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Why Did Democrats And Republicans Switch

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How Did This Switch Happen

Why Did the Democratic and Republican Parties Switch Platforms?

Eric Rauchway , professor of American history at the University of California , Davis, pins the transition to the turn of the 20th century, when a highly influential Democrat named William Jennings Bryan blurred party lines by emphasizing the government’s role in ensuring social justice through expansions of federal power traditionally, a Republican stance.

But Republicans didn’t immediately adopt the opposite position of favoring limited government.

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“Instead, for a couple of decades, both parties are promising an augmented federal government devoted in various ways to the cause of social justice,” Rauchway wrote in an archived 2010 blog post for the Chronicles of Higher Education . Only gradually did Republican rhetoric drift toward the counterarguments. The party’s small-government platform cemented in the 1930s with its heated opposition to Roosevelts New Deal.


But why did Bryan and other turn-of-the-century Democrats start advocating for big government?

How Can We Tell What Switched If Anything

If we want to more accurately see what is happening with the parties we have to look at each political, party, faction, and platform in regards to each issue. We can take any issue, from any major American political party platform over time, and see how it compares to other issues of other parties. This can help us see how parties like Federalists, Whigs, Republican-Democrats, Democrats, Republicans, Libertarians, and Progressives did or didnt change over time, and what that means in perspective.

Below is a chart we created showing one way to view the complex political left-right spectrum .

A left-right paradigm using a four point graph to show how common government types relate to left and right in terms of who has authority and who says so.

If one had to place historical figures on the left and right, in terms of the chart presented above , then VERY loosely we might say:


  • Right Wingers: Hamilton , Cleveland , Hoover, , Reagan
  • Left Wingers: Jefferson , Lincoln , Teddy Roosevelt , FDR , Johnson

If one had to place historical figures on our more complex 4-point spectrum, then VERY loosely, but more accurately than above, we might say:

Again, we find that party names are spread out over political leanings . From here forward we will focus on telling the history of each Party System in detail, discussing platforms and political views to better illustrate the changes.

More Than 1 Million Voters Switch To Gop Raising Alarm For Democrats

WASHINGTON A political shift is beginning to take hold across the U.S. as tens of thousands of suburban swing voters who helped fuel the Democratic Partys gains in recent years are becoming Republicans.

More than 1 million voters across 43 states have switched to the Republican Party over the last year, according to voter registration data analyzed by The Associated Press. The previously unreported number reflects a phenomenon that is playing out in virtually every region of the country Democratic and Republican states along with cities and small towns in the period since President Joe Biden replaced former President Donald Trump.

But nowhere is the shift more pronounced and dangerous for Democrats than in the suburbs, where well-educated swing voters who turned against Trumps Republican Party in recent years appear to be swinging back. Over the last year, far more people are switching to the GOP across suburban counties from Denver to Atlanta and Pittsburgh and Cleveland. Republicans also gained ground in counties around medium-size cities such as Harrisburg, Pennsylvania Raleigh, North Carolina Augusta, Georgia and Des Moines, Iowa.


Its more so a rejection of the left than embracing the right, said Smith, a 37-year-old professional counselor whose transition away from the Democratic Party began five or six years ago when he registered as a libertarian.

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1That is to say, rhetorically devoted to smaller government even while increasing governments size and power to regulate behavior with, e.g. Prohibitionbut thats another wrinkle to this story.

The Tension Between Rural Regions And City Regions Is As Old As The Federalists And Anti

Why did the Democratic and Republican parties switch platforms?

With the above covered, there is a reason the Northern Coasts and Cities are in one party and the Rural South and Mid-West are in the other party in almost any era , with this being true even when the parties switch.

This is because a major divide is between the political, economic, and social interests of rural regions and citied regions .

Learn more about How the Tension Between City Interests and Rural Interests Affects Politics, not just on a national level, but on a state and regional level too .


The better you understand this tension, the better youll understand that age-old Federalists / Anti-Federalist, Republican / Democrat, or North / South split in any era .

We are all Democrats, we are all Republicans, we are all Federalists, and we all love liberty.

We are all Americans.

We simply disagree on specifics , and thus we form factions and voting blocs around those differences .

The changing factions responding to newly arising voter issues is the main thing that changed the parties.


Still, not everything changed . That is explained in excessive detail below.

Now that you know about the rural vs. city split, and the big changes like those of Lincolns time, those of Teddys time, and the shifting Solid South , take a look at the time-lapse video below which shows the U.S. Presidential election results map, both by state and by county, from 1789 to 2016.

