Democrats and Republicans swithched platforms
Fact

Democrats and Republicans switched platforms more than once in American history.

Did the Democrats and Republicans “Switch Parties”?

The American political parties, now called Democrats and Republicans, switched platforms, ideologies, and members many times in American history. These switches were typically spurred on by major legislative changes and events, such as the Civil War in the 1860’s, and Civil Rights in the 1960’s.[1][2][3][4][5][6][7][8][9][10][11][12]

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 18001828, 18601876, 189218961912, 1928193219641968, 19801992, 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 (the major parties are best thought of as coalitions of political factions who agree on key voter issues in any era; In the same way Bernie and Hillary are different types of Democrats, or Bush and Trump are different types of Republicans, so it is true for any era).

To make things simple (putting pre-Civil war factions like the Federalists and Anti-Federalists, Whigs and Second Party Democrats, and third parties like the Know-Nothings and Free Soilers aside for a second), we can say the “red and blue states” “flipped” between the Third and Sixth Party Systems (between Lincoln in 1860 and LBJ in 1964 to today) as the battle between the Union and Confederacy during the Civil War gave way to Reconstruction, Redeemers (elite pro-business Democrats), and the Gilded Age, which gave way to the Democratic Party progressive populist William Jennings Bryan and the Fourth Party Progressive Era, which led to Theodore Roosevelt’s 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 1920’s under figures like Harding, Coolidge, and Hoover, which led to the the Democrats becoming increasingly socially progressive under FDR in the 1930’s 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 2000 election (despite those members who didn’t “switch”, enough did to flip the map).

Or, in a very general sentence, Solid South States’ Rights and Tea party-esque Populists and elite Social Liberal Progressives switched parties from roughly 1900 to 2000, which resulted in red and blue states flipping from north to south (as can be seen in the voting map video below).

Or, to frame this another way, this time speaking to both the changing factions and changing ideology of the major parties, and noting that generally speaking the Anti-Federalists became the Democrats and Federalists became the Whigs and then Republicans, we can say, in the late 1700 and 1800’s Solid South Democrats like Calhoun, progressive Democrats like Jefferson, and inbetweeners like Jackson, and their populist factions formed the bulk of the Democratic party (they were anti-tax, anti-bank, small government, populist liberals favored in the south). Meanwhile elites, be they socially liberal or just business minded (like Hamilton, Adams, and Clay), dominated the Republican party and its predecessors (they were pro-tax, pro-central-bank, pro-federal power, elite liberals favored in the north).

That said, to complicate things, the Federalist line was historically anti-immigrant and nationalist and gave birth to (anti-Federalists and states’ rights Democrats aside) the first Tea Party-like entities the Know-Nothings in the North and Anti-Masons in the North. Despite this truism however, by the Civil War, the Whigs had pushed out their nativist populist factions, and ultimately the first Republican President Lincoln was “no Know-Nothing” (i.e. the Tea party and Progressive spirit was born in both parties, not one; also note, the fact that the anti-Federalist / Democrat line is pro-immigrant results in a progressive party over time, both parties’ stance on immigration is one thing that never really changes.)

Then, after the Civil War, elite business-minded Redeemers like Cleveland joined the Democrats, making both parties business-minded and elite in the Gilded Age (so pre-Gilded Age Republicans were the “big business” “elite” party, but after Reconstruction and the Gilded age both have elite factions; each just as likely to be found in NYC). The pushback against the Gilded Age then led to both parties becoming progressive by the early 1900’s (the Democrats still more populist under figures like Bryan and Wilson, the Republicans still more elitist under figures like McKinley, Teddy, and Taft).

Then, as the big-government social liberal nationalist Theodore Roosevelt left the Republican party in 1912, and figures like the small-government anti-Communist Hoover took over in the 1920’s, and as figures like FDR, Johnson, and Clinton took over the Democratic party from 1932 -1996, things changed. The progressives left the Republicans for the Democratic party, and the Solid South faction left the Democrats to join the Republicans. This, oddly [historically speaking], led to the Democrats becoming a more elite party and the Republicans becoming the party of small government and states’ rights (despite the elitism of the neocons, their message of deregulation is on paper one of classically liberal “states’ rights” small government and nativist “Tea Party” populism).

This tension can be seen in the states’ rights and progressive parties in American history, or seen in figures like Henry Wallace and Strom Thurmond, and is, as noted above, illustrated by the New Deal Coalition and Conservative Coalition.

Simply, the nearly unified Democratic-Republicans of the First Party System aside, it used to be that what we today call the Tea Party, Populist Progressives (like Bernie Sanders), and the States’ Rights Solid South were in one party (anti-Federalists and then Democrats) and the elite pro business and elitist progressives were in the other (Federalists, Whigs, Republicans), but this is complicated by third parties like Know Nothings, Free Soilers, and the People’s Party.

Voter issues before the 1850’s aside, the events leading up to the Civil War forced everyone into parties based on positions on slavery. Then confusingly we have the Gilded Age where both parties become elite and pro big business (we can here-forth call these elite factions neoliberal/bourbon liberals and neocons). Then there is the progressive era where both parties return to being progressive, again showing us the different types of progressives (just compare Wilson, Teddy, Taft… and you know, the Socialist Debs too while you are at it).

Then, it is after this that the major switching happens, which just so happens to leave us with Populist Progressives, elitist Progressives, and Bourbon liberals on one side and Tea Party populists, the States’ Rights South, and Neocons on the other side (a side that is today more statist than its Libertarian cousin and includes the faction “religious right”).

In words, social progressives like William Jennings Bryan and states’ rights supporters like Strom Thurmond might both share a populist anti-elite liberal ideology and a long party history (with both having more in common with a Jefferson than an Adams), but this is not the era of Jefferson or even Jackson, and today those factions are not in the same party (in modern terms, the Tea Party and liberal Progressives aren’t in the same party, nor do they agree on the use of the state).

Likewise, Hamilton, Lincoln, Cleveland, the Roosevelts, Hoover, and Reagan may all share history and aspects of elitist conservative ideology, but just like the parties were different in the Gilded Age and Progressive era, they are again different today (in any era the elite factions are as diverse as the populist factions, Reagan is elite in favoring deregulation and business like Hoover or Cleveland, but Lincoln and the Rooselvets were elite in their use of the state to ensure social justice at home and abroad; remember it’s more about factions and voter issues than just being elite or progressive alone… sometimes).

To add one more note before we move on, figures like Eisenhower, Nixon, Reagan, Bush, and Clinton can all be described as conservative-liberals. Some are more like Wilson and Cleveland, some are more like Taft and Hoover, but in all cases the differences are less pronounced than the differences between the Tea Party, States’ Rights, and the Progressive Left factions on a given social issue. This is to say, when looking for clear signs of changes in the parties, it always helps to look at a President, Party, Faction, or Voter’s views on divisive social issues first, and then to move on to positions on trade, banking, taxation, subsidization, etc.

With the above said, any shorthand way to describe how “changing factions” led to what we can call “changing parties” it is bound to leave out key details, as the full story is as complex as American history.

Below we tell the long and complicated history of the American parties and party systems in order to illustrate the changing platforms, parties, members, and factions and to find out what did or didn’t change.

By examining our 240 years of American history carefully, we will better be able to spot the populist and elite, left and right, city and rural interests that differ by regions of north-east, south-east, mid-Atlantic, mid-west, south-west, north-west, and west which we in any era call “the North” and “the South”, or after the 1860’s, Democrats and Republicans (see 2012 election maps by county for a true feel of where the actual blue/red divides are).

To fully understand our complex history we will need to consider how each party’s stance on the issues (including their official and unofficial “platforms” and the “planks” of those platforms; see Historic Political Party Platforms for examples) evolve though the “Party Systems” as the parties change (for example how positions on trade, banking, religion, currency, military policy, and social welfare and general ideologies change from the Gilded Age to Modern Age), how specific changes in Congress and the voter-base denotes changes, and how third parties like the “states’ rights” and “progressive” parties change things as well.

To see a visual of how this all results in the “red and blue states” switching, simply watch the video below. For an alternative viewpoint, check out the story of William Jennings Bryan, the father of modern American left-wing and right-wing populism (as his story explains Jackson, the Redeemers, and the populists and elites of the Gilded Age and Progressive era; this thus makes him one of the most telling figures in history next to Jackson, Lincoln, and the Roosevelts).

U.S. Presidential Elections 1789-2012. This video shows each U.S. election result from 1789-2012 with party names and voting maps. Given it shows each election, it illustrates some of the major switches clearly. NoteThe colors that have represented the parties have also changed over time. Despite this fact, the video (like most modern sources) represents Democrats as Blue and Republicans as Red, as has been a tradition since the 2000 election. TIP: Speaking of learning about this in video form, see Keith Hughes’ series on American ElectionsCrashCourse American History, and Tom Richey’s American history videos.

CONSIDER: The KKK are and were a confederate faction, and they still sport the confederate “battle” flag as one emblem of their ideology. That was a flag of the old Democrats when they were called the Confederacy in the Civil War. The KKK became prominent in the Deep South during reconstruction as they pushed back against the forced “military ” reconstruction policies of the northern Republicans. We know party’s change, that is what the page is about. However, we also know that factions change parties, and this is the case for the KKK and some other states’ rights factions once found in the Democratic party (as it is the case for other past factions described on this page). See: CNN’s 1982: Grand Wizard defends KKK policy on segregation.

TIP: Both the Tea Party and modern left-wing progressivism have roots in both parties, they don’t share ideology on how the state should be used any more than Andrew Johnson or Lincoln did, but they both generally favor liberty. Differences between key figures like Jefferson, Hamilton, Lincoln, Bryan, and the Roosevelts add complexity to conversations of individual and collective liberty, equality, and rights… but such can be expected in a country founded on the principles of liberalism in which the founders still managed to disagree then as much as we do today. See an essay on the types of American populism, an essay on the types of American Progressivism, and an essay on the American left and right for a better understanding on the different types of American ideologies which form the factions that comprise the political parties.

CONSIDER: Andrew Jackson (the first Democratic Party President – 1829) was a southern states’ rights populist and “Jacksonian” Democrat, which (in terms of individual rights, small government, and economic ideology) is similar to today’s socially conservative libertarian. Said plainly, Jackson had a little bit of Bernie Sanders in him, but essentially he was a Tea Party guy that can be contrasted his contemporaries Clay and Calhoun. Lincoln (the first Republican President – 1861) was an anti-slavery Republican in his day. In terms of pushing for social justice, using federal power, and taxation his position was similar to today’s progressive social liberal. In modern terms, Lincoln was a bit of an “income tax supporting” “elitist” “social justice warrior” who can be contrasted with his contemporary War Democrats and Southern Unionists like Andrew Johnson and more Conservative or more Radical Republicans (Lincoln was a moderate). Add in figures like Bryan, Calhoun, Cleveland, and Coolidge, or Byrd, Gore, and Thurmond, look at the Great Triumvirate, and consider Teddy Roosevelt is a Republican and FDR and Democrat, and we know that something changed. This page and our related ancillary pages are about “what exactly changed” and “what the changes mean” from a modern perspective in a way that respects all of America’s diverse factions.

TIP: See 1896 and 2000 for an example of “the big switch”; note that the maps are nearly the exact opposite of each other. See insidegov.com for an interactive map and simple explainer. Below is an essay that explains American history in depth, so bookmark it for further study. If you want to see a shorter alternative version of this article, see: A Summary of How the Major Parties Switched (that page also deals with the whole “ideology” question that some of Dinesh D’souza’s followers have).

TIP: Republican is a reference to a Republican form of government, Democrat is a reference to individual focused Democracy. Both are liberal ideologies. Forget about slavery and segregation for a second, and think about “the people, not the state, choosing who gets to do what”. Here you’ll see that the original Democrats were more for individual and states’ rights, and the original republicans more for elite state control and order. Add slavery back into the equation, now it makes the Republicans look like the social liberals… and… they were. They were, in many ways, “Teddy Roosevelt like social liberals” (social liberals who want to use the state to ensure social welfare and justice)… until Teddy left the party to run in the 1912 election and then Harding, Coolidge, and Hoover reshaped the party into a individual focused small government prior to FDR’s era. Remember though, there was a moment where there was only one major party, the Jeffersonian Democratic-Republicans. We are all Democrats, Republicans, Federalists, and liberty loving liberals… we just don’t agree on specifics, you know like “federation vs. confederation”. The United States is a Constitutional Federal Republic (a federation of states with a Representative Democracy). The Constitution ensures the liberal values of Republicanism, Democracy, and Federalism. Hence the names of the American political parties.

TIP: As noted above, historians call the eras the major changes result in as follows: the first party system (the Federalists vs. Anti-Federalists; and the Jeffersonian Democratic-Republicans), the second party system (Jacksonian Democrats vs. Whigs), the third party system (Reconstruction and the Gilded Age), the fourth party system (the Progressive Era), and today’s fifth party (New Deal Coalition vs. Conservative Coalition). Some feel that this is followed by sixth party (from LBJ on) and even seventh party (from Clinton on) systems.

“Liberty is to faction what air is to fire, an aliment without which it instantly expires.” – James Madison

The Founding Federalists and Anti-Federalists of the First Party System

To see how the parties have evolved properly from the founders to 2016, we can start by comparing pre-Civil War factions such as the founding Federalists and Anti-Federalists in the First Party System.

Here we can compare figures like the North Eastern Federalists Alexander Hamilton and John Adams to the Virginian Anti-Federalists Thomas Jefferson and Patrick Henry to get a sense of the two general types of ideologies that color America’s future parties and factions (as illustrated by the Federalist and Anti-Federalist papers).

Here we can see the roots of progressivism and states’ rights populism in the Democratic party and the roots of traditional pro-business conservatism in the Federalists. Here we can also note that, despite none of the founders supporting slavery, it is the small government mentality to Democrats that allows for slavery, while the Whig-like conservatism of the Federalists is more geared toward global trade and banking and less tolerant of the nefarious institution.

Although we can put the founders in two big tents and understand American history that way, looking at the nuanced views of the founders allows us to better understand the roots of the different types of liberal and conservative / elite and populist positions that we find in each party system.

Notable anti-Federalists and Federalists include: the southern Thomas Jefferson who was a radical liberal progressive who championed democracy, federalism, and republicanism, the northern Alexander Hamilton who was a conservative-liberal who helped establish the first national bank and favored global trade, the northern Gouverneur Morris who was a socially minded elitist progressive who hated slavery but came from a family of loyalists, the southern Patrick Henry who quoted Cato, a Tragedy saying “Give me liberty, or give me death!”, the northern Benjamin Franklin who was a centered polymath and Freemason who favored a tax-based commonwealth model for states, the northern John Adams who was a rather elite conservative Federalist from Massachusetts who was respected by everyone (much like the southern George Washington was), the southern James Madison who was a Federalist and Anti-Federalist who wrote both the Federalist favored Constitution (which replaced the anti-Federalist favored Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union between the States) and the anti-Federalist favored Bill of Rights (which he based on the Anti-Federalist George Mason’s Virginia Bill of Rights), the southern Samuel Adams who was a radical Anti-Federalist from the North who served as Lieutenant Governor of Massachusetts under the anti-Federalist John Hancock (showing us that in any era ideology in any era can be found in both the north and the south), and more.

All the founders were classical liberals, as they were certainly not loyal conservatives of the Crown, but they were all very different types of liberals (having little more in common than an Elephant and a Donkey as it were). It was these differences that divided them by North/South, City/Rural, and Federalist/Anti-Federalist, and that divided them over related key issues like slavery, banking, military size, and trade. However, in as many ways in which they disagreed, they were United against King George III and for liberty, federalism, democracy, republicanism, and the principles of the enlightenment, finding compromise over the Constitution, Bill of Rights, and other important matters… until the propaganda war between Adams and Clay vs. Jackson and Van Buren in the 1820’s when mounting tension split the country.

“Men by their constitutions are naturally divided into two parties.” – Thomas Jefferson

“National debt, if it is not excessive, will be to us a national blessing.” – Alexander Hamilton

TIP: All the founders shared a love of reason. Their debates weren’t based on emotion driven talking points, but on empirically backed evidence and critical thinking. They didn’t just rebel against a King based on an aversion to Monarchy, they provided a mutually agreed on philosophical justification for their actions today known as the Declaration of Independence. It was the tools handed down by past rationalists and empiricists of the Age of Enlightenment (AKA Age of Reason), including by their predecessors like Hobbes, Locke, and Montesquieu, and by their contemporaries like Smith, Hume, and Kant, that allowed for such wildly different patriots to join together to form a great nation. With that said, although the anti-Federalists generally favored a more democratic society than the Federalists (hence their future name as Democrats, their support of the Confederacy, their support of the bicameral Virginia plan, and their support of the Bill of Rights) the founders ultimately agreed that they did not expect the common man to apply the same level of reason they did, and this is a large part of why they created a Republic with an electoral college, rather than a direct democracy.

“Well, Doctor, what have we got—a Republic or a Monarchy?” A woman asked Franklin upon leaving the Constitutional Convention. “A Republic, if you can keep it,” Franklin said (half joking).

The Democratic-Republicans and the Second Party System

Now that we have the founders covered, we can examine the next generation of Americans starting with the tension between two types of Democratic-Republicans in the 1824 and 1828 elections, the “establishment” North Easterner John Quincy Adams (John Adams’ son) and the “populist” Southerner Andrew Jackson. In these divisive races, we can see the start of modern party politics, the end of the Era of Good Feelings, and the start of the Second Party System. In the Second Party System, Adam’s supporters become National Republicans before becoming Whigs, and Jackson’s supporters become the “Second Party Democrats”.

Finally, in terms of pre-Civil War factions pertaining to the two major parties, we can examine key figures like the southern pro-slavery intellectual John C. Calhoun and the centered Democrat Martin Van Buren and compare them to the spiritual father of the Republicans and leader of the Whigs the Kentuckian Henry Clay. We can also look at key policies like the Missouri Compromise and Kansas-Nebraska Act and other events leading to the Civil War, and examine the general mounting tension over issues of states’ rights, popular sovereignty, and manifest destiny, to see the role of each in the splitting of the Whig and Democratic parties from the 1820’s to late 1850’s.

Here we can see clearly, a Jacksonian Democrat is not the same thing as a Calhoun states’ rights Democrat (and neither are fully Jeffersonian). Where Jackson is a more right-leaning populist version of Jefferson, the sort of states’ rights Calhoun and his pre-Confederates are calling for is a step beyond even this.

Finally, we can relate all this to the Civil War era factions, the Union and Confederacy, at the start of the Third Party System when the Whigs become the Republicans… In fact, here we can’t compare two parties (as the Democrats didn’t exist from 1861 -1865), but can instead compare two Americas: 1. the southern Confederate States of America (and their copperhead allies in the North) and 2. the official United States of America (and their War Democrat allies in the North like Andrew Johnson and their Southern Unionist allies in the South) who went to war with the former southern Democrats over their attempts at secession.

We can classify all these the pre-Civil War factions by saying that the Federalists, National Republicans, Whigs, and Union were pro-north, pro-trade, pro-banking traditionally-conservative classical liberals focused on the collective and modernization (AKA “City Interests“) and the Anti-Federalists, Second Party “Jacksonian” Democrats, and Confederates were pro-south, anti-central power, pro-state-power, anti-bank, socially conservative radical classical liberals focused on individual liberty and rural America (AKA “Rural Interests“).

Meanwhile, we can note that “third parties” like the Free Soilers, who attracted pre-Civil War moderates from the north and south, and the People’s Party, who attracted post-Civil War progressives from the north and south, tell an important part of the story of changing politics.

“Foreign powers do not seem to appreciate the true character of our Government. Our Union is a confederation of independent States whose policy is peace with each other and all the world… The world has nothing to fear from military ambition in our Government.” – Polk describing Monroe Doctrine politics.

“The bank, Mr. Van Buren, is trying to kill me. But I will kill it.” – Andrew Jackson. When asked if the two term President had any last regrets, Jackson responded, “[That] I didn’t shoot Henry Clay and I didn’t hang John C. Calhoun.” (I.e. the nativist populist regretted not killing the southern and northern party leaders of the time, including his VP Calhoun). Likewise he said, “John Calhoun, if you secede from my nation, I will secede your head from the rest of your body.”

Understanding the Changes in Pre-Civil War America

To recap before moving on: In the late 1700’s the American factions won their independence from Britain and formed a new country by compromising and coming together as Federalists and Anti-Federalists, in the early 1800’s they found some unity under Jefferson as Democratic-Republicans, but from Jackson to the Civil War their differences pulled them apart with greater force than their commonalities united them together. The divisive new platforms of the parties create two polarized groups splitting America into Democrats/Confederates of the South and Republicans/the Union of the North by the start of the Civil War in 1861 under the Republican Lincoln who ran on a platform which opposed the expansion of slavery.

To understand how things “went south” so quickly, one has to understand how classical liberal positions can become socially conservative over time. The classical liberalism of Jefferson did not allow individual freedom for everyone, as it allowed for “the freedom to own slaves” and “the freedom for states to be slave states”. Thus, what was once progressive had become socially conservative over time, it was still technically liberal in the classical sense, just certainly not socially progressive… but of course, let us not paint any party in any era with a broad brush, as both parties in any era are compromised of factions who agree only to varying extents.

When the North decided it wouldn’t tolerate slavery any more (a position that can be seen as progressive from one angle and despotic from another), it became more than a human rights issue, it became an issue of cutting off the only means by which the south had to compete with the north economically. The same is true for those “sons of Samuel Adams” (Northerners from the anti-Federalists line) in the North who were Northern nativist populists and Know-Nothings, they were against the new immigrants, catholics, and the blacks. They weren’t slavers like the South, but they dealt with many of the same issues.

So the tension isn’t just about the morality of slavery (or otherwise inclusive policy), it was about old views not fitting in to a new progressive and modern world (a world more accessible to an upper-class urbanite) and the pushback against this (as seen in everything from the Young America movement to Bleeding Kansas). This theme will play out again to account for the changes in the upcoming party systems where modernization spurs on progressivism which spurs on social conservatism, only leaving everyone all the more bitter, speaking of which, this brings us to “Reconstruction” (which at times is less about construction, and more about enforcing the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments and the Enforcement Act of 1870, pushing back against black codes like “apprenticeship laws” which re-enslaved and “disenfranchised” Freedmen, pushing back against paramilitary rebel factions like the Red Shirts and Ku Klux Klan, and military occupation of the south via the Radical Republicans’ Military Reconstruction polices).

“I do oppose the extension of slavery, because my judgment and feelings so prompt me; and I am under no obligation to the contrary… I am not a Know-Nothing. That is certain. How could I be? How can any one who abhors the oppression of negroes, be in favor or degrading classes of white people? Our progress in degeneracy appears to me to be pretty rapid. As a nation, we began by declaring that “all men are created equal.” We now practically read it “all men are created equal, except negroes” When the Know-Nothings get control, it will read “all men are created equal, except negroes, and foreigners, and Catholics.” When it comes to this I should prefer emigrating to some country where they make no pretence of loving liberty — to Russia, for instance, where despotism can be taken pure, and without the base alloy of hypocracy [sic].” – Abraham Lincoln 1855

“A house divided against itself cannot stand.” – Abraham Lincoln

“Let us have peace.” – Ulysses S. Grant

The Third Party System: Reconstruction and the Gilded Age

Post-Civil War era politics in the United States can be understood by examining the Third Party System factions of Reconstruction and the Gilded Age.

In the Gilded Age things change in a major way due to both parties embracing cronyism (supposedly)… but before we get there we need to understand Reconstruction.

The changes in the Republican party in this era are best explained by looking at the conservative, moderate, and radical Republicans of Reconstruction (who were split over how to treat the Southern rebels, with radical meaning those with harsh views toward the south, with conservative meaning those who wanted a quick return to normalcy even at the expense of social justice, and with moderates like Lincoln and Grant falling somewhere in the middle). Meanwhile factions like “carpet baggers” and ex-Southern Unionist “scallywags” are illustrative of different reconstruction Democrats.

Here it is vital to note one of the hardest things to talk about in American history, but I’ll say it plain. The South didn’t want to lose the war, they wanted to win, they didn’t want to stop slavery, they wanted to continue it. They did not respond well to losing the war. Lincoln was immediately executed, Andrew Johnson took over, he was impeached, and the military had to occupy the south while the KKK committed what was frankly genocide against Freedmen.

As noted above, Reconstruction was part rebuilding, part Civil Rights (for example the Reconstruction Amendments and the Civil Rights Act of 1866), part enforcing actual “law and order” and preventing forced slavery under different names and murder (the murder of Republicans and Freedmen by southern conservatives, such as in the Colfax massacre), and part (back to our story) “Redeemers“.

The Redeemers completely changed the Democratic party by unifying the non-racist factions (like the scallywags and carpet baggers) and moving the Democratic party toward business interests (the Redeemers helped to modernize the party and helped them to move away from the slave economy and into the Gilded Age).

This is where the linage of Cleveland, Wilson, LBJ, Carter, and even Clintons arguably come from. When people think “the Democrats didn’t change”, they are confusing Bourbon liberals with Solid South radical liberals. Yes they are both from the south, no they are not the same faction!

Anyway, before the south can be fully “redeemed”, Reconstruction is ended abruptly by the “Compromise” of 1877 in which the South won the election but traded the Presidency for the end of Reconstruction (see: why it takes another 100 years to get a voting rights act; see: what marks the beginning of the corruption and cronyism of the Gilded Age; see: 1876’s United States v. Cruikshank setting a president).

