies like progressivism.
Although we can see shadows of most modern political ideologies in any age of recorded history by looking to old nation-states like , , and or to revolutionary Britain, America, and France, American liberalism and conservatism undergo a noticeable change in the Gilded Age and Progressive era. Given this, the general tension over social issues, and thus the use of government, can be described in modern times as being between a few general political ideologies:
NOTE: Many elites are classical liberals and/or conservatives, yet most issues discussed in politics between voters are social issues . For example, almost everyone on K street and Wall Street are neoliberals and neoconservatives, yet the average voter votes on social justice issues. Think about it.
With That Said It Is More Complex Than We Can Just Say
With everything thus far said, we have only skimmed the surface.
The truth is, be we talking about the South or not, not every faction changes, and we have to account for more history than can fit in any essay. We have to account for changing platforms, changing voter bases, congressional changes over decades, battles between factions within states and parties, the changing ideologies of factions and parties, technological changes of automation and modernization, business interested elites in both parties who tend to organize better and dominate, populists in both parties who cant always agree on divisive social issues, the general rift between key voter issues and social issues vs. economic issues, arguments over the size of state within parties, voter issues taking on new importances, single issue third parties, global politics, and so much else to fully tell this story.
This is to say, the history of the major U.S. political parties if of course more complex than can just be said which is why we use like parties switched and party systems to preface this long in depth essay.
Three Factions Of Modern Republicans To Oppose This
Although conservatism is complex, it is defined well as an opposition philosophy to liberalism. Through this lens, there is a type of conservatism that stands against for brand of liberalism. Modern American conservatism wants to conserve, which means not being progressive on a given issue and which by its nature is not conservative. Thus we get modern social conservatism which says no to social programs and federal power, except when it upholds conservative social values. There is also a more liberal version that we call libertarianism. It is against all uses of state power for any reason and is a form of radical classical liberalism, combined with traditional classical conservatism, which is willing to use federal power to keep order, but not inherently against social programs. These factions can be said to become allies the conservative coalition mentioned above, although the establishment of both parties tends to favor aspects of traditional classical conservatism.
TIP: When either party uses government power, they are traditional conservatives, when either party deregulates and lets the private market and individuals handle it, they are classically liberal. More than one ideology uses classical liberalism, and more than one uses classical conservatism, as all political ideologies grow out of these foundational ideologies.
An Overview Of The Platform Switching By Party System And President From The Founders To Eisenhower
The First and Second Party Systems included some important changes and debates. Examples included the argument over the favored , and the Anti-Federalist favored Articles of Confederation and Bill of Rights and debates over slavery, , and Major changes began at the end of the Second Party System.
The Second Party system ended with the Whig Party dissolving in 1854. They were critically divided by the Kansas-Nebraska Act and the related debate over manifest destiny and popular sovereignty . The heated battle over whether Kansas should be a slave state, and the debate over whether the south could keep expanding southward creating slave states, resulted in the country being split. This had happened in the Mexican-American war. One faction became the Northern Republicans and their allies the Union, who wanted to hold together the Union under a strong central government. The other became the Southern ex-Democrats and their allies the Confederacy, who wanted independence and wanted to expand southward, to for instance Cuba, creating new slave states. By the time Lincoln took office in 1861, the division was inescapable
FACT: The tension was so great the Democratic party ceased to exist from 1861 1865 as the Confederacy rejected the concept of party systems; which is why we refer to them ex-Democrats above.
The post-Reconstruction Gilded Age and Third Party System resulted in a progressive populist era aptly known as the Fourth Party progressive era 1890s 1932 .
Democratic And Republican Ideologies Undergo Dramatic Role Reversal
The Democratic and Republican Parties have undergone a long transition from their founding ideological principles. The started out as the conservative party but are now the liberal party, and the were once the liberal party but are now the conservative party.
