In his farewell address, George Washington warned of the danger of political parties, saying “I have already intimated to you the danger of parties in the State, … and warn you in the most solemn manner against the baneful effects of the spirit of party generally.” Today, it’s hard to imagine presidential politics without political parties.
Named for its support of a federal constitution, the Federalist Party focused on a strong central government and a society forged by industry and manufacturing. The Federalists ran presidential candidates throughout the Founders period, until the party’s demise around 1820.
They called themselves Republicans. Today, we know them as Democratic- Republicans. The Democratic-Republican Party believed in small government, states’ rights, and a society rooted in farming. Democratic-Republican presidents from Virginia led the country throughout most of the Founders period. The Democratic and Whig Parties arose from a splintering of this party.
The Democratic Party emerged with the expansion of the popular vote and rallied around the war hero, Andrew Jackson. The Party focused on the interests of the “common man,” including a small government and westward expansion. During the Great Depression, Franklin D. Roosevelt expanded the role of the government to help the economy and the American people recover. Today, the Democratic Party stands for an active federal government and tends to be more liberal on social issues.
Born as a party opposed to Andrew Jackson, the Whigs took their name from Revolutionary Era Patriots who fought against rule by a king. The Whig Party believed in a strong Congress and aimed to end the reign of a powerful president they called “King Andrew” Jackson. The Whigs supported industrial modernization and social reform.
The Party of Lincoln began as a combination of Whigs, Free-Soilers, and Northern Democrats who stood against the expansion of slavery and supported industrial growth. After the Civil War, Republicans dominated politics in the Gilded Age. Today, the Republican Party advocates for a smaller federal government with a strong military and tends to be more conservative on social issues.