Generally in this era we can look to war hero Ulysses S. Grant and all the above events to confirm the Republicans are still “the party of Lincoln” going into the Gilded Age… but the upcoming Gilded age in which everyone is pro-business changes everything, especially given Grant’s sometimes laissez-faire attitude toward the crony factions in the Republican party (see Grant, Gilded Age corruption and reform).

After Reconstruction, in the Gilded Age of industrialization and cronyism after the war, we can see changes in the Republican party by comparing Stalwart conservative “crony” Republicans to the Progressive “Civil Service” Half-Breeds. Likewise, we can see changes in the Democratic party by comparing William Jennings Bryan’s Progressive Silver Movement of the 1890’s – 1910’s (a progressive populist movement that arose in a response to industrialization, and which “swallowed up” the Democratic Party and fundamentally changed it), to Grover Cleveland’s pro-gold classical liberalism (which today we might describe as libertarian and will see in the Republican party, not the Democratic party, from Harding and Coolidge forward), to the traditional southern conservatives still in the party.

The Panic of 1893 marks the decline of “robber baron” era politics and marks the rise of socially minded movements like Marxism and the populist and progressive pro-worker and farmer movements of the north and south (like those led by the Mid-Western progressive populist William Jennings Bryan whose story is one of the most telling in American history in regards to the changes).[13]

Following the Gilded Age, with different types of progressives being in both parties, and workers’ rights and social welfare taking precedence over issues of race, a new “Progressive Era” began.

The laws of accumulation will be left free; the laws of distribution free. Individualism will continue, but the millionaire will be but a trustee for the poor; intrusted for a season with a great part of the increased wealth of the community, but administering it for the community far better than it could or would have done for itself. – Andrew Carnegie

The Fourth Party “Progressive Era”

The aptly named “Progressive Era” or Fourth Party System can then be understood best by examining the events leading up to the 1912 elections. Here we can compare the northeastern social liberal Republican Teddy Roosevelt’s New Nationalism plan (and his split from Republican Taft as a Progressive Bull Moose) to Woodrow Wilson’s progressive southern Democrat mixed-market New Freedom plan (and his Populist-Progressive pro-income tax supporting liberal Secretary of State William Jennings Bryan).

Ending the progressive era in the 1920’s, with Teddy’s progressives now largely absent from the Republican party, we we can see a changing Republican party under Harding, Coolidge, and Hoover (we even see a “Lilly white southern strategy” under Hoover which sets the precedent for the southern strategies of later Republicans like Nixon). The changes can be seen both in their favoring of classical liberal Cleveland-like Gilded Age economics to big government social justice, and in their related reaction to the Red Scare which had resulted in anti-Communism becoming a major voting issue for a growing base of Republican conservatives in post-WWI and Prohibition era America.

“You shall not crucify mankind upon a cross of gold.” – William Jennings Bryan

“Political parties exist to secure responsible government and to execute the will of the people.

From these great tasks both of the old parties have turned aside. Instead of instruments to promote the general welfare, they have become the tools of corrupt interests which use them impartially to serve their selfish purposes. Behind the ostensible government sits enthroned an invisible government, owing no allegiance and acknowledging no responsibility to the people.

To destroy this invisible government, to dissolve the unholy alliance between corrupt business and corrupt politics is the first task of the statesmanship of the day.” – Teddy Roosevelt ‘s Bull moose Progressive Party Platform

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 (who had a “southern strategy” and ends the Fourth Party era following the Great Depression) to the big government pro-worker social liberal Democrat FDR (who begins the Fifth Party era after barely winning his 1932 contested convention due to his strong progressive streak, which he shared with Republicans like the New Deal Progressive Henry A. Wallace, and which had at that point been out of style for a decade, and which was opposed by conservative party bosses in the Democratic party).

To fully grasp what happens from Hoover and FDR on, it’ll help to quickly discuss American liberalism and conservatism and how they relates 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 Sparta, Athens, and Rome 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:

  1. Classical liberalism, the original liberal philosophy of liberty, individual rights, and small government, like Jefferson, Hamilton, Cleveland, or Coolidge. This ideology comes in a number of forms including a radical form like Jefferson or the Jacobins in France, a social form that can be seen in the works of Rousseau for example, a religious form which simply wants religious freedom, and an economic form that favors Smith-style neoclassical economics as can be seen in the Bourbon liberal Cleveland in the Gilded Age, Bourbon liberal Wilson in the 1910’s, Coolidge in the 1920’s, or Ron Paul in modern times. The economic form of classical liberalism itself comes in a few different flavors. The dominate forms being libertarianism, which is pro-free market (the Ron Paul Kind), and a type of Hamiltonian conservative-liberalism often called Neoliberalism (the leftwing version) or Neoconservatism (the rightwing version). Here Clinton is a Neoliberal, Bush a Neocon, and Goldman Sachs a dash of both. In other words, this is a liberal position in that usury used to be a sin under the old church states. Its primary focus is markets, not social issues (even when it seeks to solve social issues via the market).
  2. Classical traditional conservatism, a complex ideology based on hierarchy, order, and tradition. It comes in three general flavors, each opposing a type of classical liberalism: authoritative, economic, and religious. The authority flavor favors the classic power structure of aristocracy, Kings, and order. Our executive branch “deep state” agencies exemplify this classical type of conservatism and certainly King George III did way back when. The economic flavors include, but aren’t limited to forms of fiscal conservatism and a state controlled mercantile economy. Meanwhile, the religious flavors can be found on the left and right and include movements like Prohibition and Temperance, strict Catholic views on abortion or charity, witch trials, prayer in school, ideas like “America is a Christian nation“, and more. In words, if it stands against liberal ideals of any kind in any era, its a type of conservatism, and if it stands against the classical forms of liberalism, its a type of classical conservatism.
  3. Social liberalism, an ideology which grows out of classical liberalism and classical conservatism with a focus on social equality. It supports progressive pro-government social justice like Teddy, Bryan, or FDR. Social liberalism is a bit like the old church states and kings. In other words, although it is the most progressive of all the ideologies, being the most focused on equality and social justice and compassion, it needs a really big stick to get social conservatives, classical liberals, and classical conservatives to play ball. Thus, it can be oddly authoritative despite being compassionately left-leaning, as can be seen in the war time tax rates under FDR for example.
  4. Social conservatism or paleoconservatism, an ideology focused on individual liberty and a romantic vision of “what America used to be”. It grows out of classical liberalism and classical conservatism and stands against big government and progressive social movements and modernization, like Andrew Jackson or George C. Wallace (they want to “conserve” socially). Social conservatism is essentially classical liberalism in the modern age with a dash of strict classical conservatism on issues of immigration, protectionism, and religion. Small government is a classical liberal position, but when used in 2016 to strip protections from a minority group, it becomes a socially conservative position.

TIP: Yes, that “Leave it to Beaver” “ol’ Eisenhower” Americanism is a type of Conservatism, and we can see it in modern Presidents like Bush 41 and Nixon, and many who identify as Conservative identify as this, but this isn’t what the outward message of the Republican Party of 2016 is. A majority faction of the current Republican party (what people call “the new guard” or “new right”) has a mostly socially conservative message, both on social issues and religious issues, thus they have far more in common with ol’ Dixie or McCarthy than with a “real conservative” like Winston Churchill. John McCain is an Eisenhower, sure, and Romney and Bush are those business-minded Gilded Age Republicans or even 1920’s Republicans… but Palin and Trump… their message is nativist populist, and that is no more classically conservative than Bernie Sanders is classically liberal. Sure the new right has flairs of Taft and Hoover, but it is really very Confederate in nature (historically speaking) and the dominance of that factions has really changed the party. How can a rebellious agrarian sentiment that can be traced back to the Confederates be the same as the sentiment of a five-star general and Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces whom both parties wanted and who proposed Civil Rights Act of 1957 and of 1960? It isn’t, but, remember the rebellious non-elite agrarians are as much a part of William Jennings Bryan’s and Wilson’s base as they were Andrew Jackson’s, as they were Jefferson’s, as they were a portion of patriots who helped defeat George III. The Civil War wasn’t fought to beat the South, it was fought to preserve the Union and ensure rights for each type of minority in America. This is to say, we can respect each faction without pretending that Eisenhower would have tolerated the antics of New Guard Republicans like Palin or that old Guard Republicans like McCain and Bush aren’t falling out of favor with the base. Again, our goal here is to show factions, so we can understand how factions affect what we call “changing parties” and “party systems”.

NOTE: Many “elites” are classical liberals and/or conservatives, yet most issues discussed in politics between voters are social issues (this is true in any era). 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.

NOTE: One may ask, “just what is the difference between a Hamiltonian, a bourbon liberal, a neoliberal, a neoconservative, and a libertarian?” And, without going into a meta-essay I can answer, “not much, as they all put business first, but but generally each term denotes which party ideology they generally support and whether they are a type of neoclassical or a type of Keynesian, globalist or protectionist on trade, and what industries they favor, Agriculture and oil or finance and factory”. Do we say the Clintons or Bushs grew out of the bourbon liberals, or do we say Wilson and Coolidge did? I could make a case for each. The Gilded Age was all business, so most factions have a business ideology that can be traced back to those times and earlier. The more social ideologies are often more vocal and divisive, and their lineage is much easier to spot than their business-minded counterparts.

TIP: With the above terms in mind, the central idea here is that the social conservative Democrats of the American South switched to supporting the Republican Party as party platforms changed in response to the rise of Social Liberal Progressivism between the Third and Fifth Party systems. This resulted in modern Democrats being a coalition of Progressive Social Liberals, Neoliberals, the Religious Left, and Conservative Classical liberals in terms of authority and state-controlled economics, and modern Republicans being a coalition of Social Conservatives, Neocons, the Religious Right, and Radical Classical Liberals in terms of authority and free-market economics. See “Understanding the American left and right” for more details on the factions in the two major parties, also note that most Presidents have “mixed” ideologies in practice. See also a discussion on the types of liberalism and conservatism, or see a discussion on classical and social liberalism.

The Fifth Party System and the the New Deal and Conservative Coalitions

Now that we have clearly illustrated the above factions and ideologies, we can move on to the last round of changes which happened from roughly the 1930’s, to WWII, to the 1960’s, to the 1990’s as the FDR supporting Progressive Social Liberal New Deal Coalition faced off against the Socially Conservative anti-New Deal Conservative Coalition (with each coalition consisting of members of both major parties).

From the 1930’s to the 1990’s, from Hoover to Goldwater, to Nixon, to Reagan, to Bush, the “Conservative Coalition” drew southern “solid south” “Dixiecrat” conservative Democrats out of the Democratic Party via their “southern strategy.” By the 1990’s, this resulted in the modern American “social conservative” and “sometimes classical liberal” Republican party. Likewise, the New Deal coalition, which opposed the conservative coalition, drew progressives into the Democratic Party and out of the Republican party under FDR’s New Deal, LBJ’s Great Society program, and Clinton’s New Democrats. This resulted in the modern American “social” liberal, and thus necessarily traditionally “classically conservative in terms of authority” party during the same time.

Although the tension between these two factions starts in the 1930’s with the New Deal, it comes to a boiling point over issues like States’ Rights, the Second Red Scare, and Brown v. the Board of Education following WWII in the late 40’s and 50’s.

WWII fundamentally changed America in terms of its status in international politics (including its relationship with the world’s old superpower Britain), in terms of modernizing the country, and in terms of its political parties. With the focus off of the war, and with an expanding population of baby boomers, the national conversation turned toward social issues related to the fascist and communist ideologies that pervaded the war, to old issues of race, and new issues of social welfare.

The new focus on social issues created a split in the party that can be seen in 1948’s Truman vs. Dewey vs. Dixiecrat Strom Thurmond vs. Progressive Henry A. Wallace (where everyone except the Anti-Communist New Yorker Dewey was once a type of Democrat) and 1960’s Kennedy vs. Nixon vs. Byrd and Thurmond (where the southern conservative states’ rights party of Thurmond once again makes its differences with the Democratic party shown).

“We have undertaken a new order of things; yet we progress to it under the framework and in the spirit and intent of the American Constitution”. – FDR

The Sixth Party System and Seventh Party System

The changes leading up to Kennedy’s Presidency resulted in the Sixth Party System beginning in the 1960’s, when LBJ and MLK worked to bring the Kennedy inspired Civil Rights ’64 and Voting Rights ’65 to life. From this period forward, progressive Republicans like Teddy and Henry Wallace are very rare, and a few select Democrats like Strom Thurmond begin to officially join the Republican party.

After LBJ’s Presidency, as Nixon and Reagan era “southern strategy” politics pushed back against changes of the 1960’s, and progressive social liberals pushed for even more change, it arguably results in the Seventh Party System by the Presidencies of the neoliberal / social liberal Bill Clinton and the neocon / social conservative George W. Bush (both of whom are illustrative of the two modern parties, even though they both arguably offered a mix of liberal and conservative values found in earlier factions within past Party Systems).

In this era, most of the old solid south states that had supported the Democratic party, in terms of Congress and voter base, support the Republican party as is evidenced by the 1992 – 2000 elections (where in each election a progressive southern Democrat faced off against a conservative southern Republican).

This doesn’t mean all Republicans identify with solid south politics any more than all Democrats in LBJ’s time did, it only means their faction became part of the Republican party just as they had once been part of the Democrats in response to the changing platforms of the parties.

“General Secretary Gorbachev, if you seek peace, if you seek prosperity for the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, if you seek liberalization: Come here to this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!“. – Ronald Reagan

NOTE: Here we have to be careful to note that Clinton, while southern, is from the line of Wilson, Gore, and LBJ, an ally of Northern Democrats like Kennedy and Obama. He is not from the Deep South, but of course that lineage did ally with the Solid South prior to the split. Likewise, we have to note that the Bush family is from Texas. We haven’t touched on it much, but Texas is not South Carolina. If one were to redraw the states into a few big groups, i’m not sure Texas would really want to be grouped in with the ol’ Dixie Deep South. See: In Texas, history of slavery unique — but not ‘brief’. Texas has large desegregated populated cities and mixed-political views, yes they lean right of course, but a Bush is not a Wallace, a Jackson, an Andrew Johnson, or a Trump.

Modern Party Politics

Finally, we look to what could be the start of a new Party System. The Trump vs. Clinton race largely mirrored the realigning elections of Jackson vs. Adams in 1824 and 1828. In this analogy, Trump is like the nativist populist anti-establishment Jackson who was favored by the South, while Hillary and Jeb Bush to some extent were like the northern establishment liberal John Quincy Adams who was favored by the North. Adams was pro-trade, author of the Monroe Doctrine, and his father was “a Washington insider,” if that helps make the connection clear.

It’s too early to speculate on what the 2016 election means, especially as the November 8th election was an advisory election and electors, who haven’t voted yet, elect the President and VP in our Republic. Certainly, we could comment on strong support for Trump in the north and his celebrity status to draw parallels to Reagan, consider how Trump won with a “law and order” like message typical of the party of the Nixon era, or consider the ways in which Trump harkens back to conservatives like Hoover. It could also be helpful to examine the differences between progressives like Bryan and Sanders and establishment Washington liberals like the Clintons and the Bushs to see changes and lack of changes within the parties.

We might also think whether this was a populist (progressive populist like Bernie Sanders or nativist populist like Trump) election pushing back against the alienation inherent in globalization and if this will have an affect on the future platforms of the major parties.

“Finally, let us understand that when we stand together, we will always win.” – Bernie Sanders

“”In the end, you’re measured not by how much you undertake but by what you finally accomplish.” Donald Trump

TIP: Donald Trump is one of the most abnormal [presumed] Presidents in the history of the Country, and arguably the least traditional (thus he, like a modern party, is complex). His outward message is slightly neocon and certainly he is from New York, but most of his “traditional” Republican qualities are overshadowed by a strong nativist populist socially conservative message (a Tea Party message). This is why we talk about him as being like a Jackson or Wallace, and not like a Bush, Romney, or McCain. It isn’t an insult, it is simply a truism, he appointed Bannon, not Bush, right? He has qualities of Hoover and Reagan, for sure, but the way he plays to the base is not reflective of the Gilded Age or an Eisenhower Republican, it is reflective of the sentiment of the populist south.

TIP: The Trump vs. Clinton election also mirrors the 1876 election. The fact that it mirrors the two “corrupt bargain” elections shouldn’t be understated given the voting system in our Republic. However, Trump is oddly complex and many more parallels can be drawn than noted depending on what aspect of his character we are talking about.

Summarizing the Party Systems as a Two-Party System

Current events and complexities (like the elements of each past Party System which can still be found in each modern party) aside, there has almost always been a two-party system in the United States. The mentality of each party can be expressed as “northern interests” and “southern interests,” although I strongly prefer “city interests” and “rural interests” (as both have roughly the same meaning in this context). Sometimes we see both interests in the same party, as with Humphrey and LBJ, and sometimes it is less clear cut, but we can always spot it in any era.

Thus, we can use a simple “two party” answer as to which factions held which interests over time, which I hope will be seen as helpful, and not divisive. Remember the U.S. is a diverse Union of 50 sovereign states and commonwealths where the need to get a majority divides us into “red states and blue states” as a matter of custom, not as enemies, but as a United Republic with a democratic spirit.

  • Northern (and later coastal) “City” Interests: Federalists, Whigs, Third Party Republicans, Fourth Party Progressive era Republicans (like Teddy), Fifth Party Democrats (starting in the 1930’s under FDR, then culminating with LBJ and then Clinton), Modern Democrats.
  • Southern (and later middle) “Rural” Interests: Anti-Federalists, Democratic-Republicans, Third Party Democrats, Fourth Party Progressive Era Democrats (Like Wilson), Fifth Party Republicans (starting in the 1920’s under Harding, Coolidge, and Hoover, then culminating with Nixon and then Bush), Modern Republicans.

The south is still the south, the north is still the north, a city is still is a city, and rural voters are still rural. That isn’t what changed. In any era, geopolitical voters still have their unique vices, like those evidenced by shameful Jim Crow Southern politics or the under-represented Southern Black Belt, or those evidenced by Northern Ghettos filled with refugees from the great migration and working class immigrants. They also have their unique virtues, be they fighting for individual rights, fairness for the farmer, and protecting jobs at home, or for fighting for collective social justice, workers rights, minority rights, and the global trade and central banking that ensures America’s status as a Hegemonic superpower. Sure, at times the divide in America is a single voter issue or economic class struggle, but the basic city/north vs. rural/south split is nearly constant. Thus, it is a good metric for tracing a line through 240 years of factions.

Below we tell the story of the evolution of the American political parties to better describe how figures like Strom Thurmond impact history, and how key issues like popular sovereignty, segregation, free-silver, and civil rights impact the country. We’ll also see how the party of Jefferson became the party of Confederates and only later to became the party of modern social liberalism. First, we’ll summarize how the platforms, members, and names of parties changed and factionalized. Then we’ll explore the party systems and their prominent figures in-depth to illustrate key “political realignments” and realigning elections in United States history.[14]

NOTE: While party officials and members, party ideologies, and party platforms switch between the 1930’s and 1990’s, it doesn’t all happen at the same time, and some elements are retained by the parties after the changes, and these nuances seem to cause confusion. The Democratic party’s voter base and stances on key issues started switching under figures like Bryan in the early 1900’s long before any officials left. Meanwhile, key figures like Strom Thurmond aside, officials were the last people to change in many cases. Many of them remained until they retired like Byrd, while the next generation ran under a different party. In this same vein, one should not mistake somewhat progressive southern figures like Wilson, the Gores, or LBJ to be “the same” as more conservative figures like Thurmond, Byrd, or Wallace. Not everything changes between the 60’s and 90’s, but what does is enough to flip the red and blue states and reshape American politics. See the 88th United States Congress – 104th United States Congress and compare that to historic elections in that same time for some examples of the slow change from the 60’s to 90’s. Or, see the 1968 Presidential Election for a symbolic change where the “yellow” states’ rights states in the south were soon to be red, and the blue northern states were soon to stay blue.

The History of the Republican Party (1854-2016). This video does a fair and balanced job of describing the shifting platforms. It pairs well with our points while telling different bits of the story. Keep in mind all videos on this page are curated to help tell the overarching story of the changes. They aren’t made by us, and as such, they don’t necessarily express our views.

TIP: See the voting records of each Presidential election from 1789 to 2012, see the voting record of the “solid south.” see the home states of Presidents, see how expansion and slavery divided the country leading up to the 1860’s? See how “red” and “blue” switch over time? These “switches,” which can be verified against the major American political party platforms over time, is what this page will discuss.

TIP: One way to summarize all of this is by saying the changes happened under, or as a result of, key figures including Jefferson and Hamilton, Adams and Jackson, Lincoln, Grant, Cleveland, Bryan, the Roosevelts, Wilson, Hoover, LBJ, and Clinton. See a comparison of the political ideology of each President from Washington to Obama.

TIP: Try not to get sidetracked by the modern day usage of terms like liberal and conservative, this page seeks to use the proper meaning of the terms in each era (with consideration to differentiate between historic meanings, past American meanings, modern American meanings, and types).

An Overview of Platform Switching Between Republicans and Democrats

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 (i.e. if you stop reading now, you can walk away knowing you have covered the basics).

With the above said, there isn’t 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.

The Ideology of Old Democrats and Modern Republicans

Andrew Jackson (the first Democratic Party President – 1829) was a southern states’ rights populist and “Jacksonian” Democrat, which (in terms of individual rights, small government, and economic ideology) is similar to today’s socially conservative libertarian.

Early factions like Jeffersonians and the Young America movement were rather progressive. The Copperheads and War Democrats in the North were non-Confederate conservative factions during the Civil War. A Bourbon Democrat is essentially a Libertarian. Thus, we can say the pro-states’ rights Democrats of Lincoln’s time held both the beliefs of their predecessors the Anti-Federalists and Democratic-Republicans, and those of today’s modern Libertarians and Republicans.

Compared to their opposition the above major parties are roughly pro-south, pro farmer, pro-state-power, anti-central-bank, anti-debt, and anti-taxes. They tend to favor individual rights over collective rights, typically choosing deregulation over government enforced social justice. Thus, they are liberal regarding authority but conservative in terms of social policy. They are, as a party, classical liberals and social conservatives. Today they might be called neocons, libertarians, and paleocons.

TIP: Want to understand modern Republicanism? See this documentary on the Tea Party.

How the Democrats Became Socially Liberal

The Third Party Democrats began to change from social conservative to social progressive in the 1890’s at the end of the Gilded Age under the progressive populist Democrat William Jennings Bryan. Under Bryan, the Democratic Party became increasingly socially progressive and necessarily authoritative. From Bryan to Wilson, to LBJ, to Clinton the Democratic Party increasingly favored progressive social liberalism regarding “government enforced social justice and economic intervention” over laissez-faire governance, this attracted progressive Republicans and drove social conservatives from the party over time.

TIP: See History of the United States Democratic Party.

The Ideology of Old Republicans and Modern Democrats

Lincoln (the first Republican President – 1861) was an anti-slavery Republican in his day. In terms of pushing for social justice, using federal power, and taxation his position was similar to today’s progressive social liberal.

The Federalists and Whigs who became the Republicans were often classically conservative in terms of trade, taxes, and general authority. However, factions like Conscience WhigsHalf-Breeds, and Radical Republicans worked along with the fact that Republicans were not the Confederate pro-slavery South and drew a lot of progressives in America’s first 100-or-so years especially in the mid-1800’s at the height of tension over slavery.

With that noted, we can say the anti-slavery Republicans of Lincoln’s time roughly held the beliefs of their predecessors the Federalists and Whigs, but (again confusingly) also of today’s modern Progressives and Democrats.

Compared to their opposition the above major parties are roughly pro-north, pro-banking, pro-federal power, pro-northern factory, and pro-taxes. They favor collective rights over individual rights, typically using Federal power to ensure the welfare of the collective. Thus, they are classically conservative in terms of favoring authority, but liberal in terms of social policy. So they are, as a party, classical conservatives and social liberals (today neoliberal “Reagan Democrats” and progressives).

TIP: See this documentary from 1992 to understand New Democrats.

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 (with Teddy being one of the forces, along with Bryan, Taft, and Wilson, that gave the “Progressive Era” its historical name). Following the break, the Republicans increasingly embraced social conservatism and opposed social progressivism (they especially opposed Communism). 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 Southernization of the Republican party and drove some progressive Republicans from the party over time.

TIP: See History of the United States Republican Party.

The Conservative Coalition Vs. The New Deal Coalition

Now that we know the basics, the changes in both parties in the 1900’s are perhaps best understood by examining the Conservative Coalition and the New Deal Coalition.

The Conservative Coalition was a coalition between the anti-Communist Republicans like Nixon and Reagan (both Californians) and conservative Southern Democrats. It arose to oppose FDR’s New Deal progressivism, and it blocked a lot of the progressive legislation the New Deal Coalition tried to pass from the 1930’s to the 1960’s. The socially conservative solid south was still its own entity. It sometimes voted with other Democrats, and sometimes broke off into its own factions. See the 1960 election Kennedy v. Nixon v. Harry F. Byrd. The Coalition tellingly dwindled post 64′ Civil Rights and ended in the Clinton era as conservative southerners became Republicans and formed the modern construct of “the Red States” and “the Blue States.”