The Democratic Party we know today evolved from the conservative Democratic-Republican Party of the 1790s. The first contested Presidential election was in 1796. The Democratic-Republican Party nominated the conservative Thomas Jefferson as their first presidential nominee. Party members were anti-federalists who favored state sovereignty, free markets, a decentralized federal government, and an originalist interpretation of the U.S. Constitution and the attendant Bill of Rights. The Democratic-Republican Party also supported the institution of slavery.
Democratic President Martin Van Buren presided over the panic of 1837, and during that time he was steadfastly opposed to using the government as a means of employing workers on public works projects. In fact, during this economic depression Van Buren literally sold the federal governments tool supply so that the government could not use the tools for public works projects. This ideological mindset is diametrically opposite of the economic stimulus proposals that contemporary Democrats now support and advocate for, especially during periods of economic morass.
Legislative Seats Lost Under Obama
Between the time of World War II and the end of the second term of President George W. Bush in January 2009, the political party of an outgoing two-term president or consecutive political party administration lost an average of 450 state legislative seats. During President Obama’s two terms in office, Democrats experienced a net loss of 968 state legislative seats, the largest net loss of state legislative seats in this category since World War II. The second-largest loss occurred following Dwight D. Eisenhower’s two terms in office, when were handed a net loss of 843 state legislative seats. President Ronald Reagan was the only president to increase his party’s number of state legislative seats over his two terms in office, gaining six total seats across all 50 state legislatures.
How The Republicans Became Socially Conservative
The Fourth Party Republicans began to change when the Progressive Republican Theodore Teddy Roosevelt broke from the party in 1912 . Following the break, the Republicans increasingly embraced social conservatism and opposed social progressivism . From Harding to Hoover, to Nixon, to Bush they increasingly favored classical liberalism regarding individual and states rights over central authority. This attracted some socially conservative Democrats like states rights Dixiecrat Strom Thurmon. It resulted in a of the Republican party and drove some progressive Republicans from the party over time.
How Republicans Made Common Cause With Southern Democrats On Economic Matters
Roosevelts reforms also brought tensions in the Democratic coalition to the surface, as the solidly Democratic South wasnt too thrilled with the expansion of unions or federal power generally. As the years went on, Southern Democrats increasingly made common cause with the Republican Party to try to block any further significant expansions of government or worker power.
“In 1947, confirming a new alliance that would recast American politics for the next two generations, Taft men began to work with wealthy southern Democrats who hated the New Deals civil rights legislation and taxes,” Cox Richardson writes. This new alliance was cemented with the Taft-Hartley bill, which permitted states to pass right-to-work laws preventing mandatory union membership among employees and many did.
Taft-Hartley “stopped labor dead in its tracks at a point where unions were large, growing, and confident in their economic and political power,” Rich Yeselson has written. You can see the eventual effects above pro-Democratic unions were effectively blocked from gaining a foothold in the South and interior West, and the absence of their power made those regions more promising for Republicans’ electoral prospects.
Those Racist Dixiecrats Create Mainstream Republican Policy
But their ideas formed modern GOPs core platform.
In a campaign ad, Democrat-turned-Republican Jesse Helms said racial quotas prevented white people from getting jobs. The lie of racial quotas persists in the GOPs rejection of affirmative action. Racial quotas are illegal.
Take the idea of special interests. Heres Helms view, as a Republican:
Are civil rights only for Negroes? While women in Washington who have been raped and mugged on the streets in broad daylight have experienced the most revolting sort of violation of their civil rights. The hundreds of others who have had their purses snatched by Negro hoodlums may understandably insist that their right to walk the street unmolested was violated. Television commentary, 1963, quoted in The Charlotte Observer.
But you would think that Ted Cruz would have a clearer understanding of the connections between the Dixiecrats and the Republican Party.
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A General Summary Of The Party Switching And Party Systems
Above I offered summaries in the for of bullet pointed lists. Below Ill try to weave everything together into a story to offer another perspective:
As America became increasingly progressive over time, from 1776 forward, different socially conservative and socially liberal movements banded together to create the parties of each of the 6-7 Party Systems .
