Ch 5-3 The Two-Party System in American History



Beginnings traced back to the ratification of the Constitution

The Federalist Party was the first to appear

Led by Alexander Hamilton

Viewed as the party of “the rich and wellborn”

Most supported the Constitution

Federalists worked to create a stronger national government

The opposition was led by Thomas


More sympathetic to the common man

Favored a very limited role for government

Congress should dominate

Its policies should help the nation’s small shopkeepers, laborers, farmers, and planters

Jefferson resigned from Washington’s cabinet in 1793 to concentrate organizing his party

Name: Anti-Federalists  Jeffersonian

Republicans  Democratic Republicans 

(1828) Democratic Party

The Federalists and the Jeffersonian

Republicans clashed in the Election of 1796

John Adams (Fed) defeated Thomas

Jefferson (J-R) by just 3 votes

John Adams became President and Thomas

Jefferson became Vice President

Over the next 4 years Jefferson and Madison worked tirelessly to build their party.

Election of 1800—Jefferson defeats

INCUMBENT (current officeholder) Adams.

Jeffersonian Republicans also gain control of


Federalists never return to power

History of the American Party System can be divided into 4 major eras



“Era of Good Feeling”

Democratic-Republicans were unopposed in national politics

By mid-1820s they had split into

FACTIONS (conflicting groups)

By the time of Andrew Jackson’s administration (1829-1837) a potent new party had risen to challenge the Democrats

National Republican (Whig) Party

Major issues—the Second National Bank of the USA, conflicts over public lands, high tariffs, and slavery

Democrats (Jackson) were a coalition of small farmers, debtors, frontier pioneers, slaveholders

Jacksonian Democracy produced 3 fundamental changes in the political landscape:

1) voting rights for all white males

2) a huge increase in the number of elected offices around the country

3) the spread of the spoils system—the awarding of public offices, contracts, etc. to those who supported the party in power

Whig Party led by Henry Clay and Daniel


Party consisted of a loose coalition of eastern bankers, merchants, and industrialists, plantation owners

Whigs a major party 1830s-1850s (along with the Democrats)

They elected only 2 presidents (both war heros) – William Henry Harrison (1840) &

Zachary Taylor (1848)

Slavery split both major parties

Deaths of Clay and Webster caused the

Whigs to fall apart

The new Republican Party (1854) drew many Whigs and antislavery Democrats

The Republicans nominated their first presidential candidate, John C. Fremont, in 1856

They elected their first President,

Abraham Lincoln in 1860

The Republican Party became the only party in history to make the jump from minor party to major party



Civil War Signaled the beginning of the

Republican Era

Support from business, financial interests, farmers, laborers, and newly freed African


Democrats crippled by the war

Survived because of their hold on the “solid south”

Only 1 Democratic President—Grover

Cleveland in 1884 & 1892

The Election of 1896 promoted the 2-party system

William McKinley(R) vs. William Jennings

Bryan (D)

McKinley supported the gold standard while Bryan supported free silver

McKinley wins the election

Republicans draw support from wide portion of the ELECTORATE (people eligible to vote).

Republicans remain dominant for another

3 decades.

William Jennings Bryan campaigned for the “little man”

He pushed party politics back toward economics and away from sectionalism

Worst Republican setback of the era—


President William Howard Taft (R) vs.

Woodrow Wilson (D) vs. Former President

Theodore Roosevelt (R-Bull Moose


Republican vote split between Taft &


Wilson wins the election and ends up serving 2 terms

Wilson’s win was lucky

Republicans would win in 1920(Harding),

1924(Coolidge), 1928(Hoover)



The Great Depression (1929) had a massive impact on all aspects of

American Life

Franklin D. Roosevelt (D)elected

President in 1932

Election marked a basis shift in the public’s attitude toward government

Roosevelt won with a new electoral base

Southerners, small farmers, organized labor, big-city political organizations

Revolutionary economic and social welfare programs – New Deal (1930s)

Support also came from African-

Americans and other minorities

FDR won re-election in 1936, 1940, 1944 – each time by heavy majorities

Vice President Harry S. Truman became

President in 1945 upon FDR’s death

Truman won his own term in 1948

Republicans won in 1952 & 1956 under

WWII hero Dwight D. Eisenhower

John F. Kennedy regained the White

House for the Democrats in 1960 with a thin victory over Republican Richard M.


Lyndon B. Johnson became President when JFK was assassinated in 1963

LBJ won his own term in 1964.


Richard Nixon(R) became President in


The Vietnam war split the Democratic


Nixon faced strong opposition from

Hubert Humphrey (D) and Governor

George Wallace (AL-American Ind.)

Nixon won by a small plurality

Nixon re-elected in 1972

Nixon’s role in the Watergate Scandal forced him to resign in 1974

Vice President Ford finished Nixon’s term until 1976

Ford pardoned Nixon

1976-Ford ran against GA Governor Jimmy

Carter(D). Carter won.

Carter couldn’t get the economy moving and there was fallout from the Iranian

Hostage Crisis in 1979-1980

Republicans scored impressive victories in1980 (over Carter) & 1984 (over VP

Mondale) with former CA Governor and actor Ronald Reagan

1988—Former VP George H.W. Bush (R) keeps the Republicans in power

1992—AR Governor Bill Clinton (D) wins the first of two terms by defeating Bush and Independent Ross Perot

The Election of 2000—George Bush(R) vs.

Al Gore (D)

Bush did not win the popular vote but he did have more electoral votes

2004—Bush defeats John Kerry (D)

2008—Barak Obama (D) defeats John

McCain (R)

Coattails—candidates with same party as the president also tend to win

The end