Meanwhile, the New Deal coalition (which drew progressives into the Democratic Party, and away from the new American conservative party, making the Democrats the modern American liberal party) explains the progressive coalition of Democrats and Republicans the Conservative coalition opposed. Today the two parties largely resemble these coalitions.

The Rise of Modern Social Liberalism and Social Conservatism

Later we get “a third way” with Bill Clinton’s New Democrats. This “third way” is an extension of the “progressive bourbon liberal” (neoliberal) wing, but mashed-up with the “progressive social liberal” (progressive) wing, and Reagan-era conservatism. These three “social liberal” ideologies which Clinton embodied can collectively be referred to as an American liberalism. These factions, which we can today denote as progressive, neoliberal, and social liberal, can be used to differentiate types of liberals on the political left from the New Deal Coalition and the modern Democratic party of today.

TIP: As noted above in the introduction, there is no one way to understand America’s political ideologies, but each angle we look at things from helps us to better understand bits of the historic puzzle.

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 (libertarian, neocon, and social conservative) 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.

Other Factors of Note Regarding Switching Platforms – Progressivism, The Red Scare, Immigration, Religion, and Civil Rights in 54′

Other key factors involve the Red Scare (the first and second), the effect of immigration, unions, and “the Catholic vote” (which culminates with Kennedy’s election in 1960) on the parties.

The Republican party changed after losing to Wilson and moved away from progressivism and toward classical liberal values under Harding, Coolidge, and Hoover. In this time they also became increasingly “anti-Communist” following WWI (the first red scare). While both parties were anti-Communist and pro-Capitalist, Wilson’s brand of progressive southern bourbon liberalism and his New Freedom plan and then FDR’s brand of progressive liberalism and his New Deal were opposed by Republicans like Hoover due to their use of the state to ensure social justice. Then after WWII, the Second Red Scare reignited the conversation, further dividing factions and parties.

Another important thing to note is that the Democratic party has historically been pro-immigrant (one of the few platforms that didn’t change). Over time this attracted new immigrant groups like Northern Catholics (see the Know Nothing party) and earned them the support of Unions (who were increasingly opposed by Republicans). Big City Machines like Tammany Hall also play a role in this aspect of the story as well. The immigrant vote is one of the key factors in changing the Democratic party over time in terms of progressivism, unions, religion, and geolocation (as many immigrants immigrated to northern cities), and it is well suited to be its own subject.[15]

Another important thing to note related to liberalism and immigration is religion. Religion has always played a role in American politics, but the conversation is complex. Some religions have favored social liberalism, some the individualism, and traditionalism of conservatism. The Jewish, Catholic, Mormon, and Evangelical voters all have an important story to tell in terms of changes in the parties, as do key issues like Temperance and Prohibition.(see Religion and politics in the United States).

Lastly, although race had long been an issue, Civil Rights had been somewhat stagnant as a voter issue since 1896’s Plessy v. Ferguson, with other progressive policies and the world wars taking precedence politically. However, after Brown v. Board of Education Civil Rights began to split the Democratic Party between progressives (who were typically pro-Civil-Rights) and southern conservatives who opposed desegregation (see African-American Civil Rights Movement 1954–68). TIP: Listen to the Lee Atwater interview below, he explains this from the viewpoint of a GOP strategist.

Given all the above, we can say, over time, the progressive populist sentiment of the party of Jefferson pulled in progressives and pushed out social conservatives, which resulted in new policies, members, and geographic changes for both parties, which in turn attracted other factions to each party. Today, the effect is that the parties have nearly completely switched platforms aside from a few issues like immigration.

Despite these general truisms, the parties themselves have typically been factionalized over complex factors relating to left-right ideology, single issues, and the general meaning of liberty.

Each party has historically contained a Northern (and later coastal) and Southern (and later middle) faction (what we today call “red states” and “blue states”), and each party has split into conservative, moderate, liberal, and progressive (often called radical) factions.

It is these factions, and the ongoing disagreement over how government should look, that explain the shifting platforms from the Civil War to the Gilded Age, to the Progressive Era, to the World Wars, to Civil Rights, to the Reagan and Clinton eras, and then to today.

The Evolution of America’s Major Political Parties. Another video looking at the History of the Major American political parties like we do on this page.

TIP: This page is general. Below we offer vital details on the above, curated videos, and significant proof. If you want to stop reading here, you now have the bare minimum needed to understand the history of the American political parties. Please comment below with any questions or insight!

An Overview of the Platform Switching By Party System and President – From the Founders to Eisenhower

The First and Second Party Systems (1792-1854) included some important changes and debates. Examples included the argument over the Federalist favored Constitution, and the Anti-Federalist favored Articles of Confederation and Bill of Rights and debates over slavery, modernization, and banking. 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 (states’ rights regarding slavery). 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.

Political fragmentation led up to Civil War. The main “switching” of platforms happened after this divisive war. It occurred in phases over the next 130 years, between the start of Civil War Reconstruction (1865) in the Third Party System, and into the Clinton era (mid-1990’s) in the Sixth Party System. Thus, platform switching took place from Grant to Wilson, to FDR, to LBJ, to Reagan, to Clinton. Often one issue at a time was critical. These included race, states’ rights, the role of government, subsidization, taxationreligion, prohibition, the middle class, banking, immigration, cronyism, progressivism, workers rights, civil rights, voting rights, and social welfare.

When the major parties didn’t embrace a popular voter issue or a specific stance on an issue, a “single issue” third party often did. These parties included the pre-Civil War Free Soilers and Know Nothings, and the post-Civil War People’s Party and Prohibition Party.

During Civil War Reconstruction the parties split into many conservative, moderate, and radical factions over disagreements as to how to treat the South and the Freedmen after the war. This Third Party split resulted in legislation like the Civil Rights Act of 1875, and the politics of the Gilded Age when Northern Republicans, and their private market counterparts, dominated politics and industry until the moderate conservative Democrat Grover Cleveland took office for the first time in 1884. During this period America became an industrial superpower under the “Robber Barons” (or, more respectfully, the “captains of industry”). This transformation resulted in two further divisions between factions, specifically a split over the government’s role in the private market (AKA civil service vs. cronyism) and a split over silver vs. gold vs. green-backed money.

The perceived and real corruption of the Gilded Age led to the formation of progressive third parties. One of these was the Progressive People’s Party, a populist party of southern farmers, western Republicans, and northern factory workers who favored silver-backed money for its perceived inflationary properties. They later joined the Democrats under Bryan, and this was one of the key events that pushed the Democratic Party toward progressivism from the 1890’s on.

The era ends with the panic of 1893 under the Democrats and President Cleveland (who favored gold-backed money). Cleveland had to borrow money from J.P. Morgan and the international banks, which angered the southern farmers in the Democratic party and pushed the Wall Street crowd and industrialists back toward the Republican Party. The industrialists had tended to support the Union during the war but supported the moderate pro-gold north-easterner, Cleveland.

The post-Reconstruction Gilded Age and Third Party System resulted in a progressive populist era aptly known as the Fourth Party “progressive” era 1890’s – 1932 (an era in which all parties were progressive regarding social and economic justice).

During this Fourth Party WWI-era, America became a superpower via progressive militarism. Women got the right to vote carried by a wave of progressive feminism. The unions and trust-busters were coming in swinging for progressive worker rights. The “great migration” began due to the north favoring social progressivism over social conservatism. America saw another type of progressivism with the economic policies surrounding the Federal Reserve which was established on the back of the Panic of 1907 in which J.P. Morgan personally bailed out America. Even Prohibition was a progressive movement in a sense. Good or bad, this was an era in which new approaches tried to combat existing problems, and it all started with the union of Bryan and the People’s Party.

As the Fourth Party formed in the 1890’s, the Democratic party began embracing the Free Silver movement under William Jennings Bryan. As a result of this stance, and with the support of the former People’s Party behind him, the populist Bryan began “swallowing up” the Democratic party and pulling them to the “left” on many issues.

Meanwhile, the Republican Party also moved “left” on many issues, making both major parties resemble factions of today’s Democrats for a brief moment (AKA progressive populists and pro-banker liberals). Eventually, Republicans would start moving “right” again over disagreements between progressive, moderate, and conservative party members.

The splitting of the Republican party had begun during Reconstruction, but finally culminated in the progressive era with Republican Theodore “Teddy” Roosevelt forming his 1912 Progressive “Bull Moose” Party. Roosevelt’s move fundamentally changed the Republican Party and resulted in a win for the progressive Democrat Woodrow Wilson and a loss for the progressive Republican Taft.

As noted above, from the end of the Gilded Age on the Democratic Party became increasingly progressive. First, it was Bryan and Free Silver, then Wilson’s economic, social, and militaristic progressivism in the 1910’s, then Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR) and the New Deal coalition in the 1930’s.

Despite the increasing populist progressivism of the Democratic party, the socially conservative Solid South Democrats didn’t begin to leave the Democratic Party until LBJ’s Civil Rights Act of 1964. Instead, the parties largely changed under their member’s feet while Republicans slowly moved right and issues like Prohibition, the Great Depression, and WII took center stage.

After Wilson, but before FDR, who was the President during most of WWII, deep splits over progressive religious movements like temperance and prohibition had weakened the Democratic party. This is true even though both Democrats and Republicans supported the Eighteenth Amendment. The split over progressivism cost Democrats three elections in a row: Harding, Coolidge, and Hoover, with each Republican President moving further “right,” especially over issues like Communism. The first Red Scare became an issue starting near the end of Wilson’s Presidency, and then we had three Republicans in a row reacting to it while Democrats lost power.

Hoover sought to capitalize on the split in the Democratic Party in 1928 by pursuing a “lily-white Southern strategy” to resuscitate the Republican Party in the South. He did this “[by] purging black Republicans from leadership positions in the Southern wing of the G.O.P.” This move appealed to lily-white Republican factions but angered the “black-and-tan” factions. Unsurprisingly, this caused white Southerners to gravitate toward the Republican party while black and progressive Americans gravitated toward the Democratic party.[16]

Hoover’s race-related tactics aside, it is largely the Wall Street Crash of 1929 and Hoover’s classical liberal laissez-faire response that opened the door for FDR and his New Deal, which Hoover opposed. The Great Depression had gotten so bad by the 1932 election that many Republicans became Democrats as a response. Just compare 1928 to 1932, this was one of those key realigning elections and the Great Depression a key aligning event.

FDR, whose Presidency marks the start of the Fifth Party system, may have been a progressive Democratic President in practice, but he ran as a fiscal conservative, called Hoover a socialist, couldn’t get the vote in the “solid North,” and relied heavily on progressive Republican support. This is to say, that while the Civil Rights legislation in the 30’s and 40’s was passed under a progressive Democratic President, both parties still contained both progressive and conservative factions. This is also true after FDR under Truman in 1948 when the States’ Rights Democrats run under Thurmond. Of note is Truman’s “Fair Deal,” which was unable to pass due to lack of support from conservatives and Southern Democrats. Also of note are the Jim Crow laws of this era, and the lack of action against them, which is historically attributed to solidly Democratic South, not to moderate-progressive Democrats like FDR or Truman. Civil Rights aside, as with Hoover, other issues were seen by many as more pressing in this time, specifically the New Deal and World War II.

After WII and Truman we get the Republican-led Civil Rights legislation under moderate Republican Dwight D. Eisenhower who has a sweeping win in 1952. Eisenhower was a friend to the New Deal and tried to pull his party back to the center, but was largely unsuccessful. His effort failed partially due to conservative populist forces in the party like Joseph McCarthy, who had switched from Democrat to Republican in 1944.

An Overview of Platform Switching in the Modern Era – From LBJ to Today

The growing tension between progressive southern Democrats (who empathized with northern Democrats and progressive Republicans) and social conservative southern Democrats (who favored segregation and disliked social liberalism) came to a boil with 1954’s Brown v. Board of Education. This Supreme Court ruling led to divisive issues like Desegregation busing causing further splits in the Democratic Party, which Republicans capitalized on as they did under Hoover.

Tellingly, progressive Southerners like Albert Gore, Sr. (Al Gore’s dad), Estes KefauverRalph Yarborough, and Lyndon B. Johnson (LBJ) refused to sign 1956’s Southern Manifesto (a pro-segregation document which most conservative southern Democrats signed, including its author Strom Thurmond).

By the 60’s, the tension was mounting around LBJ’s Great Society programs; specifically 64’s Civil Rights. Some conservative “Dixiecrats” like Strom Thurmond began to leave the Democratic Party for the Republican Party and the George Wallace-led American Independent Party. (NOTE: “Dixiecrats” is a term used to describe southern Democrats, specifically those who would have ideologically been part of the States’ Rights Democratic Party of 48′).

Other southern politicians and voters followed Strom Thurmond over time. Their exit left the now social-liberal (rather than classic liberal) Democrats to support the increasingly socially conservative Republicans under Goldwater-Reagan-Nixon. The “southern strategy” these leaders developed was continued into the 80’s under Lee Atwater, and even extended into the 2000’s).[17]

The last major shift happened slowly from the 60’s to the 90’s and is denoted by groups like “The Reagan Coalition” and Clinton’s “New Democrats.” These groups represent an increasingly modern political realignment, and a tug-of-war involving appealing to different types of blue-collar and conservative populist sentiments. Other key groups of the era include Nixon’s “Silent Majority” and “Reagan Democrats.”

In the transition period of the mid-to-late 60’s, progressive Democrats and Republicans usually carried the less progressive Dixiecrats and Republicans on social issues like Voting Rights 65′ and Civil Rights 68′, but over time, as the Republicans moved further to the political right, this became increasingly less true.

Over the 70’s, 80’s, and 90’s, the southern strategy pulled in white southerners and conservatives to the Republican party, and the Republican party also embraced the religious right.

Meanwhile, the Democratic party pulled in movements growing out of Civil Rights. Issues such as Workers’ RightsLGBT rights, and Roe v. Wade were increasingly allied with Northern big businesses. As they gained popularity in the North and on both the east and west coasts, they embraced the northern economic policy which had traditionally been with the Republican party outside of Cleveland, Wilson, and FDR.

Changes that started with Reconstruction and developed during the period from LBJ to Clinton led the 90’s Democrats toward change. They became the Northern and Coastal party of progressive movements, big business (especially finance and tech), big subsidies, and big taxes (to support it all). Meanwhile, the Republicans, favored in the South and Middle of the country, became the party of individual rights, specific businesses (small business rhetorically, but also big business in terms of tax breaks and deregulation), and religious interests. This is essentially the complete opposite of how things were at the start of the Third Party System.

Although Strom Thurmond left, and the solid south began voting “red” in 68,’ many southern Democrats including the Gores stayed with the Democrats past 1964 – 1968, especially in the Senate (see 88th United States Congress – 104th United States Congress). Likewise, not every progressive Republican became a Democrat. More than politicians changing parties, or the ideology of those politicians changing, the parties and their voters simply changed under them.

Some Dixiecrats, like Robert Byrd, never left the Democrats, and some Republicans retained the spirit of figures like Hamilton and Eisenhower especially under Reagan and H. W. Bush. Despite this, by the time the 105th United States Congress impeached President Clinton, and the GOP turned to W. Bush, the changes are apparent. By the mid-90’s the parties finally resembled the parties of today in terms of voter base and positions in the House and Senate.[18]

In the post-90’s era, we saw the second wave of “New Democrats.” These Democrats, like the socially progressive, but pro-trade and business, Barack Obama, stand next to many modern southern Democrats (either reformed or not, depending on who you believe). Groups like the “New Democrat Coalition” (a coalition in the House which contains southern Democrats, pro-trade Democrats, and some progressives) provide an example of this movement.

Did all the “Dixiecrats” “change parties”? No. Did some conservative southern Democrats swap Jim Crow for social liberalism? Maybe, to some extent (Byrd renounced his past, Strom never did). Despite theories that touch on those last points having some weight to them, the voter base and platforms did change over time. Notably, this page is a statement on changing platforms and members of parties, and not on the consequences of social policy, the ideology of the Dixiecrats still in the party, or whether a socially conservative policy from the south is more detrimental to Civil Rights than a given economic policy in the north.

In retrospect, figures like MLK and Shirley Chisholm, along with Presidents like John F. Kennedy and Bill Clinton, have all played a part in changing the Democratic Party.

Meanwhile, the nativist populist sentiment of Trump, and recent legislation like the Republican favored voter ID laws, recall the attitude of the socially conservative Democrat George Wallace (“the American populist“), more than the moderate Republican Eisenhower.

Ultimately, the parties did swap many platforms (issues) between the 1850’s – 1990’s as a matter of record, but not all platforms, members, or ideologies switched. Consequently, we have to explain what it means that Teddy was a Republican and FDR a Democrat, or that Lincoln was a Republican and Obama a Democrat. We also need to consider the way third parties led to changes in the major parties including the 1890’s People’s Party (the Free Silver progressive party who joined the Democrats under Bryan) and the 1912 Progressive Party (where Teddy Roosevelt broke away from the Republican party to run on a more progressive agenda).

The 1960’s – 1980’s are a little less clear-cut than other eras, but since 1992 the North has mostly voted Blue and the South Red. Compare that to 1860196019761984, and 2016, and you can decide what this means for yourself. The voting record is clear, and so are the platforms; much of the rest is a matter of perspective.

As President Obama once said (paraphrasing), “America looks at a single issue and sees it 320 million different ways.” We need to agree on the facts, but we don’t need to agree on what they mean.

For everything we didn’t touch on in our summary, from our perspective, we have Lee Atwater’s infamous 1981 interview which analyzes the same story, but from the perspective of one of the most important Republican strategists of all time:

Now that we have the post-1960’s segregation issue clear let’s get back to the rest of American history starting with Hamilton’s Federalists so we can understand the platform shifts from a historical perspective. If we don’t have a clear picture of the split between Federalists and Anti-Federalists, we won’t be able to see how issues like states’ rights evolved throughout American history and what that means in context.

Remember, America is not a single group and the major parties aren’t single issue parties. We will be dealing with factions, changing times, and changing viewpoints. Below we detail each party system to explain the changes, which go far beyond social issues or what the Dixiecrats do in 64′.

TIP: For more reading see our series on American Politics, our breakdown of major American political party platforms over time, or our pages on the basic types of political parties (and how the modern American parties compare)how to understand the political left and rightliberalism and the founders fathers, or why the founders chose a Republic.

“Republican candidates often have prospered by ignoring black voters and even by exploiting racial tensions,” and, “by the ’70s and into the ’80s and ’90s, the Democratic Party solidified its gains in the African-American community, and we Republicans did not effectively reach out. Some Republicans gave up on winning the African-American vote, looking the other way or trying to benefit politically from racial polarization. I am here today as the Republican chairman to tell you we were wrong.” – RNC Chief Ken Mehlman 2005.

How the Republican Party went from Lincoln to Trump. This VOX video is good, but not perfect; the more modern part is a little heavy handed toward the left. Still, it gives another view to compare.

NOTE: For those who want further proofs and details, read on.

A Summary of the Party Switching by Looking at the Presidents: From the Founding Fathers, to Civil War, to Civil Rights, to Today

In the introduction we provided a chronological summary of the parties by looking at the Party Systems, this section expands upon the story by focusing on the Presidents.

As noted in the introduction, to prove the parties switched platforms clearly, we need to consider at least four political types (if not more), not just liberal and conservative. We also need to think about the single issue “third parties” like the Free Soil Party, the People’s Party, and the American Independent Party, and the difference between collectivism and individualism. This is necessary as collective rights vs. individual rights is the issue at the heart of the debate.

Although the political ideologies are best applied to each issue, some issues don’t arise until the late 19th or even 20th century. The parties have been factionalized throughout history. We can describe the parties, using modern language, as Social Liberal (like Clinton or Lincoln), Conservative (like Eisenhower or Cleveland), Populist/Socialist (like the Roosevelts), and Libertarian/Classic Liberal (Like Jefferson or Reagan).

Social liberals (meaning modern Keynesian social-liberals) favor social progress, globalization, taxes, corporations, and big government. Populist-Socialists (often called progressives in history) favor the people, civil service, and government-backed social justice over big business (a less “corporate” version of social liberalism). Traditional Conservatives want traditional nationalism, oppose progressivism and social-liberalism, and favor specific big businesses like the military, church, and specific aristocracy and oligarchy. Libertarians or those with a classical liberal ideology with right-wing leanings removed want a small government with limited federal power, free trade, and low taxes even if it means powerful plutocrats and injustice. With that in mind, it is best to start off by comparing the first two political factions the Federalists and Anti-Federalists (and then Democratic-Republicans) in the First Party System 1792-1824:

Hamilton, who roughly favors Northern interests and a strong government, was a hands-on Federalist (which is, very roughly, like today’s Washington Liberal-Conservative, he wants a central bank, strong military, and is conservatively loyal to Britain). Jefferson, who roughly favors Southern interests and less government, was a hands-off anti-Federalist (which is roughly today’s Libertarian-Populist, he wants individual liberty, state-rights, and is against big Government for any reason). In terms of England and France, Hamilton is Whig-like (or a Tory if you ask Jefferson) and Jefferson is a Jacobin supporting admirer of the French Revolution (if we ask Jefferson himself).[19]

To further illustrate the divide, Hamilton’s Federalists favored the collective rights (and authority) of a Federal Republic and supported the Constitution (as opposed to the Articles of Confederation). Jefferson’s Anti-Federalists opposed replacing the Articles of Confederation (which called for less central power) and later wanted the Bill of Rights (a bill of liberal human rights to amend the Constitution), which Hamilton and the Federalists opposed.

There were Federalists and Anti-Federalists in both the north and south. The Anti-Federalists favored individual rights, Democracy, no debt, and small government (ideas popular in the south). The anti-federalists favored collective rights, a Republic, debt and credit, and federal power (ideas more popular in the north). Consider compromise positions like the Second Amendment which allowed for gun ownership, but also calls for a militia which can put down an uprising like Shays’ Rebellion or the Whiskey Rebellion. Although the views of both men and factions are much more complex than can be summed up quickly, these facts paint a clear picture of the first political factions.

Not every issue that is important today was important historically. Specific religion, race, immigration, gender, women’s rights, and gun rights weren’t always as divisive in the past (although they were discussed at times). Freedom of Religion was pushed for by Jefferson as it is a fundamental principle of liberalism and the Age of Enlightenment[20], and Jefferson generally wanted less bureaucracy and looser immigration laws (see the Alien and Sedition Acts and Nativism in the U.S.). Neither took a clear stand against slavery. Hamilton was hardly to the far-right on religion; his main interest was in trade and monetary policy. Issues like these, although discussed since the beginning of our country, don’t become fully divisive (even to the extent of creating third parties) until later due to an influx of Catholic immigrants (see 1854’s Know Nothing Party), the expansion of new territories, and the debate over whether they should be slave states, see 1848’s Free Soil Party.

With the above in mind, in summary, Hamilton’s party is for a British-style central government (a more authoritative liberalism), while Jefferson’s party favors a hands-off, individual rights focused, French-style approach to liberalism.

This division between Federalists (pro-trade, pro-bank, pro-collective rights, and pro-authority) and Anti-Federalists, and then Democratic-Republicans, (pro-farmer, anti-central bank, pro-individual rights, and anti-authority) will come to represent a consistent ideological divide between the North and South, as well as the two major parties. This ideological divide never changes, but new ideologies, platforms, party names and party members will revolve around this divide all the way until the Present day.

Thomas Jefferson | 60-Second Presidents | PBS. This PBS 60 second Presidents series will help illustrate how platforms and parties change over time. Let us start with the obviously Social-Libertarian by governance-style and ideology, anti-Federalist by name (the party that would become the Democrats), Jefferson (a French-style classical liberal). Although Jefferson expands America and accomplishes a few other important feats, Jefferson’s hands-off approach makes his Presidency otherwise lack-luster.

This First Party era also contains the era of good feelings during which the parties worked together from about 1815 to 1825. It also included  Henry Clay’s 1820 Missouri Compromise between anti-slavery and pro-slavery factions to balance the number of “slave states” and “free states” (which itself helped balance the south’s dominance in this era which had resulted from the Three-Fifths Compromise of 1787). The era ends with the formation of the John Quincy Adams supporting National Republicans of 1825 (who disband in 1833 and become Whigs in the next era).

John Quincy Adams | 60-Second Presidents | PBS. Adams, Clay, and Jackson’s stories intertwine to describe the end of the First Party and start of the Second Party system.

The next era, Jackson’s era, is the Second Party System: 1828-1854. It begins with Jackson’s Presidency, which contrasts the hands-off Jefferson to the more hands-on Jackson, and also marks the start of “the spoils system, as well as a growing tension between North and South over whether or not the new states should be slave states.

Andrew Jackson | 60-Second Presidents | PBS. We call Jackson a “Jacksonian Democrat”, that essentially means a pro-south Libertarian in Jackson’s day. Jackson says states’ rights and individual rights trump the collective rights favored by of the anti-slavery factions. Slavery aside, Jackson resembles Jefferson in his dismantling of the big banks and otherwise populist message.

In the Second Party System, the newly formed Democrats (previously Anti-Federalists and Democratic-Republicans), start to show roots of what we today call conservatism. They use classic liberal principles to support slavery, but use federal power when it suits them.