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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 1800, 1828, 1860, 1876, 1892, 1896, 1912, 1928, 1932, 1948, 1964, 1968, 1980, 1992, and 2000, 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 .

Or, in a very general sentence, Solid South States Rights and Tea party-esquePopulist Conservatives in the Democratic Party and elite Social Liberal Progressives in the Republican Party essentially switched parties from roughly 1900 to 2000, which resulted in red and blue states flipping from north to south .

That said, to complicate things, the Federalist line was historically anti-immigrant and nationalist and gave birth to the first Tea Party-like entities the Know-Nothings in the North and Anti-Masons in the North.

Despite this truism however, the Civil War forced factions to choose sides over slavery and expansion. Consequently, the Whig-allied nativist populist factions disbanded, the New Republican Party formed, and ultimately the first Republican President Lincoln was no Know-Nothing.

This Is Not A New Argument

Princeton University Edwards Professor of American History Tera Hunter told USA TODAY that this trope is a fallback argument used to discredit current Democratic Party policies.


At the core of the effort to discredit the current Democratic Party is the refusal to accept the realignment of the party structure in the mid-20th century, Hunt said.

In September, NPR host Shereen Marisol Maraji called the claim, one of the most well-worn clapbacks in modern American politics.

Comedian Trevor Noah tackled the misleading trope on an episode of “The Daily Show” in March 2016, after two CNN contributors debated the topic.

Every time I go onto Facebook I see these things: Did you know the Democrats are the real racist party and did you know the Republicans freed the slaves? Noah joked. A lot of people like to skip over the fact that when it comes to race relations, historically, Republicans and Democrats switched positions.

A similar meme attributing the claim to U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Ben Carson has been circulating on social media since November 2016.


Who started the KKK? That was Democrats. Who was the party of slavery? Who was the part of Jim Crow and segregation? Who opposed the Civil Rights Movement? Who opposed voting rights? It was all the Democrats, the meme reads.

Other posts making more specific claims about the Democratic Party starting the Civil War or founding the KKK continue to circulate.

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Why Were Different Colors Used

Prior to the 2000s colors were chosen for a variety of reasons. They include:

  • The flag is Red, White, and Blue. I think we can assume why no one wanted to overtly be the white team.
  • Every party would try to use the color blue as, especially after the Cold War, no one wanted to be RED. Thus, wed often get yellow .
  • In other cases, red was picked for liberals as that is the traditional international liberal color blue was picked for conservatives.

Today, when looking at documents produced after 2000, Democrats are typically coded blue. For instance, this color map of all past elections by state uses Blue to represent the Democratic Party and Red to Represent Republicans regardless of what color was used at the time.

Fourth Party System: The Progressive Era Mckinley And Teddy 1896 1932

How the Republican Party went from Lincoln to Trump

The election between Theodore Roosevelt William McKinley was pretty heated over social issues, but the parties stay the same. Republican Theodore Teddy Roosevelt is arguably the last of the left wing Republicans. Roosevelt is a very progressive president, and he even started his own progressive party after breaking away from the Republicans. The parties are more or less still the same as they were since the split over reconstruction, but the lines are much less clear due to the changing tides of the time.

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Democrats V Republicans On Jim Crow

Segregation and Jim Crow lasted for 100 years after the end of the Civil War.

During this time, African Americans were largely disenfranchised. There was no African-American voting bloc. Neither party pursued civil rights policies it wasnt worth their while.

Democrats dominated Southern politics throughout the Jim Crow Era. Its fair to say that Democratic governors and legislatures are responsible for creating and upholding white supremacist policies.

Southern Democrats were truly awful.

President Truman Integrates The Troops: 1948

Fast forward about sixty shitty years. Black people are still living in segregation under Jim Crow. Nonetheless, African Americans agree to serve in World War II.

At wars end, President Harry Truman, a Democrat, used an Executive Order to integrate the troops.

These racist Southern Democrats got so mad that their chief goblin, Senator Strom Thurmond, decided to run for President against Truman. They called themselves the Dixiecrats.

Of course, he lost. Thurmond remained a Democrat until 1964. He continued to oppose civil rights as a Democrat. He gave the longest filibuster in Senate history speaking for 24 hours against the 1957 Civil Rights Act.

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Prageru: Why Did The Democratic South Become Republican

The Left loves to smear the Right with cries of racism, but when the Right points out that itâs the Democrats who are the party of slavery, segregation and Jim Crow, the Left always reverts to the claim that both parties âswitchedâ following the passage of the Civil Rights Act, and uses the fact that the South is now consistently won by Republicans somehow as âproof.â

The South is now a Republican voting bloc â but not because of the mythical party switch.