This caused different social-minded factions to align with different business-minded factions over time , and this changed the parties .
Oddly enough, this resulted in the previously Small Government Populist Democratic Party becoming the party of Big Government, Neoliberalism, Progressivism, Globalization, and Social Liberalism, and the previously Big Government Aristocratic party Republican Party becoming the party of Small Government , Nativism, and Social Conservatism. Oddly again, despite the changes the Republicans have always been Protectionist, Nationalist, and Stricter on immigration . On that note, it is very important to understand that immigration changed the Democratic Party as they embraced new non-Anglo Protestant immigrants over time.
The tricky thing to grasp is that some conservatives want to conserve back to a time that they feel they had more freedom and that progressive social liberalism requires Big Government to implement.
An Introduction To The Different Types Of Democrats And Republicans: This Is A Story Of Factions Switching And Parties Changing
I cant stress this enough, a major thing that changes in history is the Southern Social Conservative one-party voting bloc .
This is the easy thing to explain given the conservative Souths historically documented support of figures like , John Breckenridge and his Socially Conservative Confederates of the Southern Democratic Party, , the other Byrd who ran for President, , C. Wallace, , and later conservative figures like Reagan, Bush, and Trump .
The problem isnt showing the changes related to this, or showing the progressive southerners like LBJ, the Gores, and Bill Clinton arent of the same exact breed as the socially conservative south, the problem is that the party loyalty of the conservative south is hardly the only thing that changes, nor is it the only thing going on in American history .
Not only that, but here we have to note that the north and south have its own factions, Democrats and Republicans have their own factions, and each region and state has its own factions and that gives us many different types of Democrats and Republicans.
Consider, Lindsey Graham essentially inherited Strom Thurmonds seat, becoming the next generation of solid south South Carolina conservative, now solidly in the Republican party.
was all about a Democrat spraying a at a Democrats, while the Democrats sent in the national guard to stop the protestors, while a Democrat told the guard to stand down.
The Claim: The Democratic Party Started The Civil War To Preserve Slavery And Later The Kkk
As America marks a month of protests against systemic racism and many people draw comparisons between current events and the Civil Rights Movement, an oversimplified trope about the Democratic Partys racist past has been resurrected online.
Many Instagram users read between the lines for the tweets implication about the modern Democratic and Republican parties. Some argued this past action discredited current liberal policies, while others said it did not matter.
Historians agree that although factions of the Democratic Party did majorly contribute to the Civil War’s start and the KKK’s founding, it is inaccurate to say the party is responsible for either.
When Did The Democratic And Republican Platforms Switch
As noted above, the planks, platforms, ideologies and even the names of the American political parties switched often, and at many different points. We call these changes: the first party system, second party system, third party system, fourth party system, and todays fifth party system .
Some changes stick out like a sore thumb, but most of the changes between party systems happened slowly over time. Its hard to summarize or detail every issue, but the keys are names like Free Soil, Free Silver, Bourbon Democrats, anti-slavery Republicans, Stalwarts, Half-Breeds, American Independent, and other telling titles of factions or third parties whose members inevitably have gravitated toward a major party over time.
When we cant cut through the rhetoric, we can look at voting records to see which party favored what.
Its important to note, that the current parties werent established until the 1850s . From this point forward is when the major switching happens, but it is also when issues we consider important today take center stage for the first time. When Lincoln takes office, the Republican party is only a few years old, prior to this the ideology is roughly the same and they are called Federalists, and then Whigs. The same is true for anti-Federalists, Democratic-Republicans, and Jacksonian Democrats.
Perhaps the best answer to, when did the platforms switch, is: under Lincoln, the Roosevelts, and LBJ.
The Myth Of The Republican
When faced with the sobering reality that Democrats supported slavery, started the Civil War when the abolitionist Republican Party won the Presidency, established the Ku Klux Klan to brutalize newly freed slaves and keep them from voting, opposed the Civil Rights Movement, modern-day liberals reflexively perpetuate rather pernicious myth–that the racist southern Democrats of the 1950s and 1960s became Republicans, leading to the so-called “switch” of the parties.