Meanwhile, the Federalists (after a brief stint as National Republicans) become the Whigs in 1833. They take on some more socially left issues under “the great compromiser” Henry Clay. Despite this being true, the Whigs remain conservative regarding federal power and economic policy (the term Whig comes from the English Whig party, a liberal party, split into two factions one more conservative and one more radical, they opposed the conservative Tory factions).

During this Second Party System, some third parties arise to promote issues (often “single issues”) that lacked strong support in the major parties. These third parties included the anti-immigrant Know-Nothing Party, the anti-Mason Anti-Mason Party, and factions of anti-slavery Democrats and anti-slavery Whigs who formed the Barnburners, the Liberty Party, and the Free Soil Party led by the notable Martin Van Buren.[21][22][23][24]

Martin Van Buren | 60-Second Presidents | PBS. Martin Van Buren “one of the most important Presidents we never think of” was an anti-slavery community organizing Democrat. He later went on to head the unsuccessful Free Soil Party which contained both former anti-slavery Democrats and anti-slavery Republicans who wanted new states to be “free” and thought that slavery would phase itself out over time if this were done.

The Second Party System ended when platforms and members change as a result of the tension over the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854. During this time, the “states’ rights” advocates in the north and south join forces with the pro-slavery south to push for a state’s right to choose to be a slave state, AKA popular sovereignty.

This divisive bit of legislation, and the argument over popular sovereignty caused some southern individual rights and conservative Whigs to join the Democrats (or the popular Know Nothing Party) and caused some of the northern anti-slavery Democrats to join the newly forming Republicans (or the Free Soil Party).

The result was a split between the North and the South leading to the Third Party system, the formation of the Republican party from ex-Whigs and Free Soilers in 1854 (whose first President was Lincoln), and of course the Civil War.

How one piece of legislation divided a nation. This video describes how the Kansas-Nebraska Act resulted in the Whigs becoming Republicans, and how members changed parties around this time. 

While some platforms and members change during the First and Second Party Systems and help to define the divide we see during the Civil War, most “switching” doesn’t happen until after Lincoln’s Presidency in the Third Party System starting with Grant. Given this, we can draw a rough, but clear, line from the Federalist party of Hamilton to Clay’s Whigs, to Lincoln’s anti-slavery Republicans (who favor tradition and are pro-social justice, even if it means taxation, big government, and big banks). And, we can draw a clear line from Jefferson’s anti-Federalists and Democratic-Republicans, to Jackson’s Democrats, to the pro-slavery Democrats (who favor states’ rights and human rights [for white men], and are pro-farmer and pro-small government, even if it means social injustice).

The Era of the Third Party System: 1854-1890’s marks the start of the parties shifting platforms and splitting into the factions. Lincoln, the Civil War, and Reconstruction, along with issues that gained new importance like immigration, worker’s rights, temperance, and importantly silver v. gold v. green (backed money) resulted in many changes for the nation.

Going into the Civil War, the pro-slavery, small business, small government Democrats (and temporarily Confederates), oppose the anti-slavery, pro-industrialization, big business, big government Republicans (and temporarily the Union) led by Lincoln. It isn’t that the President wants war, it is that manifest density has left the country unable to advance properly into the next industrial era due to disagreement over states’ rights in regard to slavery. The south is for the farmer and individual liberty, and the North is seeking modernization and collective liberty (which stands to crush the south’s business).

Every past President had ignored slavery to focus on expansion, but Lincoln would not as “a house divided against itself cannot stand.”

Abraham Lincoln | 60-Second Presidents | PBS. Lincoln, a long-time progressive Whig, is the first President of the new Anti-Slavery Republican party. Lincoln was a moderate Republican, but a true progressive-social-liberal. He created the first income tax and wasn’t afraid to use his power to ensure prosperity for the North and social justice for all. For the next 30 years after his death, the Stalwart Republican crony capitalists who oppose civil-service will run Congress. This angers the progressive-liberal civil-service Whigs and the libertarian-Democrats, and paves the way for corruption in the Gilded Age. That is, until the great Bourbon-Democrat-Conservative Grover Cleveland comes to end the corrupt cronies in congress.

The Civil War lasts from 1861 to 1865. On April 14, 1865, President Lincoln was shot by John Wilkes Booth, a Southern sympathizer. The next morning, moderate Republican Andrew Johnson took office. Following the Civil War is Civil War Reconstruction, which explains the start of the major switches.

During Civil War Reconstruction, withPresidents like Grant, the Republicans split into many factions (conservative, moderate, and radical/progressive; and crony capitalists and civil service). They were divided over new Civil Rights legislation and the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments (the Reconstruction Amendments), and especially over a disagreement on how to treat the South.

This split results in the moderate Andrew Johnson (who was proceeded by Lincoln and succeeded by Grant) almost being impeached by radical and conservative Republicans (he avoided impeachment by one vote).

During this time Freedmen (freed slaves), joined with more radical Carpetbaggers (a pejorative term used by opponents for new arrivals to the south from the North), and Scalawags or “allies,” who were native white Southerners in Republican factions in the south. Many Scalawags became Democrats joining the conservative Democrats in the 1870’s.[25][26]

The conservative, moderate, and radical wings of the Republican party aside, two main factions stayed with the Republicans into Grant’s era. These factions were the Stalwart Crony Capitalist Republicans and the Civil-Service “Half-Breed” Progressive Republicans. Meanwhile, other former Republicans, mostly conservative Republicans, left the party for the already factionalized Democrats. By this time, the Democrats included the Libertarian-Liberal Bourbon Democrats who favored states’ rights and became today’s liberals starting in the early 1900’s and the Southern Conservative Democrats who favored slavery and remained with the Democrats until their faction became Nixon or Wallace supporters following Civil Rights in the 1950’s and 1960’s.

Other factions of this time (1864-1877), who weren’t part of the major parties, include Victoria Woodhull’s Equal Rights Party, a socially left-leaning feminist and equal rights party, and the People’s Party.

The People’s Party was a populist party that started in the 1870’s but rose from the 1890’s to 1900’s under the free silver movement and Democrat William Jennings Bryan. The People’s Party represents a growing pro-worker populist sentiment outside the major parties in both the North and South throughout the late 1800’s. It fully merges with the Democrats by 1908 creating a solid progressive wing of the Democratic party (who organize behind free silver, which is seen as pro-agrarian, pro-miner, and factory worker due to its perceived inflationary properties. See Bryan’s Cross of Gold speech). The pro-collective rights stance of Bryan stands in contrast to the earlier Democrats who favored individual rights no matter what.

Another faction from the 1870’s, the Liberal Republican Party, represent an offshoot of civil-service minded Republicans that leave the party. The Liberal Republicans are moderate Lincoln-like Republicans who attempted to distance themselves from the “Radical Republicans” who wanted harsher punishment for the South after the Civil War and emphasized equality, civil rights, and voting rights for the “freedmen” (recently freed slaves).

Meanwhile, the Prohibition party shows a more puritanical party that will later find a home with the Republican party during the temperance movement.

These factions (in the major and minor parties) are part of what results in what we call “switching” as they allow large groups of people and politicians, and the issues they support, to go from major party to third party or faction, and then back to major party again. For example, some pro-immigration Liberal Republicans, who are ideologically at odds with their party, move to the Democratic party following the 1872 election, and many of the populist Equal Rights and People’s Party become progressive Northern Democrats in the early 1900’s.[27] See the United States presidential election, 1872 results for an idea as to where the country is at in this era.[28]

Now that we have an idea of what else is going on post-Civil war, let’s get back to the two major parties and Grant.

Ulysses S. Grant | 60-Second Presidents | PBS. Grant, a Half-Breed Republican / Radical Republican opposed by the Liberal Republican party, but popular with Stalwarts, is progressive on social issues like Lincoln and is a popular and moderate politician. However, Grant’s moderate and laissez-faire style ushers in the age of crony capitalists and corruption, his Stalwart friends just weren’t as trustworthy as the rather Progressive Grant.

The Democrats of Grant’s time (1869 – 1877) were split into factions like the Republicans. They began to welcome immigrants and support workers (left), but also enacted new Jim Crow laws (an extension of earlier Black Codes) that worked to segregate the country for the next 100 years (right). Those who remained Republicans embraced issues like religion and temperance, nationalism, and anti-immigration (right), but often also embraced civil service (left).

Many new immigrants in this time are Catholic. This influx of Catholics is part of what make Religion and Immigration major issues in the US, and it is also one of the main things that turn the Democrats into social liberals (along with the free silver movement, the New Deal coalition, and finally the South moving out in 1964). These Catholic Democrats become the Kennedy’s and Biden’s of the world after getting behind Unions and social programs (workers rights and social justice are becoming more important in this new post-war era of industrialization).

One should keep in mind that the Democrats haven’t always had a good track record with immigrants. FDR was no champion of those trying to escape Europe during WWII. Despite the line of Federalists, Whigs, and Republicans being historically strict on immigration, there have consistently been pro-immigrant factions of the Republican party in all eras.

The rest of the Third Party System was marked by weak executive power, further party splitting, a corrupt Congress (see corruption in the Gilded Age), and the rise of the industrialists like J.P. Morgan (who is instrumental in the upcoming progressive era). Not all the issues that matter to the American parties today are with the parties of the late 19th century, but when they are, they are typically split between the many factions of the day (including third parties like the People’s Party). This divisive political environment was exemplified by the post-Compromise of 1877 presidency of Rutherford B. Hayes. Hayes pushed against the Stalwarts for Civil Service reform, and the Presidency of James A. Garfield, which was sadly cut short by an assassination spurred on by the tense relationships between the Civil Service and Stalwart factions of the Republican party.

James A. Garfield | 60-Second Presidents | PBS. Half-Breed politics and James A. Garfield lead to Civil Service reform before the next round of changes ensues. Garfield was shot by a self-proclaimed “Stalwart of the Stalwarts”, Charles J. Guiteau, on July 2, 1881. Despite Guiteau’s intentions, the assassination led to Chester A. Arthur creating civil service reforms in his term, apparently in-part an effort to finish Garfield’s work.[29]

The divisions of the Third Party System largely remain until the upcoming progressive era, but there is some unity in the interim under the pro-business, anti-free silver, anti-imperialism, and anti-tariff, Bourbon Democrat, Grover Cleveland.

Cleveland won popular support of both Democrats and Republicans three times (1884, 1888, and 1892), due to his commitment to classical liberal principles and his willingness to fight against political corruption, patronage (the spoils system), and bossism. This went well until issues surrounding the Panic of 1893 lost him the Presidency.

The end of Cleveland’s presidency and the Panic of 93′ can largely be seen as the end of the Third era, and the start of the next wave of political realignment.

Grover Cleveland | 60-Second Presidents | PBS. Grover Cleveland is one of the more impressive conservatives in history (a Democrat), but he is a progressive in the same style as Teddy Roosevelt (a Republican). America was, in ways, rebelling against the perceived Corruption of the previous era by all parties favoring progressivism of sorts (in this progressive era social liberalism will trump classical liberalism and conservatism).

The Fourth Party System: 1896-1932 begins as Cleveland leaves office for his second time (after replacing the progressive, but lack-luster Benjamin Harrison). This marks the start of the Progressive era, the era in which the parties begin to reunite and become the parties of today.

This “Fourth Party switch” starts with the Democrats. The Democrats begin to move away from the idea of fighting against Civil Rights due to being pro-individual rights and pro-farmer party and start fighting for the collective rights of immigrants and workers while gaining additional populist support by embracing the free silver movement.

Meanwhile, Republicans are still more progressive than the Democrats on many social issues such as Civil Rights, and this results in wins for Republican William McKinley in 1897 and 1901.

As noted above, figures like William Jennings Bryan, the Populist Free Silver Democrat, give us signs of important changes in Democratic party during this era. While still a Jacksonian Democrat, Bryan is also progressive (running on a more populist message than Cleveland). He fights against big banks and monopolies and generally fights against elites and for the working class.

Bryan is never elected President, partially due to the Solid South Democrats “disenfranchising Progressives, Republicans, and Blacks following the Reconstruction Era“, but his Progressive Republican opponent McKinley does get elected. McKinley’s unfortunate assassination then leads to the presidency of Teddy Roosevelt, which can be thought to mark a major change in the Republican party.

Theodore “Teddy” Roosevelt serves from 1901 – 1909 as a popular moderate-to-progressive Republican. Teddy is very similar to Cleveland in centeredness, principle, and popularity. He does some good and some bad, including notable state intervention and trust-busting, but it is his split from Republicans, and not his Presidency, that marks a change for the Republican Party.

Teddy Roosevelt left the Republicans in 1908 and started his “progressive” Bull Moose party which ran in ’08 and ’12. He wanted to “reverse the domination of politics by business interests, which allegedly controlled the Republican and Democratic parties.” He also wanted “to destroy this invisible Government, to dissolve the unholy alliance between corrupt business and corrupt politics is the first task of the statesmanship of the day”[30]… it is a clear sign that the Republican party-by-name is losing its more progressive members to the Democrats and retaining more conservative Republicans who, like Taft, support “progressivism by rule of law”, are weak on civil rights, and are pro-business. This sort of mindset will, over time, will lead to Republicans losing some of their support of populists and progressives, but gaining the support of conservatives.

Theodore Roosevelt | 60-Second Presidents | PBS. It’s worth noting, that while Democrats and Republicans have some dark history here, the Populist party of the 1890’s, and the Progressive party of Teddy, generally avoid the most negative issues and are favored by the disenfranchised. Check out the Bull Moose Platform of 1912; the “progressive” party is what we today call social-liberal.

This split between Taft and Roosevelt happens at a time the other Progressive of the day, Woodrow Wilson, is barking up a Hamiltonian-Liberal tree of pro-banker, progress, and Globalization. Wilson is in many ways more progressive than Taft when it comes to social justice (spurring on the first New-Deal-like programs), and very notably supports a central bank (creating the Federal Reserve with industrialists like J.P. Morgan, despite Democrats historically being against this and Republicans historically being for it).

These changes in this era help explain how we get both progressive populist, and a pro-banker and big business, wings of the Democratic party, and how the Republican spirit, which had historically been both elite and progressive, begins to shift.

In the next era, a string of Republican Presidents will mark a new type of Republican, and FDR will marry the progressivism of Bryan, Wilson, and Teddy, with the neoliberal economics of Wilson, helping to cement in the Democrats as the party of the New Deal.

Despite the shifting views of Democrats, the elephant in the progressive room, otherwise known as “the Solid South,” will stay with the Democrats until Kennedy and LBJ push for Civil Rights, and Nixon pushes his “southern strategy” as a countermeasure. This can be seen clearly in the South’s voting record (see the Solid South voting record here).

Despite this truth, FDR was the last Democratic President the Solid South stood behind en masse. Over time, some of the Wilson-like Libertarian Bourbon Democrats will start shifting over to the Republican party in a response to the new liberal-progressive Democrats, while the rest will join FDR and the New Deal Coalition.

Wilson is the last Bourbon Democrat to be President, and he is only that by name in many respects. I consider him the first modern Democrat.

Woodrow Wilson | 60-Second Presidents | PBS. Woodrow Wilson is arguably the first proper Progressive Democrat. The pro-south stance has tapered down, but the Democrats still have the southern vote, the next Democrat will be FDR the staple liberal-progressive who starts the New Deal coalition.

After Wilson, and before FDR, we get a string of Republicans who can be seen as the first modern, moderate Republicans.

With Teddy’s exodus of progressives from the Republican party of the 1910’s, and the progressive Taft losing (in large part due to this), HardingCoolidge, and Hoover, step in to create a new “less progressive” era of the Republican party.

Harding famously promised “a return to normalcy” after beating the socialists, who were increasing in popularity, and the Democrats. Harding is the first true modern conservative, and Coolidge and Hoover largely follow in his footsteps.

Harding is critical of Communists and immigrants but favors civil rights and fights against lynching (yes, that was a thing that was still happening and needed to be fought against).

Harding fought organized labor, supported big business, and fought to lower taxes. While he isn’t a modern Republican in every sense, he and his predecessors are a clear shift away from Teddy and Taft.

Warren G. Harding | 60-Second Presidents | PBS. Harding and Coolidge are the first true modern Conservatives. Conservatives favor the Libertarian hands-off style; the Republicans won’t fully embrace modern right-wing views until Nixon/Reagan. Republican conservatives of this era are more Eisenhower-style Republicans.

Like Warren G. Harding, Calvin Coolidge and Herbert Hoover are moderate conservatives (with each arguably shifting the party a bit to the right).

They support lower taxes, are friendly to Civil Rights, and promote the middle class while supporting business. They also generally favor small government classic liberalism like the old Democrats and today’s Libertarians do. Hoover specifically was put to the test over this ideology with the Great Depression (remember the classic liberal position is to do nothing, i.e. zero state intervention in the free-market).

These three Republicans are, in ways, small government Libertarians just like Jefferson and Jackson, but some of their policies and attitudes mark a shift to the modern right in sentiment, as the Republican party also includes the anti-union voters, the anti-immigration voters, and some religious voters too. A third party of the time, the Prohibition Party, represented the more puritanical religious left and right. Although the Republicans of the late 1800’s were friendly to temperance, these 1920’s Republicans lost some of their favor. The Prohibition party notably considered endorsing Republican Herbert Hoover in 1928, but didn’t.

As the Republicans shift further to the right under Harding, Coolidge, and Hoover, a faction of progressives (a New Deal Coalition) is forming inside and outside the major parties, and their formation marks one of the last major political realignments.

Herbert Hoover | 60-Second Presidents | PBS. Hoover “was a different kind of Republican progressive” (i.e. the Republicans are still not yet a “right” party in many respects despite the growing modern Republican spirit). The change is harder to spot on a Presidential level due to the string of Democrats leading up to Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1953.

Even though we can consider the Progressive Wilson the first modern Democrat in some respects, and we can see the birth of the modern Republicans from Harding to Hoover, the Fifth Party Systems: 1933-1964 starts with the progressive Franklin D. Roosevelt, and not Wilson.

FDR marks the start of the Fifth Party, but more than just FDR, it is the official formation of the New Deal coalition (that began in the progressive era as different factions) that explains what drives the south out of the changing Democratic party from 32′ to 64′.

FDR forged a “New Deal Coalition” of bankers; those in the oil business; the Democratic state party organizations; “Big City machines;” labor unions; blue collar workers; racial, ethnic, and religious minorities including Catholics, Jews, and Blacks; farmers; white Southerners; people on relief; and intellectuals. Essentially everyone who had been oppressed in America joined together in a group, alongside some of their former oppressors.

This pro-business and progressive faction of former radical Whigs, civil-service Republicans, Federalists, Bourbon Democrats, Unions, populists, and other “social and economic progressives” previously found in both major parties, and the third parties, become a single unit under the Democrats. When you wonder why a modern Democrat is pro-business, pro-North, pro-city, and pro-worker and holds a progressive spirit, your answer starts properly in 32-33′ at the start of the Fifth Party.

We know that a modern conservative doesn’t favor New Deal legislation or the big banks like today’s social-liberal Democrats even with Jackson breaking up the first central banks, the Anti-Federalists running against central banks, etc. We also know the libertarians dislike large social programs and union-like entities. So, it’s clear much of the switch has already happened between Wilson and FDR’s time (aside from the southern bloc, which is still voting Democrat, and still has some of the states’ right ideologist in its midst).

Suffice to say, from 1933 to 1945 FDR doubles down on the social-liberalism and progressive politics found in the progressive wing of the Democratic Party and Progressive party of his cousin, uniting the two forces in support of a New Deal.

Franklin D. Roosevelt | 60-Second Presidents | PBS. FDR changes everything. The Democrats become the New Deal party; we can only assume this would have been the party of Lincoln.

After FDR we get Harry S. Truman. Truman’s Presidency is largely based around the war, but we can understand the subject of switching by understanding that he pushed for Civil Rights which was opposed primarily by Southern Democrats (rather than Republicans). So we can confirm, despite the Republicans shifting to the right on some issues, in 1948, “the right wing” (in terms of civil rights) was in the Democratic party sitting right next to the progressives.

Meanwhile, the traditional conservative character of moderate Republicans is found in one of the nation’s greatest leaders, a five-star general, Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces, and 34th President of the United States, the last “progressive-moderate-conservative” Dwight D. Eisenhower.

Eisenhower was a war hero like Jackson and Grant, but unlike those two he was centered, motivated, and a friend to conservatives and progressives alike. He supported the Civil Rights Act of 1957, which was notably opposed by the South, supported the New Deal, and fought against segregation in Washington DC and the Armed forces.

Instead of marking changing times, Eisenhower simply marks the last Republican who didn’t have overwhelming southern support. Other Republicans of the time include those Joseph McCarthy-esque far-right wingers, so these folks exist, but this sort of character isn’t seen in a President, and especially not a President like Eisenhower.

Dwight D. Eisenhower | 60-Second Presidents | PBS. The last of the “progressive” Republicans is best described as a “moderate” or “conservative’ (at the time) Republican. He is an ally to the New Deal, but most certainly a modern Republican in many respects. He famously was pushed to run for both parties, as he was very popular.

By the time the progressive Democrat Kennedy pushes Civil Rights starting in the 50’s as a Senator, and then in the 60’s President, the southern Democrats and northern Democrats are in a tense relationship.

By the time LBJ passes his Kennedy-inspired Civil rights act in 64′, it is the last straw. Even the most loyal pro-south Democrats, like Strom, begin to leave for both the Republican party and the pro-segregationist American Independent Party (led by their famously “pro-segregationist” party leader George Wallace, who notably comes back to the Democrats, not the Republicans, after his loss).

The southern voter base, the House, and other Senators follows the shift over time, with the Republican Nixon seeing a sweeping win in 1968 with the support of the South won via his “southern strategy” after Civil Right 68′ under LBJ.

Despite the changing times, many Dixiecrats (like Byrd and eventually Wallace) remain with the Democrats (under southerner’s like Jimmy Carter, whose family had been a staunch John F. Kennedy supporters since the 60’s) until they begin to be swayed by Reagan and H.W. Bush’s southern strategy.

It won’t be until the Clinton era that the exodus of the south mostly completes (i.e. the shift takes 30 years, and some Dixiecrats never leave), despite all the changes to the Democratic platform since the early 1900’s after Cleveland. Ironically, or not, Bill Clinton is (like Carter) a southern Democrat and make no mistake, southern Democrats are alive and well today. Despite this, the platforms and voter base have most certainly changed under this new generation of “New Democrats.”

Lyndon B. Johnson | 60-Second Presidents | PBS.

The next era, which we might call the Sixth Party system, is less agreed on by historians (some stop at the Fifth Party). If we consider the Sixth party, we can say that the Sixth Party system starts with Civil Rights in 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 which ended most “Jim Crow” laws and resulted in the major shift of the south leaving the Democratic Party over time.

After Civil Rights, we get the new states’ rights Libertarian party of Goldwater and Reagan (making the same “states’ rights” argument made during the pre-Civil War era in regard to slavery). This party now has at least part of the southern vote and tout being “small government.” They stand against socialism, progressivism, and big government, and do so even if it means opposing social justice reforms. Thus, the Libertarians and the Libertarian-Conservatives are the day’s anti-Federalists. Their counterpart is the new party of (some of) the South, the religious right, the big business and military right, anti-immigration, and traditional conservatives who team up in a “big tent” after Wallace’s third party falls apart. This party is, of course, the Republicans. They are similar to the Democrats of Lincoln’s time but are also easy to equate to some of those factions that sprang up like the Know Nothings and Prohibition Party.

Meanwhile, the Democrats retain some Dixiecrats alongside their progressive wing. They rally around a string of moderate leaders like McGovern and Carter in an era during which the country is oddly almost split by east coast and west coast. Eventually we saw a compromise forming in a  New Democrat Clinton era where social justice and the semi-regulated private market held equal importance. They embraced social liberalism, despite the costs and taxes associated, which was opposed by the increasingly classic liberal opposition. Their counterpart was the progressives, who represented the populist, pro-worker, pro-collective rights sentiment found in third parties like the People’s Party and the New Deal Coalition.

Between 1992 Clinton V. H.W. Bush and W. Bush, following the Reagan era, the parties are pretty much in their modern form and are “big tents” of sorts, housing all of America’s still existing factions, each party now resembling a modern version of their former opposition parties from past Party Systems.

Ronald Reagan | 60-Second Presidents | PBS. Reagan is a liberal, er um, classic liberal, er um, essentially a libertarian with conservative leanings. George Wallace, he is not, but some of his party is of Wallace’s flock. Some would argue that Wallace’s faction is dominant in the Republican party of 2016.

One could argue that a Seventh Party System begins with liberals like Clinton and Obama (the first modern Northern Democratic Party President since Kennedy), and is contrasted by Republicans like Reagan and the Bush’s.

I feel that the Seventh Party Begins in 1992 as 64′ – 92′ is pretty clearly its own thing with Dixiecrats considered. One could also argue that a Seventh Party begins with the 2016 election cycle, a time when the establishment of both major parties seek types of globalization. They are pro-business despite their opposing ideologies, while Libertarians like Ron Paul, nativist populist factions of Republicans, and Socialist-Progressives like Bernie Sanders represent some of the nationalist, populist, progressive, classically liberal, and even extreme stances found in earlier eras.

Regardless of specifics, in this post 64′ era (if we consider the factions noted above), and especially in this post Reagan-Bush-Clinton era, we can see that a lot of complex changes have occurred.

