How the Two-Party System Was Created

How the Two-Party System Was Created

( – In America, as in other countries, there are two dominant political parties; Democrats and Republicans. The Democrats represent liberal and progressive ideologies, while the Republicans espouse conservative social policies and economic neoliberalism.

It’s been this way for as long as any of us can remember, but have you ever wondered how this came about? There’s some interesting history behind this question.

The British Influence

Like many aspects of American history, the two-party system takes its roots from Britain. In the 17th Century, British politics mainly involved the Tories (who supported the monarchy) and the Whigs (who favored democracy). This binary framework leaked into Colonial America in the form of classical Republicans and natural rights philosophers.

Classical Republicans prioritized the common good of society, while natural rights philosophers placed more emphasis on individual rights. While these weren’t formal political parties, they were the two dominant ideologies of the time.

Development of the Two-Party System

Despite the apprehension of statesmen like George Washington and Alexander Hamilton about the two-party system, it quickly took hold as American democracy developed. After Washington won the first presidential election unopposed in 1789, he appointed Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson to his cabinet.

Hamilton, who favored a system with a powerful federal government, came to lead a group called the Federalists. Jefferson preferred the idea of a more restricted central government that would leave most legislative powers to the states. Under this ideology, he set up the Democratic-Republican Party with James Madison. After George Washington stepped aside as president, these two groups became the dominant forces in American politics.

Then and Now

The Federalists were wound up in 1812, but the two-party framework survived. The Democratic-Republican party Jefferson and Madison set up eventually became the Democrat Party as we know it today.

The Republican Party came into being in the mid-19th century with the objective of banning slavery. The party also aimed to promote the gold standard and expand the country’s railroad network. Abraham Lincoln won the Republicans’ first presidency in 1860. Over the course of the 20th century, the party began to focus on conservative policies like laissez-faire economics and traditional family values.

The two-party system has been the cause of much frustration in American political circles over the years. Many voters feel coerced into voting for either a Democrat or Republican because third-party candidates are so unlikely to win. Similarly, a lot of aspiring politicians feel they have to join one of these parties despite significant ideological disagreements with both camps. While major reform in the near future is unlikely, it would not be surprising to see the two-party trend change in years to come.

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