This is as ridiculous as it is easily debunked.
The Republican Party, of course, was founded in 1848 with the abolition of slavery as its core mission. Almost immediately after its second presidential candidate, Abraham Lincoln, won the 1860 election, Democrat-controlled southern states seceded on the assumption that Lincoln would destroy their slave-based economies.
Once the Civil War ended, the newly freed slaves as expected flocked to the Republican Party, but Democrat control of the South from Reconstruction until the Civil Rights Era was near total. In 1960, Democrats held every Senate seat south of the Mason-Dixon line. In the 13 states that made up the Confederacy a century earlier, Democrats held a staggering 117-8 advantage in the House of Representatives. The Democratic Party was so strong in the south that those 117 House members made up a full 41% of Democrats’ 283-153 advantage in the Chamber.
So how did this myth of a sudden “switch” get started?
It would not be the last time they used it.
How Republicans Gave Up On Reforming The South
As mentioned above, Republicans had done a lot to help former slaves in the South, but many of the gains they had made existed more on paper than in practice, and others were in danger of being rolled back.
And indeed, the backlash soon arrived. In the South, whites were dead set against what Radicals had done, and were willing to use violence to fight it.
In the North, whites essentially thought they’d done more than enough for black Southerners at this point. Businessmen wanted their own interests to take center stage. Some intellectuals worried about the federal government squelching states rights.
And public opinion turned there was little appetite among white Northerners for an indefinite violent federal occupation of the South.
But most Republicans no longer cared. The party had achieved its founding aim and had gone quite a bit further, since the Slave Power was now a thing of the past, and that provided a handy rationalization for not doing more. The cause of equal rights for black citizens would now essentially vanish from national American politics for decades.
Never Trumpers Will Want To Read This History Lesson
In the 1850s, disaffected Democrats made the wrenching choice to leave their party to save American democracy. Hereâs what happened.
âI was educated a Democrat from my boyhood,â a Republican delegate confided to his colleagues at Iowaâs constitutional convention in 1857. âFaithfully, I did adhere to that party until I could no longer act with it. Many things did I condemn ere I left that party, for my love of party was strong. And when I did, at last, feel compelled to separate from my old Democratic friends, it was like tearing myself away from old home associations.â
As often seems the case today, American politics in the 1850s were nearly all-consuming and stubbornly tribal. So it was hardâand bitterly soâfor hundreds of thousands of Northern Democrats to abandon the political organization that had long formed the backbone of their civic identity. Yet they came over the course of a decade to believe that the Jacksonian Democratic Party had degenerated into something thoroughly autocratic and corrupt. It had fallen so deeply in the thrall of the Slave Power that it posed an existential threat to American democracy.
Placing the sanctity of the nation above the narrow bonds of party, these Democrats joined in common cause with former Whig antagonists in the epic struggle to save the United States from its own darker instincts.
But history offers them some consolation.
After The War Radical Republicans Fight For Rights For Black Americans
When states ratified the 14th Amendment. Republicans required some Southern states to ratify it to be readmitted to the Union.
For a very brief period after the end of the Civil War, Republicans truly fought for the rights of black Americans. Frustrated by reports of abuses of and violence against former slaves in the postwar South, and by the inaction of Lincolns successor, Andrew Johnson, a faction known as the Radicals gained increasing sway in Congress.
The Radicals drove Republicans to pass the countrys first civil rights bill in 1866, and to fight for voting rights for black men at a time when such an idea was still controversial even in the North.
Furthermore, Republicans twice managed to amend the Constitution, so that it now stated that everyone born in the United States is a citizen, that all citizens should have equal protection of the law, and that the right to vote couldnt be denied because of race. And they required Southern states to legally enact many of these ideas at least in principle to be readmitted to the Union.
These are basic bedrocks of our society today, but at the time they were truly radical. Just a few years earlier, the idea that a major party would fight for the rights of black citizens to vote in state elections would have been unthinkable.