When we consider that Democrats and progressives typically vote Democrat, and Republicans and Libertarians typically vote Republican, we can say the two major parties have almost fully switched platforms, members, ideologies, and even geographic locations over time, especially between Grant and LBJ (see the issue-by-issue breakdown below).

Bill Clinton | 60-Second Presidents | PBS. Wait, is this a Seventh Party system?… hmmm maybe. Clinton does call himself a “New Democrat,” and some like Noam Chomsky point out that the modern Democrats are split between New Deal social justice populist FDR types and the free-market Neoliberal big business “New Democrat” Clinton types (their Republican counterparts being the Bush-style Neocons).

“We welcome change and openness; for we believe that freedom and security go together, that the advance of human liberty can only strengthen the cause of world peace… If you seek peace, if you seek prosperity…, if you seek liberalization… Tear down this wall!” – A message of unity and liberalization from the conservative hero Ronald Reagan.

Summary of Platform Shifting – An Issues-by-Issue Breakdown

The platform switching, evidenced in the above sections, can be explained a few ways. Below we summarize it by contrasting key platforms of each major party in the First to Third Party Systems with the Fifth Party systems onward:

  • Federalists/Whigs/Third Party Republicans: Strict on immigration, pro-tradition, anti-slavery, no need to separate church and state or offer a bill of rights, pro-globalization, and trade, a central bank, big government, big business, pro-foreign-military-policy. Regulated economy based on the finance industry and global economy.
  • Anti-Federalists/Democratic-Republicans/Third Party Democrats: Pro-immigration, anti-tradition, separate church and state, want bill of rights, limited government, no central bank, pro states’ rights (even if it means slavery), pro-farmer, and anti-war. An unregulated economy based on production at home and farming.
  • Modern Post 64′ Democrats: Pro-immigration, anti-segregation, separation of church and state, want bill of rights (today a second bill of rights for education and healthcare for example), big government, pro central bank, pro subsidization (be it to farmer or corporation), and anti-war in sentiment (albeit generally pro-defense). Regulated economy based on finance industry and global economy.
  • Modern Post 64′ Republicans: Strict on immigration, pro-tradition, no need to separate church and state or offer bill of rights, pro-farmer and certain big businesses, small government, pro-south, and pro-strong military. Unregulated economy based on production at home and farming.

As you can see the Third Party Republicans essentially become Post 64′ Fifth Party Democrats, and the Third Party Democrats essentially become Post 64′ Fifth Party Republicans on many (not all) key issues.

It is worth more than a note to mention that fitting all America’s factions into two parties will always cause some splitting on issues. For instance, some modern Democrats favor private industry, are laissez faire and pro-foreign-military-policy, and some Republicans favor trade-based big business and are pro-foreign-military-policy. This pro-private industry and globalization is largely what the terms neocon and neoliberal denote.[31][32] In other cases environment or religion is the primary issue for a voter, and this can result in third parties (like the Green party for instance).

With the above said, ignoring minor factions, today we can break down the current major American political factions into a few basic groups (see a more detailed model here):

  • Neoliberal Democrats: Big business Democrats who favor the private market as a means to achieve social justice, tend to favor big government.
  • Populist Social-Liberal Democrats: Favor a less privatized version of social liberalism, social justice and environmental issues take precedence over free-market economics and big business.
  • Neocon Republicans: Big business Republicans who favor the private market and traditional conservative values and aspects of free-market libertarian ideology.
  • Libertarian Republicans: Limited government classical liberals who tend to organize around right-wing ideology. As noted in the first section, sometimes a classical liberal position is seen as socially conservative today.
  • Modern Conservative Republicans: Social and classical conservatives who are voting only on modern conservative issues of religion, immigration, gun laws, etc.

Exactly what party has taken which stance on each issue has changed over time, but as displayed above and detailed below, some common threads can be traced throughout history to clearly illustrate “switching.” Of course, the exact changes that occurred are complex, and involve many third parties.

We can’t always trace a neat line between issues or major parties, but the underlying arguments of “how authoritative should government be?” and “should we sacrifice individual liberty for collective liberty?” will always remain the same. This is what ultimately allows us to spot the factions and platform switching in any era so we can compare that to today.

If we make the above summary into one simple chart, it might look something like this:

Ideology Spectrum of American LeadersA left-right spectrum showing how Lincoln and Reagan are both Republicans, and comparing that to the stances of Hamilton and Jefferson.

“I have just one purpose … and that is to build up a strong progressive Republican Party in this country. If the right wing wants a fight, they are going to get it … before I end up, either this Republican Party will reflect progressivism, or I won’t be with them anymore.”[33] – Eisenhower on being a moderate Republican and “progressive” friend to the New Deal Coalition, a stance that harkens back to Lincoln, but isn’t found again after Republicans like Nixon or Reagan.

Better Understanding the Changes in American Politics

Above we summarized the switching of ideologies and platforms between the parties by looking at the party systems and Presidents.

Below we explore details, clarify semantics, answer questions, present curated videos, and illustrate some of the key telling moments regarding the changes described above.

Please consider sharing your insight below, our summing up of the history of American politics is an ongoing effort, see the videos for supplemental content from other authors.

For deeper reading:

Did the American Political Parties Switch? – Clarifying the Semantics

People often ask, “did the American political parties switch?”, but this question is semantically wrong, and thus we should address it before moving on.

  • People can switch parties (like Strom Thurmond switched to a Republican in 1964 when Dixie Democrat LBJ was preparing to sign his Kennedy inspired landmark Civil rights legislation).
  • Parties can switch general platforms and ideologies (which is why Strom left for the GOP).
  • Voters can switch parties (like when the white Southern conservatives, slowly over time, left the Democratic party along with Strom).
  • However, the parties themselves only switch when they hang-up their hat to become a new party (like when the Federalists became the Whigs).

Where US Politics Came From: Crash Course US History #9. This is one of many videos from CrashCourse. American history is long and complex; if you want to really understand things, I suggest watching the CrashCourse series on U.S. politics.

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 today’s fifth party system (and potentially sixth and seventh).

Some changes stick out like a sore thumb, but most of the changes between party systems happened slowly over time. It’s 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 can’t cut through the rhetoric, we can look at voting records to see which party favored what.

It’s important to note, that the current parties weren’t established until the 1850s (third party). 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.

In each case, the President took actions which we would see as “liberal” today (meaning social liberal like Keynes and Mill, not classical Jefferson and French revolution style liberal). They used their authority to favor the collective at the expense of individual liberty, even if it meant war. Since Teddy Roosevelt and Lincoln are Republicans and LBJ and FDR are Democrats, we have no choice to face a simple and powerful proof of “a switch.”

TIP: Sometimes switches seem to happen because we try to treat the complex political spectrum like it is two simple groups. Almost all American political parties and factions hold “mixed views.” See our breakdown of the basic political parties or our page of left-right spectrum explainers and models.

Why Did Parties Switch Platforms and Members?

The common thread of each major switch, aside from war, was civil rights. Or maybe we could more fairly say, state-enforced social and economic justice (collective liberty) versus individual liberty as is illustrated by the charts on this page.

Civil rights aside, since before the first party was formed, our founding fathers have fought each other tooth and nail over the direction of the country. The biggest issues have been: big business versus small business, big government versus small government (in size), big government versus small government (in authority), whether or not to have a central bank, and how much local and foreign credit and debt was the right amount.

We can see how some of the above values are consistent for a given quadrant of the political sphere, but not for a specific party in a two party system or even a faction or member of a party at a given time! We can also see how specific groups have shifted their interpretation of these things over time, and how some groups simply pay lip-service to the overarching ideals.

There is also the overarching question that has shadowed the debates between parties and led to switching, “should our Republic act more like a Direct Democracy or a Republic” (why the parties are called Democrats and Republicans). Do we look to Athens or Rome? To what extent do we mix these to protect the Republic from the special interests that arise as a natural artifact of liberty?[34]To what extent do we mix this to avoid an overly authoritative state? Or really, to what extent do we embrace democracy in our Republic. Today you may think of one party or the other as wanting all the above things, but that has never really been the case.

The “planks and platforms” (issues) of each opposing group (regardless of name) have changed over time, as specific stances on these issues were taken, and as public opinion changed with the times.

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 didn’t 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 (it is similar to the chart above but this time lists basic government types and asks a different set of questions).

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.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 (where we consider the commonly excepted definition of left and right circa America in 2016), then VERY loosely we might say:

  • Right Wingers: Hamilton (Federalist), Cleveland (Democrat), Hoover, (Republican), Reagan (Republican)
  • Left Wingers: Jefferson (Democratic-Republican), Lincoln (Republican), Teddy Roosevelt (Republican), FDR (Democrat), Johnson (Democrat)

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:

  • Social Libertarian (left): Jefferson (Democratic-Republican). Favoring a socialist democratic republic with limited power.
  • Social Liberal (left): Johnson (Democrat) and Lincoln (Republican). Favoring authoritative Democracy for the benefit of the collective.
  • Conservative Libertarian (right): Reagan (Republican). Favoring authoritative conservatism for individual liberty.
  • Liberal Conservative (right): Hamilton (Federalist). Favoring authoritative conservatism for the collective.

Again, we find that party names are spread out over political leanings (pointing again to switching platforms). 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.

NOTE: The first part of the page presents almost all of the story and our argument. The rest of the page contains the original essay written for this page and as such reiterates some points. The aim will be to combine the sections over time. This page has been an ongoing effort to find truth we can all agree on, and perhaps it only makes sense that attempting a feat like that would spawn a long evolving essay inspired by readers ‘ comments. Remember to comment below with insight!

A Final Summary the American Political Parties

The section below puts everything together one last time to recap the story.

The American political parties take many twists and turns, but we can trace the history of “left” and “right” in American politics to better understand people, times, issues, and the parties of today.

The First Party System: The Federalist Party and the Democratic-Republican Party 1792 -1824

To start, the founding fathers can be put into two groups: the Federalist Party and the Democratic-Republican Party (Anti-Federalist)[35][36].

Alexander Hamilton favored central Government and had ties to Britain, and wanted centralized banking. He favored national power over state power. He is today’s “Washington” Liberal/Conservative. Hamilton wanted free-market capitalism and globalization with Britain/America, as a world leader hundreds of years before his time. He is an impressive character.

The Democratic-Republican Party, headed by James Madison and Thomas Jefferson, generally opposed Hamilton and his views (favoring state rights and democracy). In simple terms, they are today’s Social-Libertarians (not Reagan-style, the far-right doesn’t emerge in party politics yet). They are more in-line with what people think when they think “rebelling from the authority of the King to be free.”

In this scenario we can say the “big government aspect” of the current American left is with the Federalists, and the “socially liberal” of left, and “anti-big government” of the right, part is with the Democratic-Republicans. But remember, the who far-right thing simply doesn’t exist yet. So the divisive politics of today aren’t anywhere to be found (that happens over slavery and temperance later in Lincoln’s time).

If you had to examine these men, you would say Jefferson is left wing and Hamilton is right wing. Today we would probably call Hamilton a Neoliberal or traditional Conservative, Jefferson more a Democratic-socialist, and Madison more of a centrist (probably truest to the Democratic-Republican name). As noted above, none fully share the beliefs of the current parties, but Hamilton is certainly more “traditional” and Jefferson more “radical.” Hamilton leans toward being “a liberal elite” or even “big business conservative” economically, while Jefferson tends to be a left winger philosophically.

The duality of the Federalist Party and the Democratic-Republican Party is well displayed in the clip below in a discussion between Hamilton and Jefferson (which you must watch through YouTube or HBO as it’s from an HBO’s John Adams).

Hopefully after reading the above, and watching the video below we have a clear foundation of our founding fathers from which to move forward. If we confuse these men, we will struggle to draw a line from them to today. So make sure you have this one down.

HBO John Adams – Alexander Hamilton takes Jefferson to school. Hamilton pushed for a central bank since day 1, while Jefferson was much more of an idealist. Adams plays mediator. It’s hard to use the terms Democrat and Republican at this point in history. Rather, our founding fathers had a mix of views corresponding to different aspects of the current Democrats, Republicans, and Libertarians.

NOTE: The ideas of the parties changed over the years. It’s important to understand history so we don’t think of Thomas Jefferson as a “right winger” loyal to Britain who would rather have a duel than a debate to protect his honor. That was Hamilton, another of our great founding fathers. If I have to make the call, Hamilton is clearly a Republican and Jefferson a Democrat, but this is more in-line with the actual meaning of the words than today’s political parties.

Second Party System: Enter The Jacksonian Democrats 1828 – 1854

In 1829, the very popular with the people, Andrew Jackson split the Democratic-Republican Party. The new party Jacksonian Democrats were born from this, and that movement would grow into the current Democratic party.[37] If you are looking for the America’s first true liberal Jackson hardly fits the bill. Jackson was a man of the people, and his party was out to take power away from “elites” and “monopolies” and put it in the hands of the people. In practice, his presidency was more like President Obama’s where intentions of change get muddled by the practicalities of the political environment.

Despite many being classical liberals, Jacksonian Democrats in many ways mark the start of right-leaning conservative-libertarians. These Democrats will split into two factions over the 1800’s, one the Bourbon Democrats (social-libertarians) and the other (the solid south pro-slavery). Other Democrats will join third parties like the anti-slavery Free Soil Party as a response to the far-right faction of pro-slavery Democrats of the Jackson era.

Meanwhile, the Whig Party led by Henry Clay came into power around Jackson’s time[38]. The Whigs wanted a national bank, higher taxes, and power for Congress and importantly they want to end slavery. These social-service lefty Republicans are 1/2 today’s progressive, 1/2 Hamiltonian Globalization liberal.

In this time, the Democrats usually want lower taxes and less power for the President on paper (although, lip-service warning, Jackson uses lots of power). For instance, Jackson succeeded in dismantling Clay’s Second Bank of the United States. So, Jackson is opposed to a central bank, is anti-executive power on paper, but is pro-executive power in action. Like Reagan, he uses executive power to deregulate. Jackson was generally anti-tax, but the taxes he does pass damage the south more than the north (the Tariff of Abominations, which tellingly started with John Quincy Adams and had support from Northern Jackson supporters).[39]

Going into the 1830’s, the anti-central bank Democrats in the North anger the pro-slavery Democrats in the South with their general support of the Tariff of Abominations, which specifically hurt the states who put their investment in slavery, instead of industry as in the North. While it is hard to place the blame solely on Jackson, the issue of tariffs favoring the North or South will continue to be a divisive issue that all Presidents have to deal with moving forward.

Voting on “Tariff of Abominations” tally of votes (from Wikipedia).

House Vote on Tariff of 1828 For Against
New England 16 23
Middle States (New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware) 56 6
West (Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Missouri, Kentucky) 29 1
South 4 64
Total 105 94
Free States 88 29
Slave States 17 65

TIP: If you have to choose, Jackson is the left winger ideologically believing in small government and farmers, and Clay is the right winger who ideologically favored big banks and big government. On social issues Clay is a progressive Liberal; he wants modernization and social justice. Jackson would sooner duel with you than pass a law that tells states and farmers what to do. That means Jackson is essentially running on Barry Goldwater’s platform and it is certainly still the party of Jefferson albeit a more militant version.

Age of Jackson: Crash Course US History #14.

TIP: The Jackson era marks the start of a pro-tax America. Some presidents will be more willing to tax for social justice, like Lincoln and future liberals (by any party name), and some will tax for conservative reasons, but Jefferson’s era was the last era of truly tax-free Libertarians. See history of the income tax (especially if you think modern Republicans have lowered taxes). The parties throughout history have all wanted to tax different things, namely the cash cows of the other party, but it’s been a long time since a party wanted to reduce taxes. This is partly a strategy for the security of the nation (friends by debit and credit), and partly a side-effect of a growing super-power.

Did the parties switch?Was Lincoln a Democrat or Republican? He was a Republican by name, but today we would consider him a socially left-leaning Democrat.

Third Party System: Republicans Versus Democrats, the Battle Begins 1854-1890s

By 1854, the Whigs had disbanded. Now we had the Democrats, who were split in factions, the The Southern Democrats, who supported the federal protection of slavery in the western territories; and The Northern Democrats, those Libertarian Bourbon Democrats, who wanted all questions of slavery left up to the U.S. Supreme Court. We also had the newly formed anti-slavery Republican Party, who are the old Whigs and Federalists (today’s progressive liberal, in regards to most issues).

The Democrats are against “big government” telling states whether or not they can own slaves, and they don’t want big banks. See the Democratic Party Platform of 1856. The Democrats still see themselves as the Liberal party of Jefferson and Jackson, the small business farm owning “libertarians.”eanwhile the Republicans are a new iteration of the parties of Hamilton and Clay.

The Republicans are for modernization. They are against slavery, for central banks, and for bigger industrialized business. They embrace ideas of taxes, credits, and debts in the interest of prosperity and social justice. They embrace many of the economic policies of the Whigs, such as national banks, railroads, high tariffs, homesteads, and aid to land grant colleges (where the first free public Universities in America come from).

The Republicans also become known as a “pro-business” party at the time (meaning industry, not plantation). The Republican coalition consisted of businesspeople, shop owners, skilled craftsmen, clerks, and professionals who were attracted to the party’s modernization policies.

Meanwhile, the race issue pulled the great majority of white southerners into the Democratic Party as “Redeemers.” The Republicans want a more northern style of commerce and banks, and Democrats want a smaller farmer-based economy, with less government and no central bank. See the Republican Party Platform of 1856 here

By the time Republicans elect former Whig Abraham Lincoln in 1860, it’s pretty clear that the Republicans are leaning toward the left wing and the Democrats are leaning toward the right wing by most of today’s standards, but the Civil War changes this.

TIP: In 1861, Lincoln signed the Revenue Act of 1861, creating the first U.S. income tax. Learn more about the history of the income tax.

The “Switch” that Starts With Civil War

The Civil War and Civil War Reconstruction caused a three-way split in the Republican party. The Conservatives wanted the Confederate States to quickly rejoin the union with no consideration for racial relations. The Radicals wanted to punish the Confederate leaders confiscate Confederate property, and protect the rights of former slaves. The Moderates didn’t want to punish the Confederate leaders, but did want some protections for former slaves. This split effected Democrats, and the formation of new minor parties led to the start of the major change over the next 100 years. See a visual of the split here.

From the end of the Civil War until the 1890’s the Republican party becomes anti-immigration, and pro-religion (embracing “the temperance movement”), and those who we would consider “left” today migrate over to the Democratic party. With this in mind, the Solid South will remain active in the party for the next 100 years. This will help explain the emerging Populists and Progressive led by figures like the Roosevelts.

Starting with Lincoln and the newly formed Republicans, throughout the industrial revolution, and then until Teddy Roosevelt quits the Republicans and forms the “Progressive Party,” is when the major switching of people, parties, names, and ideologies happens. The full switch is in swing when LBJ pushes Civil Rights, Strom becomes a Republican, and the Goldwater-Reagan movement begins.

Take a look at the evolution of the Republican platform here, you can see “the switch” plain as day. It happens as a result of Lincoln and the Civil War.

Lincoln “Now” scene. Like LBJ, Lincoln lost his supporters on “the right” over sweeping Civil Rights legislation. This is only one instance where the battle over Civil Rights and State Rights in a free democracy ends in bloodshed.

TIP: If we trace the parties of the anti-federalist Jefferson, to the Democratic Jackson, we get a rather clear timeline of socialist/libertarian politics. Conversely, if we trace the parties of Hamilton, to Clay, to Lincoln we see the roots of the traditional conservative and the liberal parties. Following Civil War Reconstruction, the switch happens. After Reconstruction issues of Race, Immigration, and Temperance pushed the social-liberals to the Democrats and the libertarian-conservatives to the Republicans. The full switch took 100 years and was cemented under LBJ.

Third Party Part 2: 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” (where those socialists and libertarians go when they are without parties, as they often are), but we can’t cover everything here.

Importantly, this era ends with Cleveland’s second presidency and the Panic of 1893 (which produced a severe national depression). 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 today’s 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 1800’s and, of course, some of the arguement hasn’t 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 (which is in many ways a response to the post-Civil War Gilded Age).

The Progressive Era: Crash Course US History #27. The Progressive era, named due to all the parties embracing progressivism to some extent.

Fourth Party System: The Progressive Era – McKinley and Teddy 1896 – 1932

The election between Theodore Roosevelt William McKinley was pretty heated over social issues, but the parties stay the same. Republican Theodore “Teddy” Roosevelt (1901-1909) 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.

PBS Roosevelts.

As progressive as every President hopeful is at this time, Taft and Teddy lose to the first modern Liberal and last of the Bourbon Democrats, Woodrow Wilson.

Between Wilson’s time, and the time when Teddy’s cousin Franklin Delano Roosevelt (1933-1945) comes into power on the back of the Great Depression, the Democrats become increasingly progressive (despite the southern segregationist) while the Republicans move to the right after Teddy and Taft under figures like Harding and Coolidge.

Century of Enslavement: The History of The Federal Reserve. Finally, the dream of Hamilton and JP Morgan comes to life. It starts with the Panic of 1893 and culminates under Wilson, the first modern liberal (progressive as a Lincoln, modern and big thinking as a Hamilton).

Fifth Party System: The New Deal Era – FDR to LBJ 1933 – 1964

There was no single moment when the Democrats and Republicans switch platforms. This is because America is a country of many people with a wide array of views and alliances. The big hint is that the Roosevelt family is so liberal that the right wing still curses their name before breakfast today. We might take that as a joke, but the northern Democrat Kennedy and Roosevelt families are not GOP favorites.

The Fifth Party System begins with FDR, the first modern social liberal.

By the time of FDR, the Democrats are at least in-part a left-wing progressive-liberal party (home to some populists and socialists, who sat alongside the Dixiecrats), and the Republicans move toward being a right wing conservative party in response.

New Deal legislation hammers the first nail in the coffin for the right-wing supporting Democrats, and by the time Dixiecrat Johnson passes the very liberal Kennedy-supported Civil Rights Act of 1964, the parties we know today are born.

Despite the tension over Civil Rights bills of the 50’s and 60’s, many Southern Democrats continued their strained alliance with the progressive Democrats into the Sixth Party system and many civil service minded moderates remain with the Republicans.

At the end of the Fifth Party, modern-Libertarianism (a right-wing movement sometimes, and other times an intellectual states’ rights Bourbon Democrat movement) was born (or re-born) with supporters like Goldwater and Reagan.

It is in this era that Democrats start supporting collective rights and collective authority, and the traditionally conservative Republicans start embracing the classic liberal states’ rights stance of the earlier Democrats.

The 1964 Civil Rights Act Explained: US History Review. Johnson lost his right wing Democrat over his sweeping Civil Rights legislation. In this context, the words Civil Rights and State Rights become buzzwords of sorts for the parties (despite their inherent altruism). (TIP: State rights are super important, but also a tactic to retain bad laws at a state level. Civil Rights are important, but also a tactic to expand government. This is an age old battle that manifested since Hamilton and Jefferson and still manifests today).

NOTE: Dixiecrat was a short-lived segregationist political party in the 40’s, but also a term used to describe a right leaning pro-south Democrat at the time.

Sixth Party and Seventh Party Systems: LBJ to Today – The New Deal Coalition V. the Reagan Coalition

The Sixth party (although less agreed on by historians, some stop at the fifth party) can be said to start after LBJ.

By Clinton’s “New Democrat” era, the south favors the GOP and the parties resemble the parties of today. These parties are split by north and south, much like we saw back in 1854. Otherwise, it is hard to remember a time when the nation was as divided by geographic location.

Americans are still fighting old ideological battles, still licking old wounds, still indebted to the banks and other countries, and still trying to use taxes as a weapon against each other. Americans, divided by their parties, are still fighting over rich and poor, still fighting over small business and big business, and still fighting over small government and big government, They are still fighting over who should have what rights.

Despite all this, by looking at American history, we can see that America is a country that is strongest when it comes together, despite seemingly unrecognizable differences. “A house divided…”, as Lincoln said.

If you did have to divide the house, you would divide it as “The New Deal Coalition V. the Reagan Coalition”. That is to say FDR, LBJ, Carter, Clinton, Obama V. Nixon, Reagan, Bush.  Of course, we might say New Deal is “left,” and Reagan-Bush ideas are “right,” but even today, don’t we all pay lip-service to the same ideals? Most Americans say that they support small business, a strong middle class, freedom, liberty, and justice for all. What is it exactly that divides us? The answer is complicated, but history can shine some light on the question.

Revealing the Truth about the Democratic Party Part 2: The Parties Switched. This video is giving a counterpoint.

The American Political Parties Didn’t Switch Myth – The Author’s Perspective

The platforms of the parties constantly switched throughout history, or at least they evolved constantly attracting different types of followers by embracing different stances on key issues. You can twist those facts to say “the parties didn’t change at all” and still be moderately correct, but it is much more accurate to describe the changes honestly and leave the absolutist judgements aside or debate.

Twisting history and presenting half-truths to manipulate people is pretty human, it’s a technique called “rhetoric” which Aristotle wrote about along with Republics and Democracy, and this sort of rhetoric-based politics is clearly laid out in the Powell Memo and utilized by today’s media and politicians. It’s important to respect the hard-won battles the country fought, and the people who fought them, but its also important not to look for heroes and villains when discussing great men and women in a great country.

In most cases, the “switches” resulted from debates about how much power a President should have, how many rights particular people should have, taxation, “race,” North V. South, economic ideas, and what it means to live in a free country (i.e. the meaning of liberty). These aren’t new issues, and can be embraced in different ways by people of different ideologies, as they have been throughout all recorded history.