Vanderbilt University Professor Carol Swain explains in PragerUâs latest video that there are three myths behind the myth that both parties switched after the Civil Rights Act passed.

The first myth is that the Republican Party only began to win the South when they started to pander to Southern white racists in the 1960s, when in fact Republican presidents Herbert Hoover and Dwight Eisenhower won Southern states prior to the 1960s. And, just as a reminder, the Republican Eisenhower is known for sending the 101st Airborne Division to Little Rock, Arkansas, to uphold the Supreme Courtâs decision to de-segregate schools, against pushback from Democrats. The truth is Republicans were able to win over many Southern voters prior to the â60s without âpandering to racists.â

The third myth is that the Republican Party has maintained a stronghold on the South with their use of the so-called âSouthern Strategy.â

Watch the full video below:

The Great Switch: How The Republican & Democratic Parties Flipped Ideologies

Denial of Southern Strategy enters forefront of political debate ...

The Democratic and Republican Parties of have not always had the same ideals that they have today. In fact, America’s two dominant political parties have essentially flipped ideologies in the time since they were founded. The Democratic Party was founded in 1828 while the Republican Party dates back to 1854.

In its early years, the Republican Party was considered quite liberal, while the Democrats were known for staunch conservatism. This is the exact opposite of how each party would be described today. This change did not happen overnight, however. Instead, it was a slow set of changes and policies that caused the great switch.

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Y Switching In The United States

In the politics of the United States, party switching is any change in party affiliation of a partisan public figure, usually one who is currently holding elected office. Use of the term “party switch” can also connote a transfer of holding power in an elected governmental body from one party to another.

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The Dixie Democrats seceding from the Democratic Party. The rump convention, called after the Democrats had attached President Trumans civil rights program to the party platform, placed Governor Strom Thurmond of South Carolina and Governor Fielding L. Wright of Mississippi in nomination.

Up until the post-World War II period, the partys hold on the region was so entrenched that Southern politicians usually couldnt get elected unless they were Democrats. But when President Harry S. Truman, a Democratic Southerner, introduced a pro-civil rights platform at the partys 1948 convention, a faction walked out.

These defectors, known as the Dixiecrats, held a separate convention in Birmingham, Alabama. There, they nominated South Carolina Governor Strom Thurmond, a staunch opposer of civil rights, to run for president on their States Rights ticket. Although Thurmond lost the election to Truman, he still won over a million popular votes.

It was the first time since before the Civil War that the South was not solidly Democratic, Goldfield says. And that began the erosion of the southern influence in the Democratic party.

After that, the majority of the South still continued to vote Democratic because it thought of the Republican party as the party of Abraham Lincoln and Reconstruction. The big break didnt come until President Johnson, another Southern Democrat, signed the Civil Rights Act in 1964 and the Voting Rights Act in 1965.

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Third Party Part : The Industrial Revolution To The Progressive Era

The string of Presidents between Lincoln and Grover Cleveland includes some important stories of know-nothing parties and populist parties , but we cant cover everything here.

Importantly, this era ends with Clevelands second presidency and the Panic of 1893 . Cleveland is a right-wing President, who was very popular and supported by the South, ultimately his downfall, the height of the industrial revolution, and an upcoming war set the stage for more changes in American politics.

TIP: Cleveland is a great example of a true Conservative, he is a Democrat by name, but this Bourbon Democrat is great like an Eisenhower, he should be a model for todays Libertarian who sometimes gets side-tracked by their cousins on the right. The end of his Presidency is arguably more about the changing times than the man.

Gilded Age Politics:Crash Course US History #26. The corruption pointed out in this video starts after Lincoln and continues into the late 1800s and, of course, some of the arguement hasnt gone away. At the very, least figures like Cleveland and Roosevelt do a bit to get politics back on the right track before the upcoming Progressive era .The Progressive Era: Crash Course US History #27. The Progressive era, named due to all the parties embracing progressivism to some extent.

An Overview Of Platform Switching Between Republicans And Democrats

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Above we gave a summary of the party systems, below we will look at key changes, key voter issues, and provide more details and justifications .

With the above said, there isnt one change that results in the political realignments and platform switches that define the Party Systems instead, there are many.

Below is an overview of the most important changes alongside a quick history of the Democratic Party and the Republican Party.

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