Unfortunately, however, this newfound commitment wouldnt last for much longer.
The Solid South Switch And Southern Strategy
Although it is hardly the only switch that happens in American political history, the Solid South Switch , is both one of the easiest to spot, easiest to prove, and one of the most impactful switches.
The Deep South, unlike most of the country, has often had a one-party system at the state level , and that makes them an easy place to look for changes .
To prove the switch, we can first confirm southern political history up to the 1950s via works like V.O. Keys Southern Politics in State and Nation .
In his classic work of political realism, Key documents the history of the South to explain that what we might describe as Progressive Reformist Populists, Southern Socially Conservative Populists, Small Government Libertarians, agrarian Southern Conservative business people, and Bourbon Liberal Pro-Business were all Solidly in the Democratic Party in the South from the Gilded Age to the start of the 1950s.
This isnt to say there werent progressive Republican factions, Gilded Age small business pro-Gold Libertarian-like Republicans, or America-First Know-Nothing Republicans in the North and South, this is to say, we are talking about the dominate solid south factions who vote in lock-step here .
From the start of the 1950s on, we can then confirm the consequent changes via the Republican southern strategies .
Then we can show how, even though not everything changes, this led to a switch over party stances on key voter issues.
The South And The House Go Republican
“I think we just delivered the South to the Republican Party for a long time to come,” President Johnson said shortly after signing the Civil Rights Act, according to his aide . And indeed, Sen. Strom Thurmond of South Carolina switched his party affiliation from Democratic to Republican specifically for this reason.
Yet party loyalties take a long time to shake off, and the shift of white Southerners from being solid Democrats to solid Republicans was in reality more gradual.
And while race played an important role in this shift, other issues played roles too. White evangelical Christians became newly mobilized to oppose abortion and take stands on other “culture war” issues, and felt more at home with the conservative party. There was that suspicion of big government and lack of union organization that permeated the region. And talented politicians like Ronald Reagan promised to defend traditional values.
Still, Democrats continued to maintain control of the House of Representatives for some time, in large part because of continued support from Southerners, as shown in this map by Jonathan Davis at Arizona State University. But in 1994, the revolution finally arrived, as Republicans took the House for the first time since 1955. And many of the crucial pickups that made that possible came in the South.
Democratic Losses In State Legislative Seats
During Obama’s tenure, Democrats lost members in 82 of the 99 state legislative chambers across the country. These losses were most visible in both chambers of the and West Virginia state legislatures as well as the state senate chambers in and .
The following table illustrates five largest losses in state legislative seats during President Obama’s two terms in office. Rankings were adjusted to account for varying sizes of legislative chambers.
|Top five Democratic losses in state legislative seats, 2009-2017|
A Summary Of Party Systems Realigning Elections And Switching Factions In The Major Us Political Parties
Now that we have the essential basics down, lets do an overview of all the changes .
Historians refer to the eras the changes resulted in as party systems.
Each party system is defined by realigning elections or otherwise important elections like the elections of , , , , , , , , , , , , , , and , key voter issues of the day like states rights, workers rights, social welfare, equal rights, central banking, and currency debates, and which factions were in which parties at the time like the New Deal Coalition and Conservative Coalition .
To make things simple , we can say the red and blue statesflipped between the Third and Sixth Party Systems as the battle between the Union and Confederacy during the Civil War gave way to , , and the Gilded Age, which gave way to the Democratic Party William Jennings Bryan and the Fourth Party Progressive Era, which led to Theodore Roosevelts split from the Conservative Taft and exit from the Republicans along with his progressives, which led to the Republicans becoming increasingly classically liberal and conservative starting in the 1920s under figures like Harding, Coolidge, and Hoover, which led to the the Democrats becoming increasingly socially progressive under FDR in the 1930s at the start of the Fifth Party System, which led to the solid south conservative states rights faction of the Democratic party favoring the Republicans in the post-64 Sixth Party system by the election .