In all the switches and evolutions of planks and platforms, change was slow, and came with politicians (state and federal) and their constituents made gradual changes.

Figures like Jefferson, Lincoln, FDR, and Johnson tend to be considered “left.” While figures like Hamilton and Reagan are considered “right.” But as we note above, this is a complex subject and rather semantic (especially when we consider single issues instead of trying to paint a party with a broad brush). We can trace rough lines from the revolution to modern times, but it’s hard to compare current politicians with old ones in any overly-simple and still meaningful way. Thus, it is hard to sum up any “party switching” in a mere sentence (or even a long essay such as we have done).

You’ll hear half-truths like “Lincoln was a Republican,” or “Republicans freed the slaves,” or “Democrats fought against civil rights in the 60’s.” These statements are all true historically, but very unclear when said without detail in modern times. For instance, Lincoln and the Civil War Republicans represented the North, and some pro-South Democrats like Strom Thurmond fought against Civil Rights before becoming Republicans between 1964 – 1994. We know what these things mean when we think critically about the players, but they come across as dishonest in a rhetoric filled soundbite that is trying to appropriate politicians for parties they wouldn’t have been a part of ideologically.

This sort of stuff is political spin for marketing and ad campaigns. Don’t believe the hype. If you want to know what Lincoln thought, read what he wrote. He wasn’t a modern day Liberal, but he certainly wasn’t a modern day Conservative either. Calling Lincoln a modern day Republican is a little like crediting Reaganomics to Martin Luther King, but calling Lincoln a modern Democrat insinuates that he may have been a Clintonian (and I don’t think that is 100% correct either). King was a progressive Democrat fighting the conservative segregationist Democrats in the South, trying to ensure a progressive Democratic party. Lincoln was a conservative Whig and then Republican, trying to unite the country with Federal power and taxation. Reagan was a classic liberal who teamed up with conservatives to defeat the growing social liberal left. We can debate their character, and we can see aspects of left and right in the character of each, but there is something slightly off about any one party trying to appropriate any American hero in any era.

So, suffice to say, I see a switch, and I see the old Dixiecrat mentality as being with the modern Republicans, but I also respect the many valid counterpoints and value debate and unity over some need to appropriate a specific President and spark more division.

Democrat “Party Switch” Myth Debunked. People like to spin the idea of the parties switching as a myth; they have fair points, which is why these types of videos are featured here. I don’t buy it based on what I know about history. The change was gradual, but the parties switched platforms and planks over time. Given this, it’s fair to simplistically say, “the parties switched,” but more accurate to say, “the parties switched platforms and members.”

Final Thoughts

To end this, I’ll reaffirm, that there is always more than one way to look at one event. Was Lincoln like a modern Republican? I don’t think so personally, but my perspective on the matter doesn’t magically make him a modern Democrat. Likewise, are not aspects of Hamilton more Republican and aspects of Jefferson more modern Democrat, honestly, I could make a case for it. Perhaps the key to better understanding how things changed is to move away from labels, and move toward understanding we are one America who has no better ally in the world then our political opponents themselves. Did things change and evolve? Yes, certainly a Gilded Age politician is not the same as a Progressive Era politician. But, is this best summed up by “they changed platforms” or “they changed ideologies”? Lots of room for debate there. Who am I to tell someone how to read the facts? Or, as Montaigne said, “What do I know?” and “By diverse means we arrive at the same end”.

If we all agree on the general truths, that is enough for healthy debate.

Life is complex, but for all the grey areas, many truths regarding politics are ultimately black and white when you dig deep enough. We can trace a line from Athens to Rome, to the European enlightenment, to America’s founders, to today. Let’s get the facts straight so the next generation can do the same. We don’t agree on everything, but we all agree on life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness as ensured by the Republic, and that means a healthy respect for ethics, political history, and each other. For every frustrated American of one kind, there is an equal frustrated one of the other. We have a duty to each other and the next generations to work our stuff out and never let 1861 happen again. If that means sharing Lincoln and Jefferson, and Byrd and Johnson, then so be it.



Conclusion

The country has always been divided over issues of trade, the role of the federal government, and taxation, however social issues like race, religion, immigration, and more only divide the country in later years. The evolving political landscape led to some complex changes that can be simply explained by pointing to the Federalist and Anti-Federalists and then Civil War Reconstruction and Civil Rights, but are best examined in detail.

If we look only to compare a Federalist with a modern Democrat and an Anti-Federalist with a modern Republican (on purely ideological grounds) it is easy to see the similarities. However, when we have to trace a line between all parties in American history we have to account for the fact that the Federalist linage becomes the Third Party Republicans before becoming the modern day Democrats, and like-wise the Anti-Federalists are clearly the party of Jackson before they become the Republicans of today. These inconsistencies, which are seen best by looking at who the south votes for (but aren’t explained by that alone), require us to explain hundreds of years of party and platform evolution and that effect on the voter base.

Again, this can be explained by showing how the rift over collective rights vs. individual rights paired with growing progressivism created new alliances and shifting platforms, but it isn’t explained by this alone.

While the American political parties have evolved and changed over the years, the basic political parties (social liberal, liberal, conservative, and socialist) and the factions within parties (moderate, radical, pro-social justice, pro-business, etc) don’t change, this helps us to get a true sense of where any party or President stood at any given time. While the above essay clarifies the complex tale of the American political factions, each person has to ultimately interpret the facts and their meaning for themselves.

NOTE: Today every person holds a “mixed” ideology. Thus we likely relate to a wide spread of past ideologies, parties, and politicians. Politics is complex, understanding that the parties have changed helps us to remember that we need to vote on issues and the character of leaders, and not just on party name alone.


References

  1. Political Party Platforms of Parties Receiving Electoral Votes: 1840 – 2012
  2. The Presidents of the United States of America
  3. Political parties in the United States

Citations

  1. Why Did the Democratic and Republican Parties Switch Platforms?” Livescience.com
  2. The Magical Myth of the Switching Political Parties” Misfitpolitics.co
  3. Is it true that Democrats used to be the conservative party and Republicans used to be the progressive party?” Quora.com
  4. Ideological Realignment in Contemporary American Politics” UNC.edu
  5. History of the Democratic Party
  6. History of the Republican Party
  7. the Conservative coalition
  8. the New Deal coalition
  9. Southern Democrats
  10. modern American liberal
  11. The Twentieth-Century Reversal: How Did the Republican States Switch to the Democrats and Vice Versa?
  12. The Origins and Functions of Political Parties
  13. Value of Knowledge Reference Marxism
  14. Realigning elections in United States history
  15. Politics of the 1870s and 1880s
  16. Black Disaffection From the Republican Party During the Presidency of Herbert Hoover, 1928-1932
  17. THURMOND TO BOLT DEMOCRATS TODAY; South Carolinian Will Join G.O.P. and Aid Goldwater
  18. 105th United States Congress
  19. Jefferson and the Ordeal of Liberty
  20. The Founding Fathers, Religion, and God
  21. Whig and Tory” Wikipedia.org
  22. Know-Nothing Party” Wikipedia.org
  23. Martin Van Buren” Wikipedia.org
  24. Free Soil Party” Wikipedia.org
  25. African-American Civil Rights Movement (1865–95)
  26. Scalawags
  27. the Liberal Republican Party
  28. United States presidential election, 1872 results
  29. Stalwart (politics)
  30. Bull Moose Platform of 1912” presidency.UCSB.edu
  31. Neoconservatism” Wikipedia.org
  32. Neoliberalism” Wikipedia.org
  33. Presidential Party Building: Dwight D. Eisenhower to George W. Bush” books.Google.com
  34. The Federalist #10” Constitution.org
  35. Democratic-Republican Party” ic.Galegroup.com
  36. FEDERALIST PARTY” History.com
  37. Jacksonian Democrats: 1824–1860” Boundless.com
  38. Whig Party Platform of 1844” presidency.UCSB.edu
  39. Tariff of Abominations” Wikipedia.org


"Democrats and Republicans Switched Platforms" is tagged with: Abraham Lincoln, Alexander Hamilton, American Politics, Collective Intelligence, Fathers or Mothers of a Field, James Madison, Left–right Politics, Liberalism, Liberty, Thomas Jefferson, United States of America


Vote Fact or Myth: "Democrats and Republicans Switched Platforms"

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Sunny on

Thank you, Mr. DeMichele, for the time you took to write this, although I’d have liked to have seen sources other than Wiki or YT. I appreciate your attempt to come across as unbiased. Even the attempt at neutrality is sorely lacking in today’s “research” and consequent dialogue. I am perplexed over some of your claims and am interested to know if you have read the actual party platforms? This is a nicely done site, and I’d venture to say impeccable in respectability. Let me know what you think.

http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/platforms.php

Sincerely,
Sunny

Thomas DeMichele
Thomas DeMichele on

Great resource, and thanks for the kind words. I’ll check the link and re-read the page to see if I can spot improvements. The general idea of the site is that each page is a work in progress toward the end goal of truth.

Sunny on

Excellent. I’m in it for the same reason. You’ll find that the parties’ ideologies did not swap. I’ll send more as I have time to dig through my sources.

Thomas DeMichele
Thomas DeMichele on

I certainly think an argument can be made there. Perhaps it is more accurate to say planks and platforms changed more the ideologies.

On some level Democrats always push toward the left socially, and want taxes and regulations and power for the executive, while Republicans are right socially, favor limited taxes and regulations, and then want less power for the executive. I’ll think more on it, all input is welcome and will be considered.

Enzo on

http://blackrepublican.blogspot.com/2012/06/republicans-and-democrats-did-not.html

Sorry Mr DeMichele, but you are incorrect. It is widely known that the “Party Switch” is a myth that the Democrats have concocted in order to deflect the their own shameful history of anti-Civil-Rights actions on to Republicans. The whole concept of “parties/ideologies switched sides,” is simply a LIE.

Thomas DeMichele
Thomas DeMichele on

Thanks for the share. I’ll consider this more and make sure your viewpoint is represented and addressed.

My opinion without more research: When Strom leaves the Democrats though, that is happening for a reason. That reason looks a lot like Kennedy, LBJ, and Civil Rights (big government, but liberal policies). I mean, I agree, LBJ is a Dixicrat who probably makes a power grab of sorts with his sweeping legislation. I’m not saying he is completely altruistic or a shining example of why “the American left” is always right (they aren’t), but it did push the racist pro-south Democrats out of the Democratic party and into the big tent of the Republican party. This is what is meant by “shift”, it’s a shift of supporters and policies, not a “party shift” (dang semantics!).

We have a Lincoln Republican, then a Teddy Roosevelt Republican, then a FDR Democrat with the new deal, then Kennedy / LBJ Democrats, then Strom leaves the Democrats. This paints a complex picture, but I think we can state it correctly without sacrificing truth for reference frames.

Thomas DeMichele
Thomas DeMichele on

UPDATE: It seems clear that the Democrats remain pro-south for a long time after Lincoln. However, as now detailed above, the switch begins with Lincoln (with some issues) and then continues to Roosevelt’s and Kennedy / LBJ on Civil Rights, albeit way slower than comfortable. But, even if we don’t think the parties ever changed their core ideology we can see many types of switched. At least some of the major switches are detailed above.

GumBoocho on

This attempt to synthesize political history is as accurate as speaking of a president “Regan.” “‘Twas brillig & the slithy toves.” None or hardly any of the politicians until the 20th century, & late into it, approved of what goes by “liberalism” today, baby-murder & sodomy. Neither of the parties today is so conservative as to wish to revert to what was self-evident to most politicians in the 18th & 19th century. Both parties of today are for (what seemed to those politicians to be) outrageously big federal government. The Zeitgeist covering both modern parties is just alien to the older Zeitgeist. For example, neither old party believed in women running the government. The essay on this page is fantasy.

Gumboocho on

Moreover, the idea of huge federal government socialist entitlements whereby checks are cut to many persons in a regular basis on a federal feedbag, is totally alien until quite recent in American History. Lincoln must be rolling in his grave to hear that he believed in anything like socialism. Whoever wrote this piece just doesn’t know what he is talking about. (Neither would any of the original parties disapprove of using “he” for singular pronoun — neither would have approved of using they & them for singular. We live in a different world.

Thomas DeMichele
Thomas DeMichele on

I get your outlook. Some aspect of this is just us doing our best to draw a line from our founding fathers until today.

When we say Libertarianism we mean the political philosophy, not necessarily the exact system of spending and funding (which is Hamiltonian if anything, as it is credit and debt). If you look at our left-right chart, what we are saying is that we are breaking four quadrants of beliefs on the role of government into four ideologies and tracing those ideologies. We also say that each issue must be judged as left or right on it’s own merit. And like Slavery in the early days of America, not every issue today is always an issue then.

We are saying that Jefferson is Libertarian in governance style, not in a hands-on modern Reagan way, but in a hands-off Ron Paul the philosopher (with his right wing ideology removed) way. This is to make an analogy, not to speak of specific stances on specific issues.

Same for Lincoln, he is a modern liberal in that he expands government, uses federal power, and pushes for social justice. He is not a modern day Democrat in the extent to which there is spending and bureaucracy (that is something that starts in the 20th century, so that aspect is hard to compare to anything directly). We will continue to tweak the story line as we dig for deeper truths, but at this point it constantly refers back to each President, platform, and party as an example of where the factions of the parties were, at each general point in history.

When you look at those Civil-Service Whigs, or when you look at those Progressive Parties in the 1890’s and 1910’s, it’s hard not to see the roots of progressivism. Just like it is hard not to trace the voting record of the South, or to trace the Libertarian principles found in the Jefferson, Jackson, and then Bourbon Democrats.

So generally noting your skepticism and will try to ensure this gets so rock solid we are left only to argue about ideology, but generally think you are brining your bias into this instead of looking critically at what we are saying at each step.

To be clear, all sources and specifics are welcome. And general comments, dissenting or approving, are welcome as well.

Rebekah on

I am very impressed with your comment replies. Respectful and willing to learn more. Refreshing.

Thomas DeMichele
Thomas DeMichele on

I appreciate the compliment, the goal of the site is to do hard research that leads to useful truths and then crowd source the rest from thinkers of all viewpoints. I don’t think any one person can really fully filter through all history and their bias to present a perfect account of truth. Our goal is to create a breakdown of history that we can all generally agree on, and then update and add in dissenting opinions as needed.

That is the general goal of the site, but seems to be working alright on this page so far.

Melissa on

Great read… Unfortunately you fail to truly state the fact that the parties switched. Opinions of your research are not facts and your sources are from more opinions. Lincoln was most definently a right winger in today’s standards. Big government at that time was needed. Consideration is needed for what was going on during that era and why big government was important for the country at the time.

Melissa on

In addition you can’t suggest the parties switched when every individual holds some of each parties ideologies. Irresponsible journalism and research.

Thomas DeMichele
Thomas DeMichele on

Thank you for the feedback. I’ll continue to try to refine this into something that rings true and we can all agree on.

Certainly with a two party system it is hard to make a case for a clean switch. I think rather history shows that platforms changed, including key platforms revolving around social justice v. classical liberalism.

As for Lincoln, he has some right wing ideology (when we consider using authority, government, military, and taxes as “right-wing”), yet when it comes to social justice he is certainly on the left and not on the right with aristocracy and kings (look to classic conservatism vs. classical liberalism, for instance English Whigs Versus Tories, Lincoln is certainly a Whig). So Lincoln is right for his time on individual liberty (in favor of the collective and liberty for all not just states or oligarchs), but left for his time on social justice and executive power (in favor of the collective, even at the expense of limiting individual liberty).

Today modern American Libertarians push for individual liberty (but often put social justice in a back seat), while Democrats tend to favor social justice, trade, tax, and executive power (but often do so at the expense of individual liberty).

I’m trying to synthesize over 200 years of history, rooting thought in the philosophy of England and France which is liberalism in the Age of Enlightenment, and then trace that ideological line through parties and presidents. It isn’t easy, but keys include Lincoln, the Roosevelt’s, and LBJ (as noted above), this still to me paints a picture of changing platforms.

But, disagreement noted and i’ll have another look with this in mind.

Thomas DeMichele
Thomas DeMichele on

Also, make sure to check out the following pages to get a better understanding of what we are saying here. It is vital to understand the types of liberalism as well as the shifting platforms of Americas two parties.

http://factmyth.com/factoids/lincoln-was-a-republican/

http://factmyth.com/the-basic-types-of-political-parties/

Adam on

Curious about this: “By the time the progressive Democrats Kennedy and LBJ pass Civil rights, the last of the pro-south Democrats leave for the Republican party.”

What were the vote breakdowns in congress for the civil rights legislation in the 50s/60s?

Thomas DeMichele
Thomas DeMichele on

The vote totals for the 64′ vote show pretty clearly that Southern bloc is voting against Civil Rights: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Civil_Rights_Act_of_1964#Vote_totals

The original House version (Totals are in “Yea–Nay” format):

Southern Democrats: 7–87 (7–93%)
Southern Republicans: 0–10 (0–100%)
Northern Democrats: 145–9 (94–6%)
Northern Republicans: 138–24 (85–15%)
The Senate version:

Southern Democrats: 1–20 (5–95%) (only Ralph Yarborough of Texas voted in favor)
Southern Republicans: 0–1 (0–100%) (John Tower of Texas)
Northern Democrats: 45–1 (98–2%) (only Robert Byrd of West Virginia voted against)
Northern Republicans: 27–5 (84–16%)

The Civil Rights Act of 1957 Under Eisenhower (Republican) is strongly opposed by Strom Thurmond (the then Democrat). He conducted “the longest fillbuster ever” speaking for 24 hours and 18 minutes.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Civil_Rights_Act_of_1957

Here is the vote breakdown, the support is predominantly from Republicans and opposition mostly from Democrats in the South: https://www.govtrack.us/congress/votes/85-1957/s75

By the time we get to Nixon we can see that the country is changing: http://www.270towin.com/1968_Election/

With all that said, “the last of the pro-south Democrats leave for the Republican party” should probably be reworded to something more specific like “most of the pro-south Democrats leave for the Republican party, with many showing strong support for the far-right American Independent party”. Doesn’t have the same zing, but i’m seeing how the statement above is a bit oversimplified. Hope this helps.

Dr. Cj on

WOW! That is one of the best MYTHS I ever read.
You definitely failed to prove that the parties switched utilizing POOR resources and conjecture while failing to explain details. And your opinions of your research are NOT facts, the sources are from more opinions. So poor that they are not allowed on college papers which is SHOCKING why anyone would believe this myth.
Lincoln was most definitely what could be considered as a far right winger in today’s standards and not some liberal lunatic as you stated.
Dr. Cj

Thomas DeMichele
Thomas DeMichele on

Of course, the above is in turn your opinion backed by no facts what so ever (not EVEN easy to read Wikipedia links, like we provided for our reader).

I am happy to explore any claims made against our arguments, to fact check it against additional sources, to verify, and to revise it if it is wrong.

In fact, this is the goal of our site.

With that said, Lincoln (being of the line of Federalists and Whigs) is a right-winger of the times in terms of federal power and economics, and a left-winger in terms of social justice. We have the anti-feds then Democratic Republicans, and then Democrats who are the pro-south individual rights party born from Jefferson. So they are left, but over time (and especially in Lincoln’s era) that left becomes right as they get behind slavery like it was John Locke’s intention when he discussed the right to life, liberty, and property (he clearly didn’t mean owning other people, see chapters 4 and 5). http://www.earlymoderntexts.com/assets/pdfs/locke1689a.pdf

I really don’t see the logic behind not admitting the southern bloc switched parties in 64′, and did this because the parties changed platforms (largely over civil rights between 1860 and 1960), and this caused further changes as the bloc took their pro-south issues with them to first the American Independent Party and then to the Republican party of today.

I’m not sure what your stance is? Are you suggesting the party of Lincoln is today’s Republicans when it comes to the issues? Why, because Lincoln’s Republicans were pro-south and wanted to raise taxes and have more federal power? And the party of Jefferson somehow is the Democrats, because they were pro-north, and wanted individual liberty and small government regardless of costs? Literally the only thing the parties retained are their names and a few issues like immigration (the Federalists, Whigs, and Republicans were typically always harder on immigration, especially after the influx of catholics who became democrats).

See, this is a long discussion, but I can back up every point with historical data (for instance the voting records of each year http://www.270towin.com/historical-presidential-elections/, see how blue and red switch?) The links we choose to support are arguments aren’t the only place to find information, they are just easy to read. We have already presented an essay and all facts are checkable with a google search or a good book.

So, willing to support any view or revise that which we got wrong, but straight critique with no supporting arguments gives me nothing to go on.

Your opinion is noted. Next person who agrees with this, please explain your position.

Chris on

You must have accidentally left out LBJ’s most famous quote that was recorded on air force one while talking about his implementation of Social Programs.

“I’ll have those n*****s voting Democratic for the next 200 years” – LBJ

LBJ voted against anti-lynching laws, eliminating poll taxes and denying federal funding to segregated schools.

The Democrats just found a more acceptable approach to slavery, government programs.

Civil Rights Act
The House:
Democratic Party: 152–96 (61–39%)
Republican Party: 138–34 (80–20%)

The Senate :
Democratic Party: 46–21 (69–31%)
Republican Party: 27–6 (82–18%)

The Senate version, voted on by the House:

Democratic Party: 153–91 (63–37%)
Republican Party: 136–35 (80–20%)

So more Republicans supported the Civil Rights act than Dems.

You also must have forgot the Eisenhower in 57 that the Dems forced him to water down to get passed.

You say that the racist Dems jump ship after the Civil Rights act. So heres a list of Racists in the government at the time:

Notable Dixiecrats who remained Democratics after 1964:

Rep. John Rarick D-LA
Commissioner of Public Safety Bull Connor D-AL

Racist & Segregationist Democratic Party Governors:

Gov. Orval Faubus D-AR
Gov. Frank M. Dixon D-AL
Gov. Benjamin Travis Laney D-AR
Gov. William H. Murray D-OK
Gov. George Wallace D-AL
Gov. Lester Maddox D-GA
Gov. Fielding Wright D-MS

Racist & Segregationist Democratic Party Senators:

Sen. B. Everett Jordan D-NC
Sen. A. Willis Robertson D-V
Sen. Olin D. Johnston D-SC
Sen. Sam Ervin D-NC
Sen. J. Lister Hill D-AL
Sen. John C. Stennis D-MS
Sen. James Eastland D-MS
Sen. Allen J. Ellender D-LA
Sen. Russell B. Long D-LA
Sen. John Sparkman D-AL
Sen. John “Little” McClellan D-AR
Sen. Richard Russell, Jr. D-GA
Sen. Herman Talmadge D-GA
Sen. Robert Carlyle Byrd D-WV
Sen. Harry F. Byrd D-V
Sen. Al Gore, Sr. D-TN
Sen. Spessard Holland D-FL
Sen. Herbert S. Walters D-TN
Sen. George Smathers D-FL

Here is a list of all those that switched parties:

Gov. Mills E. Godwin, Jr. D-VA
Sen. Jesse Helms, Jr. D-NC
Sen. Strom Thurmond D-SC

Thomas DeMichele
Thomas DeMichele on

So, the Senate is a little less clear cut than everything else in the country, many Dixiecrats (like Byrd) never left the party, or left far after their voter-base did.

The Senate changes from 64′ to 68′, over civil rights 64′ and 68′ and voting rights 65′. However, many Dixiecrats stay until Clinton or until the end of their careers.

Not the start of Clinton… but the end of Clinton. By the time Bill was done being “a new Democrat” the Senate looks a lot like it does today.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/105th_United_States_Congress

As for the rest of issues important to people and that define the parties, by 64′ (Dixiecrats aside), the parties look a lot like the parties of today.

When MLK marched for Civil Rights he did so as a Democrat from the south.

If you want to see Dixiecrats embracing social programs as racist, that is opinion. On that issue i’ll direct you to our page where we discuss implications of the Second, the Three-Fifths, and the Thirteenth. http://factmyth.com/factoids/the-second-amendment-was-ratified-to-preserve-slavery/ Those important bits of legislation have implications, but I don’t think any can be boiled down to voting tactics alone (thus removing their human right aspects)… This discussion would make a good separate page (which I am now inspired to create), but it is not really a topic for this page.

Not going to argue your opinion, and will instead stick to the facts here. I will however note that pulling out some racist LBJ quote isn’t going to undo all of American history to somehow convince readers that the southern bloc votes Democrat here in 2016. The southern vote switched starting in 64, by Clinton’s presidency we can see the change take effect, exactly what that means is much more complex.

I’ll make sure these truths are clear for the reader. Thank you for the comment. But no matter how we play hot potato with the south, we know where the southern vote is today… with all that said, the single thing wrong with the south is the old slavery / segregation issue. That aside, we are all Americans with valid points, even when our answers are wrong from a historical perspective.

Danielle Everhart on

I find this extremely biased and inaccurate. I think you need to go see Hillary’s America where real historians have done research and come to the conclusion that Democrats were and have always been oppressive and racist.

Thomas DeMichele
Thomas DeMichele on

Thank you for your opinion, I didn’t know there was a movie on this?

The Democratic party of Jefferson and Madison looks different than the one of Jackson, than the one of Cleveland, than the one of Bryan, than the one of Wilson, than the one of FDR, than the one of LBJ, than the one of the Clintons. They start classic liberal, and become social liberal by “the progressive era”. I have seen the party platforms from history, looked at the elections, know the political theory their views are based on, read history books, and am aware of the single voter issues that explain the switches. I know the vote of the solid south. I also know the history of the Republicans from Hamilton, to Clay, to Lincoln, to the Gilded Age Presidents, to Teddy and his leaving to start the Progressive party, to Harding, to Eisenhower, to Nixon, to Reagan, to Bush, to Trump. And i’ve discussed this above.

When we put all this together, we see that the south and north switched what parties they supported. When we consider what demographic supported slavery and segregation, which supported anti-immigration, which stood against worker’s rights, which stood against LGBT, which stood with temperance, which stood with unions, and which stood with banks and finance, we can paint a clear picture.

I watched the trailer of the movie, I would happily go toe-to-toe with its writers and producers and argue American history point by point. The idea that somehow the south of the Civil War is different than the south of today makes little sense (party names aside), especially when you consider the battle is over state’s rights vs. collective rights (and largely also around debt and finance).

In this video, we see a far-right-wing viewpoint trying to pretend like the southern Democrats of the Civil War are somehow the pro-social justice social liberals of the 1900’s. They trace party name, but not party members, geographic location, and issues. The new deal faction of the Dems that grows out of immigrants, free silver, and the new deal are not the same as the old pro-slavery south, although they do occupy the same party for a long period of time)… but it is Lincoln who is the social liberal of the era, the first in many ways (note this source from the libertarian-right Mises Institute https://mises.org/library/despot-named-lincoln, this is the intellectual rebuttal rather than the one of pure propaganda).

Lincoln is pro north, uses federal power, creates free state college, the first income tax, and sends to north to war with the pro slavery south. This grows in to modern day social liberalism, especially in the progressive era when Taft, Teddy, and Wilson are all progressive. Teddy is largely the last progressive Republican (after he forms the progressive party the Republicans move right and the Democrats move left, minus the south). And it only makes sense, that many of those progressives who follow Teddy out of the Republican party gravitate to FDR and the Democrats.

Like Mises, you and the movie see this social liberalism and progressivism as oppressive. That is an opinion, and a valid one, but that progressivism starts with the Republicans and then is embraced by the Democrats as republicans move away from it.

Progressivism is largely of the spirit of Lincoln, Teddy, FDR, and LBJ (two Republicans and two Democrats). Meanwhile the nativist populist party of Jackson (a Democrat) and the Know Nothings is reflected by the modern day GOP.

The parties evolved and changed, and we have to look era by era, issue by issue, but the narrative in this video (that somehow the pro-slavery south is the northern progressives of today) is laughably wrong… The Republicans embraced those issues over time via the southern strategy and the general changing of the parties over the 1900’s.

Simply put, the pro-slavery south were state’s rights small government democrats who didn’t want to be indebted to the northern bankers who favored social liberalism, they stood alongside the individual rights Democrats (who especially in the north over Civil War become Lincoln Republicans).

The page above explains the shifts with historic accuracy. It is not enough to tell me they are inaccurate, I expect more. Tell me what points you think are wrong, and i’ll address them. Other commenters have done this, and it has helped. But it is the video you cite, and not my account of history, which is the truly bias one.

All that said, here is a link to the trailer of the move you mentioned. All fell free to watch this movie, take notes, and let me know where you think they are right and I am wrong. History is well documented, i’m secure in my position, and would be overjoyed to debate it. http://www.dineshdsouza.com/movies/hillarys-america/

77 on

Don’t believe everything Dinesh says. He is a fraud.

Bob on

I try to be open minded and view issues and presented “facts” from both sides. You said in the beginning in the first video that you present a balanced argument.
However, watching the first video I noticed biased video editing one that really stood out was when you were reporting on Bush talking about his popularity ratings with Americans while showing video footage of a Middle Eastern man throwing his shoe at Bush. There are other misleading clips that do not fit the narrative at those points in the video. I won’t list them all, I have a feeling you know where they are.
Then you go on to push the narrative that the parties switched when in fact there were only 3 politicians that actually “switched” parties. You can spin your opinions however you want but you cannot change the fact that only 3 people actually switched parties.
As far as social programs put in place by Democrats, I have to ask you to be fair and list the successful programs that are working for the black inner communities. Please show where even non-profit organizations for the betterment of black communities.
As far as racism is concerned, I do not believe either party is guilty. There has been so much change in regard to policies, moral beliefs etc that neither part is guilty. The issues facing minorities are all economic and NOT based on actual racism. Is there racism in the USA? Yes. But it doesn’t come from political parties, it comes from older generational up bringing.
I could go on for many paragraphs about the use of the “N” word and all the various meanings, who uses the word and why it has become “accepted” and acceptable by the younger generation of many ethnic backgrounds and colors. It is still a despicable word regardless.
Both parties in the years past and currently have not performed in the area of providing the economy to inner cities to generate good schools, good education and good jobs and good opportunities. Both parties have failed to rebuild the family unit in the inner city communities. It isn’t one party or the other, it is both parties that have ignored and destroyed these areas.
Your “Fact” based and “fair” is not fair, it is left sided and you know it. I despise writers that claim to be un- biased and then write a biased, misleading article. It is poor journalism written by someone that thinks they are un-biased completely unaware of how their own article is written, which makes them an idiot, or the writer is completely aware, which makes them a liar.
Since you are not aware, or at least that is what you said in another comment, that you have a competing view albeit some common facts, in Hillary’s America, then you are not very well informed and up to date on current opposing political views. Which would leave me to believe you only read and research information that fits your left sided view, not a balanced view.
Both parties are guilty of selling out to the highest bidder. This country needs Term Limits, political finance reform and lobbyist reform. Without these three things Washington is never going to be the government for the people again.

Thomas DeMichele
Thomas DeMichele on

Those are all good comments, let me clarify, we wrote the content, but didn’t produce the videos (those are curated as in hand picked from the internet based off of the videos that have been produced by others on the subject).

I’ll review the first one and see if it is perhaps to lopsided to take the lead.

As for the content, I will defend that.

I think we can make the case that both political parties (of any era) have both had aspects that we can call “racist”.

The solid south racism that created slavery and Jim Crow is one type, the aristocratic New York elitism is the type that creates Urban Ghettoes. I am “left” in that I consider both of these forms in opposition of my ideals, so I am classically liberally progressively left in terms of liberties and rights, but I am generally a conservative person and if I had a magic wand I’d bring back Hamilton, Washington, and Eisenhower before I brought back the Rooselvets, but that is personal opinion for perspective only.

I don’t actually care to favor either historical faction completely, and I don’t mean it to come across like that. However, today the Solid south is mostly voting with the Republicans, and before they used to be Democrats, and that is the big switch. That aside we have many little switches.

The solid south Democrats slowly migrated to the south between [mostly] the 60’s and 90’s… but most didn’t “change teams” most just ended their career in the 30 years and then the new wave of politicians took up a different banner.

The history of the US is pretty clear, so if you don’t like my version just dig out the history books.

You won’t find a legit source tell you that that the solid slavery south moved up north and now lives in Chicago, they still live in the south. That is a very general statement though.

Given all the switching that occurred our current situation is complex, and I don’t wish to overcomplicate it by telling you one side is amazing and the other is bad. This isn’t my takeaway. Rather we should look at factions. So something like this:

Neoliberal Democrats: Big business Democrats who favor the private market as a means to achieve social justice, tend to favor big government. Most like the old Tammany Hall Democrats and their Republican allies.

Populist Social-Liberal Democrats: Favor a less privatized version of social liberalism, social justice and environmental issues take precedence over free-market economics and big business. The progressives found in both parties; sometimes they vote Green today.

Neocon Republicans: Big business Republicans who favor the private market and traditional conservative values and aspects of free-market libertarian ideology. The most like the old Republicans who allied with the Tammany Hall Democrats.

Libertarian Republicans: Limited government classical liberals who tend to organize around right-wing ideology. The most like the old Democrats.

Modern Conservative Republicans: Conservatives who are voting only on modern conservative issues of religion, immigration, gun laws, etc. The most like the old solid south.

I’ll just end by saying we agree on the solution. Just don’t let your takeaway be that the south of yesterday is the north, NO

The social conservatives switched teams starting in the 60’s (the most accurate, but overly simple, statement).

Other things to consider is that the Bourbon Democrats are essentially libertarians, that Teddy is essentially a progressive and lost to the Bourbon Wilson, that Hoover went full anti-Commie right-wing, that FDR won a contested convention and the DNC hated him, and that generally each party has been factionalized. There was a point when the Democrats were Bryan, Wilson, and the Solid South in one party. In that era Teddy and the about-to-be anti-communists were in the other. Today Teddy and Bryan’s factions are teamed up with Wilsons and the Solid south and anti-communist nationalist religious vote is on the other. I mean, just look at the 2016 elections.

Feel free to ask any follow up questions.

Me on

Nice tspdance, but they.NEVER seit hed platforms

Thomas DeMichele
Thomas DeMichele on

It think you said “nice tap-dance, but they never switched platforms”. So you’d attest to points like:

1. The party system naming has nothing to do with changing parties. Third Party Democrats and Sixth Party are the same?
2. The ideology of an anti-federalist is the same as a 2016 Democrat, and a Federalist the same as a 2016 Republican.
3. Jackson and Obama share more ideology than Obama and Lincoln.
4. That the red and blue switches on this map http://www.270towin.com/historical-presidential-elections/ are explained by something other than parties switching planks and members.
5. The rise of social liberalism in the late 1800’s and 1900’s had no effect on American politics, and FDR was being a state’s rights classic liberal when he embraced the New Deal.
etc…

Call me out on any point and i’ll debate it happily. I would say that none of the claims I made above are accurate and each can be debated with little more than party platforms, policies passed, voting records, and other official documents.

We must stop this allegiance to party name alone. I look at Lincoln and Teddy and I see heroes, I feel the same way about Jefferson, Madison, FDR, and Eisenhower. I get wanting to disown the south during the civil war era, but party names aside… they were “the south” and today are still “the south”. That doesn’t change. They used to be Democrats, post 64′ they start becoming Republicans. Again, we have the map and the voting records to check here: http://www.270towin.com/historical-presidential-elections/

The southern vote aside, we have a lot of other single issue voter issues to account for in the story. We also need to look at immigration, banking, collective rights, individual rights, religious vote, worker rights, etc. Not only did the parties change, they changed in complex ways that don’t just center around Civil Rights.

Richard Sentner, Jr. on

In 1984, the two major political parties switched labels and almost nobody noticed. This is a clear indication of how closely aligned the two parties are. One person who noticed is Thomas Ferguson, the main architect of the Investment Theory of Politics. This theory holds that in order to know where candidates really stand you have to track their funding sources. This is what Ferguson has been doing going back to this country’s beginning. The Republican Party had been known as the party of fiscal conservatism and the Democratic Party as the part of Keynesian growth. Following the money trail, Ferguson discovered the labels had switched. The financial corporations, concerned about deficits, were giving more money to the Democrats and the “Defense” and computer industries, recipients of the Pentagon system, were now supporting the GOP. 1984 was the year Ronald Reagan was running for re-election as president following his massive expansion of the Pentagon budget. It was now the Democrats who were screaming about balanced budgets. It was rather remarkable that so few people noticed the change with virtually no media coverage of it. Even today, when I bring it up, I get very incredulous looks. None of this should surprise us given how the two parties have moved closer and closer to each other, with the Democrats having forsaken their defense of the poor and working class (See Thomas Franks book, “Listen Liberal”), the pronouncements at this year’s Democratic Convention to the contrary not withstanding.

Thomas DeMichele
Thomas DeMichele on

Great insight! I’ll have to research this and see if I can weave it into the story without creating too long of a page. It may simply be something we address on another page as well. Very interesting perspective.

Dave on

Wow, had ever an article got so many things wrong. The Democrats are still the party of racism and slavery.

Thomas DeMichele
Thomas DeMichele on

Minus the theory that social welfare is racist, the Republicans are easier to equate with this today in sentiment, no?… I mean, your theory is, Fox News and Right-wing Talk Radio are pro-minority and NBC Rachel Maddow is an ol’ boy racist. This theory is really stretching it, ignoring geographic location, and generally ignoring everything except the history of the southern vote and the Democrats… before it switched pretty fully in the mid-90’s….

Consider GOP strategists who say stuff like:

“Republican candidates often have prospered by ignoring black voters and even by exploiting racial tensions,” and, “by the ’70s and into the ’80s and ’90s, the Democratic Party solidified its gains in the African-American community, and we Republicans did not effectively reach out. Some Republicans gave up on winning the African-American vote, looking the other way or trying to benefit politically from racial polarization. I am here today as the Republican chairman to tell you we were wrong.” http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/07/13/AR2005071302342.html

Can you really use the social programs progressives fought for for the past 100 plus years to paint the modern Democrats as racist? Is that fair? They often fought against the Dixiecrats to get these. The Dixiecrats didn’t like Kennedy, but the progressive Democrats loved him… they were in the same tent, but it doesn’t make them the same person (i’m sure a modern Republican can relate!).

Today most of the Dixiecrat ideology is in the Republican tent, at least when we consider outward rhetoric. If behind the scenes they plot, well, it is hard to prove, but your theory has been noted.

Anyway, America is not a single issue country. So put aside Dixiecrat segregation, and do we (that aside) agree that the rest of the issues swapped? That will at least leave us arguing over this one point.

Sam Imam-Eli on

The only thing that truly “switched” was that Democrats usurped the Republican platform. Because Republicans were not the con-artists that the Democrats were (look at all the historical record of Democratic wrangling to obtain votes as one small example), they didn’t cry foul. Now Democrats have sold the great scam on just about everyone to include unfortunate blacks who have suffered more under the Obama administration than any other modern president.

Thomas DeMichele
Thomas DeMichele on

But Trump is essentially a nativist populist like Wallace while the Clinton’s are pro-banker, pro central power, pro north, pro worker, pro lgbt, pro social program, etc. So based on platform alone I disagree with this. I will however entertain the idea that some of those southern democrats bit their lip and continued on benefiting from social liberalism. But no, if we look to Bryan and free silver, then to the progressives under Teddy (who leave with Teddy for the progressive party), then at FDR, and then at MLK and LBJ, and finally at the New Democrats like Clinton and Obama, I really have to disagree with your theory.

The state’s rights libertarian party of Goldwater is a big clue that shifts do occur at this period. The rest is explained by the southern strategy.

But we know this is a disagreement, and that is OK, looks like this page will help clear it up as we point and counterpoint.

If we look from strictly 1776 to say 1912 when Teddy splits, then we still have to consider switches to explain the switching of issues between major parties. We have to be careful not to try to pin the whole thing on the post 64′ era. That isn’t what this page is saying.

MichaelC on

What percentage of pro segregation Democrats switched parties? The answer is 1%. The “Dixiecrat” myth is strong with you.

Thomas DeMichele
Thomas DeMichele on

Yeah, they didn’t need to “switch parties” for the most part because the simply phased out from the 60’s-90’s. The new generation of politicians simply ran under a different party name.

The member switches (both officials and voters), ideology switches, platforms switches, etc don’t all happen at the same time.

The Democrat’s voter base and stance on key issues started switched long before the officials left. The officials were the last thing to change.

One easy way to realize i’m right is to think about this “Which party supports the south today? Which party supports the rebel flag? Which party sometimes wishes they could split away from the Northern liberals and bankers? Which party says states’ rights?” If the answer is to you “the Republicans”, then you should take another look at what I have to say.

AND REALLY REALLY, do listen to Lee Atwater explain this whole thing. https://www.thenation.com/article/exclusive-lee-atwaters-infamous-1981-interview-southern-strategy/

Mark on

This is how history gets rewritten! The democratic party has not changed. They simply adapted. The plantation is still alive and well.

Thomas DeMichele
Thomas DeMichele on

On the issue of segregation alone (formally popular sovereignty and slavery), AKA how white southerners treat black Americans, the Democrats are guilty for most of American history. Since the 1900’s the progressives have been in the Democratic party for the most part. And since Wilson and Harding, Coolidge, and Hoover the Democrats have favored northern banks and big government more than the Republicans.

So there are different factions and way more platforms than just segregation swapped places.

Today the south votes Republican and North votes democrat. Pretty much a fact we can’t argue. http://www.270towin.com/historical-presidential-elections/

Now, did southern Dixiecrats stay with the Democrats and push on with an anti-black agenda, expanding welfare, supporting BLM, housing MLK, electing President Obama, but secretly being racist?

Maybe, just maybe, but that has certainly become less true over time, and even if it was true the progressive wing of the Democrats has been at the throat of the Dixiecrats since before Kennedy. It is really hard to swallow your theory today when we look at all the R’s next to the names of southern bloc repersentives today and look at the voting record.

I am starting to get that you guys really want to draw a line from Dixiecrats, to social justice, to slavery, but I think you are confusing the progressive wing of the Democratic party which essentially dominated the party during the 1900’s and especially today with the southern segregationist who has dwindled, as Republicans shifted right over the years.

Yet, as i’ve noted above, its likely the Democrats still have Dixiecrats in their ranks while Republicans still have those great Half-Breed post-Lincoln and Teddy Republicans in their ranks. I’m not trying to deny stragglers or the history of the party, the point of the page isn’t segregation alone, it is the shifting of platforms over time… which did happen as a matter of record.

Bob on

Why is so much of your argument based on 1 man, Strom Thurmond switching parties? Democrat Governor George Wallace who symbolically stood in the college doorway to keep segregated schools was a Democrat until he died. Democrat Senator and former KKK leader Robert Byrd was a Democrat until death. Al Gore Sr was a segregationist Democrat until death. William Fulbright, a Democrat segregationist idolized by Hillary Clinton was a Democrat until death. The vast majority of racist Democrat/Dixiecrat governors and senators never switched parties, but you repeatedly build your argument of the switch on 1 person named Strom? I find that argument unconvincing.

Thomas DeMichele
Thomas DeMichele on

This is a good point. We use Strom to represent the change that can be seen to start in 64′, develop over the Reagan era, and then solidify in the 90’s.

As can be seen on this year-by-year voting map. http://www.270towin.com/historical-presidential-elections/

Wallace had a brief stint in the American independent party in 68′, but otherwise stayed with the Democrats continuing a trend of a progressive Democratic party with southern seats and representation in Congress which had continued since the early 1900’s.

By 1972 we get Shirley Chisholm (a black progressive woman https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_Wallace#Segregation) and George Wallace (the segregationist) running for President via the Democratic Party in the same race. Wallace once said, “The President (John F. Kennedy) wants us to surrender this state to Martin Luther King and his group of pro-communists who have instituted these demonstrations.”

Jack Newfield wrote in 1971 that Wallace “recently has been sounding like William Jennings Bryan as he attacked concentrated wealth in his speeches”. Newfield, Jack (1971-07-19). “A Populist Manifesto: The Making of a New Majority”. New York. pp. 39–46. Retrieved 6 January 2015.

Strom and Wallace and Byrd are easy to cite and talk about as they were popular figures who were well recorded. William Fulbright is of that ilk (anti-Kennedy, but a Democrat) and I’m sure we can pick more and have a similar conversation of each.

Still, today, Alabama is for the Republicans and not Democrats, so the sometimes Democrat Wallace’s Alabama did undergo some change since then.

In a way, aspects of Trump mirror Wallace, a populist liberal in some ways, a social conservative in others. He isn’t my cup of tea, but we certainly do need to explain why he is running as Democrat in the 70’s. 100% agree on this.

I’ll try to make that 64′-94′ argument more clear by denoting the Dixiecrats who stay with the party more clearly. The overarching point is that today and since the 90’s many platforms have historically switched (south included), but prior to 64′-94′ the switches don’t fully include southern interests (despite the southern strategy) and just include most other issues related to collective rights vs. individual rights. The state’s rights focused issues were in Lincoln’s time with the Democrats and are today with the Republicans. In Lincoln’s time the south voted blue, today the south tends toward red.

But as you say, trying to paint 64′ as a neat and pretty switch is, I think, the mythology of the modern Democrat who wants us to forget Byrd’s career and Wallace as a Democrat. The more I research, the more this seems true.

That said, I think the idea that the Democrats of 1864 are the Democrats of today is Republican mythology.

You can see how these two viewpoints bump heads when we don’t clearly explain the behavior of Dixiecrats who stay with the party longer than Democrats will admit (in some cases forever).

We also get confused when we treat southern racist policy as the only American issue. We are also discussing geographic location, banks, government size, debt and credit, immigration, taxation, religious issues, etc. These platform shifts are all complex, but some are less emotional and recent than segregation and the Dixiecrats.

The logical take-away is that while some of today’s Democrats are likely Dixiecrats (reformed or not), the southern bloc has clearly switched what party they prefer (especially when we count the voter and not the Senator or Governor).

This means, in a fair statement, at the very least both parties contain the remnants of the southern segregationist and, while I’d argue the big government pro bank faction as always been in the north, today (because of the evolution) it would only make sense that we have Republicans who are still pro-banker and pro-central power.

Maybe we would say something like Neo-cons and Neo-liberals are the pro-banker and pro-government of each party, the progressives and libertarians represent the individual and collective rights crowd. The lefty organizing progressive protester has typically favored the Democrats since Bryan and then FDR (see “the New Deal”), but their bedfellows were the south for years. The single issue right-wing voter (pro-religion and anti-immigration) is in part of the Republican tent today, but pro-religion (temperance and prohibition) was a left-right third party for much of American history…

…And somewhere in that Democrat tent are the Dixiecrats who never left. I want to be honest about the evolution, and I can see it there in the voting record. The the effort is in no way to disown the truth of history, so with that in mind i’ll rework the page a bit to make sure your point is clear and my isn’t skirting this truth.

Good comments, think we are getting closer to the truth with every smart rebuttal.

Troy Martin on

“Meanwhile, the Republicans of Lincoln’s time roughly held the beliefs of their predecessors the Federalists and Whigs, and also of today’s modern Progressives and Democrats (pro-north, strong federal government, pro-banking, more taxes, and collective rights over individual rights).”

Wow, you haven’t read “The Federalist Papers”, have you?

Thomas DeMichele
Thomas DeMichele on

The Federalist papers by Jay, Hamilton, and Madison? I have actually. They are classic liberal whig-like conservative views mostly. The anti-federalists in the south, like Jefferson opposed them generally. For the time, the Federalists wanted a stronger central power (a federation of states) while the anti-federalists wanted to maintain the confederacy. So for the time, Federalists were pro-north, strong federal government, pro-banking, more taxes, and collective rights over individual rights, compared to today both parties are classic liberals and we need to introduce the term social liberalism (which largely starts with Lincoln) to explain the evolution of the Republican party from there. Today the Democrats are the social liberals.

Guenter Falz on

My 5 cents: I live in Texas, where white Republicans, many of them my personal friends, are still using the “N” word more often than not. Or they call some male adults “boy” — guess what color of the skin the “boys” have. I haven’t heard any of this from people I know are Democrats. That may sound too simplified, but KISS — Keep It Simple Stupid — supports ideas best. Based on my 18 years of living in Texas as a German born proud American citizen, the reality of the Party Switch cannot be documented any better, but of course not only.

Todd on

While that perhaps is the experience you have had in Texas, I have had the opposite (with Democrats being exactly as they were pre-Johnson) experience in rural Kansas, Idaho, Wyoming and many other places. If you really want to see racism and its ugliest side, most European nations are extreme. Germany continues to be one of the racist nations I have perhaps ever been in, though South Africa and many other African nations were amazingly prejudice, many times predominately black nations were prejudiced against different segments of society rather than race, for the worst example I have seen on that type of prejudice is evident in the caste system in India.

Just some experiences I have had, not conclusive by any study.

Todd

Thomas DeMichele
Thomas DeMichele on

Interesting point of view. I think the simple answer is that both the left and right deal with forms of social conservatism (it isn’t limited to one party or political ideology). Human nature is dualistic. It is difficult to see when a side takes an extreme stance like the 44′ States’ Rights party or say the Germans under Hitler, but its probably a mistake to any that any single ideology, group, or movement is filled with saints and good intentions.

Ray Thibault on

I voted “fact”, but it certainly is a murky/nebulous subject. Papers such as this, written by people such as yourself (with no seeming agenda and with a sincere and open desire to enhance knowledge) help to make a great society. I enjoyed your treatise, and the comments were great – especially appreciating your nonemotional and reasoned replies.

Thomas DeMichele
Thomas DeMichele on

Thank you, i’m glad my intentions are coming off as they are. And I agree, it is murky/nebulous. The more I get to what I feel like is the core truth, the more I realize that there is more than one way to interpret it. Very much appreciate the feedback, for or against.

mike on

Biggest load of crap I’ve ever read. Typical whitewashing attempt by liberals trying to hide their racist roots

Crudo Unveils a Political Magic Trick!

I have traversed many lands in hopes of enlightenment, and have met many scholars on my quest. They speak of the olden days of slavery and the horrors that came with it. With great pride they praise the Civil Rights movement in the ye old United States where the North were valiant knights and the South were dirty racist Republicans. Conflicted but confident, I raise my hand and query:

“Were not, the Republicans founded for the abolition of slavery?”

The scholar with his slicked back hair glances down at his Malcolm X wrist watch, grinds his teeth and says, “Perhaps it be so, but the Republicans and Democrats switched places long ago.” Then without skipping a breath, he goes on with his strange rhyming lesson, for a fact like this is a flawless declaration.

Except that it’s bullsh*t.

Minus some minor exaggerations and the medieval overture, this is a true story from my college American History class. I swear, my radical Marxist professor actually had a Malcolm X wrist-watch. I’m not creative enough to come up with something that bizarrely funny.

Malcolm X Wristwatch

We hear this party-switching myth so often, but nobody ever has a clear point or example in history for where it occurs. Ever since the birth of the Republican party in 1854, Republicans were strong supporters of abolition. Meanwhile, Democrats had KKK members in Congress, and Al Gore’s father not only voted against the Civil Rights Act of 1964, but gave quite a lengthy filibuster. Republicans championed the Constitutional amendments ending slavery, giving African-Americans the right to vote, as well as securing that right. Civil Rights legislation as well as anti-lynching laws, and anti-poll taxes were pushed through by Republicans to ensure this, while Democrats fought them tooth and nail.

The closest I’ve gotten to an answer, in regards to the switch, was the Civil Rights “hero” Lyndon B. Johnson championing the “bi-partisan support” of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. I used quotations because I’m being incredibly sarcastic.

LBJ

“These Negroes, they’re getting pretty uppity these days and that’s a problem for us since they’ve got something now they never had before, the political pull to back up their uppityness. Now we’ve got to do something about this, we’ve got to give them a little something, just enough to quiet them down, not enough to make a difference. For if we don’t move at all, then their allies will line up against us and there’ll be no way of stopping them, we’ll lose the filibuster and there’ll be no way of putting a brake on all sorts of wild legislation. It’ll be Reconstruction all over again.”-LBJ

Shockingly, I didn’t learn this in any of my American history classes. In middle school, we spent half a semester learning about Japanese culture and coloring electoral college maps with my teacher telling us how awesome John Kerry was.

Me learning American History

Then in college we spent half a semester on Hiroshima and discussed how racist the founding fathers, Joe McCarthy, Ronald Reagan, and George W. Bush were. We spent a week on the Magic Bullet theory and glossed over most of recent history to focus on Hurricane Katrina.

I really wish I was joking.

But I digress.

Once African-Americans were free of slavery and had legitimate voting power, (both thanks to Republicans) then and only then were Democrats forced into supporting Civil Rights legislation. It was all a charade for votes. Beyond this point, what significant events happened that showcased any sort of structural attitude change in either party? Not to mention, last I checked, the front runner in the 2012 Republican Primary, Herman Cain, is an African-American loved by many Conservatives. (Even despite his sideways twinkles controversy!)

Even to this day, the most inflammatory, offensive, racist comments come from the Left and are usually directed at the Right. Al Sharpton is busy debating whether Herman Cain is “authentically black” while Cornel West want’s Cain to get off the “symbolic crack-pipe”. Yet, somehow, we’re hiding our deep rooted racism because we support an African-American in some sort of twisted reverse psychology (according to Janeane Garofalo).

Even more ridiculous, we’re accused of hating Barack Obama just because he’s black. They say that our goal is just to “get a black man out of the white house” and our opposition apparently has nothing to do with his policies. Humoring that insane notion for just a moment, how is it that we accomplish this racist goal by supporting Herman Cain? I mean, in a Leftie’s mind, Conservatives/Republicans can somehow be both diabolically sinister and absolute morons at the same time, but even they should see that this would make no sense.

Evil Dumb Bush

Misrepresentation and misinformation has brought us ignorant Lefties and KKK members alike who think the Democratic Party are the warriors of Civil Rights while the Republicans are the party of racism. Despite most evidence pointing in the opposite direction for both sides, this has become a common belief among the masses. This somehow results in this party-switching myth, which seems like a really lame cop-out excuse for Lefties to use akin to “My dog ate my homework.” (Although, I guess a more apt metaphor would be “My dog ate my civil rights bill.”)

I guess it’s true that if you repeat a lie enough times, that it’ll eventually become truth…and that certainly seems to be the case here. Using that logic and judging by my own personal experience, I suppose it’s only a matter of time until Misfit Tots are learning that George Washington won the Hiroshima war in a kimono.

Thomas DeMichele
Thomas DeMichele on

Thank you for the thoughtful rebuttal, Obviously as the author I disagree and feel a bit like you didn’t follow the whole argument. Specifically, the idea that the social conservatives from the South are still the social conservatives from the south, but are now voting for a different party after the battle over Communism starting with Hoover (again see his Lily White Strategy). Also, what of Teddy and his progressive party leaving in 1912? Why would a progressive Republican leave? What of Eisenhower complaining of his party shifting to the right in the 50’s? Also, What of Strom? and Why did Wallace feel the need to leave and create his own party? Why did good ol’ Joe McCarthy switch from Democrat to Republican? The states’ rights movement of the mid-40’s clearly resurges as Goldwater’s states’ rights party, and is did Goldwater not spark the resurgence of the American conservative political movement in the 1960s? What of the southern strategy? What of the Lee Atwater interview that is posted above where he backs up my point, but not yours?

I again think people are mistaking economically liberal and authoritatively conservative pro-trade northern prejudice (the kind that say creates a Ghetto in Chicago or New York, but isn’t directly prejudice) with the Ol’ boy racism of the south (the kind that created literal slavery).

For my money I have a bone to pick with both groups, but it is very hard to justify standing against Civil Rights in the name of States’ rights in my book, thus I perhaps have the biggest bone to pick with the states’ rights southern democrats of old and the states’ rights southern republicans of new… on Civil Rights at least. On economics and the large range of other issues my views are as nuanced as the constant changes in the political parties (as it isn’t just Civil Rights stances and related factions that switch teams).

Let us also not forget, Albert Gore Sr. and LBJ refused to sign the Southern manifesto. Both had a spotty record, and far be it from me to go supporting Dixicrats (I try to remain centered for the reader, but trust me, I have my own opinions). So Gore filibustered the 64′ Civil Rights, but he support the Voter Rights Act a year later… That counts for something given the options. If you want a Civil Rights hero look to MLK, not his Dixicrat allies. Just like today, if you want a progressive hero look toward Bernie Sanders, not some neoliberal elitist banker… sure, they are kind of in the same party, but not really. You know?

I have a hard time believing Obama and Biden are the true southern racists and are knowingly selling out America while the proud pro-civil rights Fox News watching southerner fights for the sick, tired, and poor minorities. I mean, lets just look at The Affordable Care Act, it is today’s red state that rejects Medicaid expansion, and the numbers say this is essentially depriving poor minorities of healthcare (http://kff.org/disparities-policy/issue-brief/health-coverage-by-race-and-ethnicity-the-potential-impact-of-the-affordable-care-act/).

I could go on, i’m sure you could too, but what we shouldn’t do is underestimate each other’s perspective. I see where you are coming from, and all i’ll ask is that you do the same. If we can come to agree on the facts, we may be surprised to see what else we agree on.

James on

Lots of strawman and logical fallacies in your opinion piece. Republicans have always been the party for individual rights; how that was accomplished may have changed (by having to create national laws during Lincoln’s time with a very small federal government) to the civil rights votes … if you actually look at the reasons for the Republican nay votes, you will see they opposed the government intervention into personal lives, while the Democrats strongly opposed allowing minorities the same individual rights as everyone else. The Democrats lost their plantations so have shifted the “plantation” to “government” and dependency. Before social programs, black marriage rates actually were higher than whites, and there were less black children born out of wedlock than there was white children. Also, look at the social programs the Democrats “champion” … planned parenthood, whose originators believed that negros were lesser people and that PP would assist with ethnic cleansing. Then look at what LBJ’S policies did to the black family… you could get as much assistance as you want … as long as there was no father in the household … and with that, you clearly dismissed Mike’s comments about LBJ and his clear pandering to minorities to secure their vote.

With each new “progressive” law … Obama care being a major one … it not only takes away from small business, it also takes away individual freedom and reliance. Labor participation (a much better indicator than the massaged unemployment rate) has steadily declined with the addition of each new social program … welfare, Medicaid, snap, and others.

The fact is that Democrats have simply shifted the plantation from a physical location to a dependence on the government by fooling it’s voter base. If you ask someone on the street which party started the KKK or filibustered the civil rights act, you will most likely hear “”republican” … even though that’s clearly wrong.

Also, you may want to check your info regarding MLK being a Democrat, he was a registered Republican, or you can always ask his family members … who all state he was Republican as well. You can also look at what Malcolm X said of the “white liberal” .. it is as true today as it was in the 60’s.

Thomas DeMichele
Thomas DeMichele on

Good feedback. Again though, and this might just be perspective, but I’ve always seen the Anti-Federalists, Democratic-Republicans, Third Party Democrats as favoring small government. What is popular sovereignty if not a call for the brand of Federalism that puts state power before federal power?

The Democrats of old were small government populists (both progressive radical and nativist radical). Today that is Republicans.

Again, I think we are confusing northern economic policies, which often are OK with a stronger federal government and things like a Federal reserve central banking system (which the Federalists and Whigs and third party Republicans wanted) with the social conservative small government south.

Again, we can paint either party as having polices that are detrimental to non-upper-class-white-males, and specifically to black Americans, but the ideology behind those polices is pretty clear each step of the way.

Our argument is that those Virginia Anti-Federalists are small government, those Civil War Democrats are small government, and then between Bryan, the Roosevelt’s, and the Red scare that shifts.

I think you make valid points, and all the switching has certainly mixed up who is on what side, but the small government vs. big government ideology has been a consistent divide that we can track, and that ideology switched from Democrat to Republican between 1865 – 1965 (and then to 1996).

To be clear, the southern Democrats are the root of Jim Crow laws, the KKK, and were the ones who filibustered Civil Rights (the southern manifesto is clear enough without looking at each voting record, but this should be done too). So while the average joe on the street might mistakenly assume the southern conservatives of the first half of the 1900’s were Republicans, they would be wrong (but I’d say their confusion is rooted in the switch, as that is true today).

The clearest proof of all the above is simply geographic location of voters who support each party over time. I don’t think we can really argue that that doesn’t switch. We need only look at the voter map and party platforms (http://www.270towin.com/historical-presidential-elections/ and http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/platforms.php).

Yet… We should not divide over our past and should instead look forward together. As I said, if we are both arguing that we care about black America and general Americanism, then our main disagreement is over how to address issues (and not over whether an issue needs addressing). That is good!

No one is without blame, and it is a mistake to see the solid south as bad yesterday or today. The individual rights stance is prickly, but I refuse to believe the thinking process of large portion of my fellow Americans is without some logic or merit.

Let me present you with a favorite Jefferson (Anti-Federalist progressive social left-y for natural and individual rights slave owner from Virginia) quote:

“Men by their constitutions are naturally divided into two parties: 1. Those who fear and distrust the people, and wish to draw all powers from them into the hands of the higher classes. 2. Those who identify themselves with the people, have confidence in them, cherish and consider them as the most honest and safe, although not the most wise depositary of the public interests. In every country, these two parties exist, and in every one where they are free to think, speak, and write, they will declare themselves. Call them, therefore, Liberals and Serviles, Jacobins and Ultras, Whigs and Tories, Republicans and Federalists, Aristocrats and Democrats, or by whatever name you please, they are the same parties still and pursue the same object. The last one of Aristocrats and Democrats is the true one expressing the essence of all.” —Thomas Jefferson to Henry Lee, 1824. ME 16:73 (see this page for more on that quote and the parties http://factmyth.com/the-basic-types-of-political-parties/)

Here, he is not denoting splits between just left and right ideologies, but simply denoting splits between two like either left or right ideologies. He says, essentially, even though we see the same problem, we are naturally split over a solution.

The Gilded Age and Progressive age greatly confused the conversation, but the basic divides still split us and we can trace where that ideology has been favored. We will always seen it is the South who tends toward individual rights and classical liberalism / Democracy as a form of government and the north that tends toward aristocrats / Republicanism (banks, federal power, and general order, including now subsidization, taxation, regulation). This is the difference between a radical classical liberal and a conservative whig-like pro trade classical liberal. Those are America’s Federalists and Anti-Federalists, we simply need to trace their evolution… when we do, we find the story we presented above (although, I admit we can see it from different perspectives).

I would lastly just urge all readers to remember, the issue that started with indentured servitude and slavery (which Locke stood against), then became states’ rights, then today became this divisive conversation, is only one small aspect of the American debate. Don’t rule out corporations, central banks, and the size of government as more central issues. Heck, just the debate over silver backed and gold backed money dominated our conversation for years, as did Communism, all while Civil Rights often took a back seat. At other times, we all agreed on bad ideas as a majority, like Prohibition.

In summary, I still stand by the idea that switching happened and urge us not to only look at how this relates to Dixiecrats and black America. Even during the Civil War the South consisted of social conservatives and radical social progressives (they just favored individual rights over outlawing slavery). Some of both factions stayed with the Democrats for sure, but under Bryan and after Hoover many of the progressive Republicans and what today we call neoliberals migrated to the less Anti-government and Anti-Communism party of the post-Hoover Republicans.

Anyway, like I said, all good and valid comments. Hope to see more counterpoints.

MrApple on

Democrats desperately trying to distance themselves from their past.

Thomas DeMichele
Thomas DeMichele on

Neither party can fully distance themselves from either party given the way history worked out (with so many platform shifts and such).

Just remember, today the Republican party has its “red states” in the south, in the same states that formed the Confederacy, the same states in which slavery was an institution, and the in the same states where the Jim Crow laws got the most support in the early 1900’s. Also, the same states annoyed with the New Yorkers and rail road tycoons, and who were pro silver and farmer and such, those southern states wanted to keep America the way it was, and the wanted a fair shake for the rural farmer…

The history is complex, but it is a little short sighted to see the Democrats of today as the party of the deep Confederate south. There is a line to be traced between the southern progressives (who didn’t care for social conservatism regarding slavery) and today’s modern Democrat, and some lines can be traded for Dixiecrats, but generally we are talking about nearly every platform switching parties over time as factions and members shift.

The geographic evidence is a big clue. All we are really saying is that the southern social conservative is still the southern social conservative and the modernization northerner is still a northerner. But we can’t look at segregation alone, the Red Scare and then FDR actually tells a big part of the story and that is a story of the 1920’s forward.

Remember changes were happening as late as the 60’s, 80’s, and even 2000’s. So we can’t oversimplify this… but we also can’t just all appropriate Lincoln either. There was a war fought over an ideological divide that still exists in part today. To put that behind us in a respectful way we need to come to terms with some facts.

If you don’t agree with our narrative you can always just read the WikiPedia page:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_the_United_States_Democratic_Party

I’m open to all feedback, but little quips aren’t really helping either side.

77 on

It’s really the history of the South. All the crime was committed by white southerners in the South.

Brent on

This is all so complicated because many things are occurring simultaneously as the story unfolds through history. Without significant study, it doesn’t seem possible to understand more than the most generalized conclusions. Being an engineer, In science, we used charts/graphs to help us understand. So, would it be possible for you to do the same? For example, take the value of “importance of individual rights” and trace it through time. It would look something like:

Carried the torch for individual rights:
YEAR: 1800 1860 1930 1960 1992
PARTY: Whigs Republicans Republicans Democrats Democrats
PRES: YYY Lincoln FDR Kennedy Clinton
EVENT: ZZZ Civil War New Deal Civil Rights XYZ

All this is just an example, but the idea is to break this down to a much simpler and easy to follow path for a single line of thinking rather than blend it altogether. I think this is easier to discuss.
thanks for your consideration.

Thomas DeMichele
Thomas DeMichele on

Very good idea. This page is an ongoing project and I will certainly take this into consideration. I’ve been trying to think of a way to display the information simply without adding another layer of complexity or simply more words to the overarching discussion. Thanks!

Victor Passenheim on
Thomas DeMichele
Thomas DeMichele on

Obviously we respectively disagree given the book-length essay that refutes these views above… But the feedback is 100% appreciated and respected. I’ll dig through here and give rebuttals.

One thing to note is that the Democratic party was split in factions since Bryan and Cleveland. We have a progressive faction, a libertarian faction, and an ol’ boy southern democrat faction. The southern democrat faction found a new home in the Republican party and have since dragged the Grand Old Party into the deep south of politics. I actually personally feel it is “what is wrong” with the Republican party of today and why you have the nativist populist Trump who not even CATO can stand next too. I.E. libertarians are like the Cleveland Democrats…

Today’s Democrats are a mix of Hamilton, Roosevelt, Bryan, and Wilson, and the dang southern Dixiecrats are STILL acting like Confederates and dividing the nation over their racist law-and-order BS. The modern Republican, or at least the ol’ south faction within it, is not the party of Jefferson, or even Jackson, this is the Party of Andrew Johnson that you invited into the Republican party with the southern strategy from Hoover, to Nixon, to Reagan.

Anyway, won’t go on this tangent… will review the links you posted and attempt to give feedback minus the emotion so we can actually communicate points with each other (or having it come off like i’m equating “the whole south” with Andrew Johnson’s divisive faction who almost split the Union back in the 1860’s (which would have hindered industrialization and our current status as superpower).

Remember, Federalist, Third Party Republicans, and Today’s Democrats are all the ones who favor “Northern interests” central banks, taxes, federal power, trade, globalization, etc… it is weird to see the Republicans of today with this group based on just the culture pushed on us by say NBC and Fox news. See what i’m saying here?

I’ll end by reiterating that a lot of this is about factions, not the overall party (although the company a party keeps does say something about them in any era).

Thomas DeMichele
Thomas DeMichele on

REFUTING THE VIDEO AND ARTICLE:

D’Souza Obliterates Leftist Professor During Q&A Session… Umm, actually Leftist Professor obliterates D’Souza… yeesh: The guy who starts this out is right, D’Souza is wrong (when he summarizes the argument he is right, but his rebuttal is wrong). Here is why, the party switching happens from the 30’s to the 90’s, D’Souza incorrectly assumes that the switch would have happened earlier (although he correctly postulates it is a reaction to the New Deal [and Great Society Programs and MLK]. The party of Hubert Humphrey and FDR and MLK and Kennedy drew in the black voter and pushed out the Dixiecrat (who, through the Conservative coalition with the anti-communists became today’s Republican)… This is OUR THESIS ABOVE.

Now he is right, the “NEW” programs draw in the black voter and get them to leave the party of Lincoln and join their previous oppressors. But this isn’t about the Dixie’s this is about the FDRs and Kennedys, and William Jennings Bryans of the world. This isn’t about the Dixiecrats using social programs as a honeypot, it is about the Progressives taking over the Democratic party and the Dixiecrats being pushed out as “a bunch of liberals” took over their party.

THIS: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Jennings_Bryan#/media/File:Bryan,_Judge_magazine,_1896.jpg

How do liberals take over a party and push out Dixiecrats you ask? Unions, support from industrialists, investors, and banks (despite the trust-busting), and a popular WWII President on the back of the Progressive era and then Great Depression (which followed a decade of anti-communist Republicans), and lots of boots on the ground progressives.

Today Clinton and Gore are about as close as we get to “Southern Democrats” still in the party (they aren’t saints, but they certainly aren’t George Wallace).

The key to this all is “factions” and realizing that the switch happens from 30’s to 90’s, not 30’s to 70’s and 80’s. Otherwise D’Souza is right about southernization and whites moving to the Republican party. Also, politicans don’t typically “switch” (sometimes they do like Strom) instead the parties and their voters switch and thus platforms switch over time (the title of the page is platforms switch).

D’Souza has his facts right, but his conclusions are wrong. War Democrats in the north are another issue (but we cover them above).

So the YouTube video is not refuted and our answer is clearer, more detailed, more accurate, and the correct account of history.

Now, for the article: THE MYTH OF THE RACIST REPUBLICANS.

So first off, I have watched Fox News and rightwing Talk Radio. Trump wants to ship the Mexicans out of the country, build a wall, and “law and order” the “thugs”… right? So I mean, we know even the title of this article is refutable. Anyway. This is the Rebuttal of that:

The whole article can be proved to be off-base with a few simple points. 1. The switch happens from the 30’s to 90’s (it isn’t in full swing during Nixon at all; in retrospect Nixon is way more complex than we give him credit for, Glass Steagall, Freddie and Fannie, Kissinger, his southern strategy, his fear of hippies, his otherwise liberal policies, his very real struggles with war, the list goes on).

No, Nixon alone didn’t magically spirit away all the racists with his southern strategy, just like Hoover didn’t in the 20’s with his Lily White Southern Strategy (and look at the polls, unfortunately both parties still contain racists today “Republicans are more racist” according to polls, but “more racist” isn’t a compliment to anyone http://fivethirtyeight.com/features/are-white-republicans-more-racist-than-white-democrats/).

What we are saying is that the policies put forward by the Republicans are in the spirit of the Southern “Jim Crowe” Dixiecrats and the anti-Communists. Their ideologies align, they both want less government, they both want less social programs, its odd they didn’t team up further, but the Dixiecrats are a loyal lot, and here we can (bad qualities aside) their good qualities (which all of America’s factions have).

The switch can be seen plainly right there: http://www.270towin.com/historical-presidential-elections/

Also Lee Atwater explains it all well: https://www.thenation.com/article/exclusive-lee-atwaters-infamous-1981-interview-southern-strategy/

In ’24 and ’44 blue is on the bottom, by ’92 blue is on the top. It isn’t that plain, but I mean look at the map and compare NBC to Fox news… the rest is just a matter of logic.

Lets speak plainly: The anti-communists and Dixiecrats and religious right are on a team right now (with certain business types; the neocons), that team is Republicans. The progressives and pro-trade group (so bankers, trade deals, northern business interests, etc; otherwise known as the neoliberal wing) are on another team, that team is Democrats. That is “modern red-state / blue-state politics”.

I’ll end by saying yet again. It is really strange that southerners of today want to appropriate the north who fought agains them and their Confederate brothers in the Civil War? Literally, your forefathers fought against the north (yeah, including the war Democrats, who are a bit like the neocons) and now you want to hold Lincoln up on a cloud of rainbows like he is your father and bestowed upon you your total progressive values which have you what, voting for Bernie Sanders over Trump…? No, right? It makes no sense. You don’t see Democrats praising Andrew Jackson or talking about how awesome it would be to abolish the IRS and have a society fueled by pure unregulated capitalism and southern interests.

I get it, Jim Crowe is a blight on history, but building a wall to keep Mexicans out will be too. Think about it. Meanwhile, once we do get our eye back on the ball, we should really address the many many issues which have gone unnoticed while we bicker. I noted Glass Steagall above, consider that Clinton signed the Republican initiated deregulation ‎Gramm–Leach–Bliley Act November 12, 1999… In this time we were more concerned with red-state blue-state and Monica Lewinsky than the bubble that would eat the 401k’s and pensions of hardworking people like you.

Above I note that northern interests have the backing of banks (think Hillary and Goldman Sachs), but this is one industry (like the military) where both parties have a foot in the door. Again, these are called neoliberals and neocons and, while I personally like them, I feel like those fighting against the idea that their southern ancestors from Mississippi were Dixiecrats would do better taking a closer look at America’s true history.

Benjamin P. on

Yoo. Demichele. I gotta tell you man, I really like the article as a whole but what I appreciate even more is your perseverance in fighting these keyboard warriors that wanted to find a page and comment how wrong it is based on a meme they saw their uncle or grandfather post on Facebook. But what I like even more is how you reply without anger and then type out a well, concise and articulate, whether it be wrong or right, reply to everyone. I truly respect that. Good stuff my man, good stuff.

Thomas DeMichele
Thomas DeMichele on

I Appreciate the kind words.

Dale Gross on

Even if everything in the article is true, it doesn’t support your position.

Frank on

I do not think it really matters since the only people who care are those trying to manipulate the votes. That said, it should be noted that when Jessie Jackson encouraged 7 or 8 million blacks to register to vote, a great many white Democrats quickly moved over to the Republican party. And it should be kept in mind, that whenever a characteristic is assign to an entire group, it is prejudice.

James O. Helms, CMSgt, USAF, retired on

This reminds me of what one of my professor peers once said about essay test questions, “If they give me a garrulous response, I just give them a pass for effort.” The facts remain, both the red and blue states share in their percentages of racist and that single important issue cannot be whitewashed with verbose postulations. The reality is, the primary differences between Democrats and Republicans is the Democrats will say/do whatever it takes to sway the vote in their favor. Because they can no longer get away with their old KKK approach, they have switched tactics. For example, LBJ is credited with helping the depressed blacks in America but in reality, all he wanted from them is their votes. Because the Black population in America is around 13 percent, the democrats are now increasing their voter base by bringing in millions of illegal immigrants, knowing they will return the favor by voting Democrat. Here, give an ear to your typical white Democrat: https://youtu.be/r1rIDmDWSms

Thomas DeMichele
Thomas DeMichele on

You aren’t wrong. Segragation is still a problem in areas dominated by Democrats like NYC (as John Oliver points out here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o8yiYCHMAlM), and banking deregulation which hurts lower-incomes more than higher incomes is favored by both parties, etc. It isn’t like Democrats are saints and Republicans villains. However, the conservative coalition and solid south shifted from the Democrats to the Republicans and this is what caused a southernization of the Republican party. So the switch is real, but anyone really paying attention is right to not give either party a free pass.

I see it like this. Our two parties represent two aspects of the human condition, specifically two major aspects of the American character. Neither aspect is right or wrong, they both have pros and cons. It would be my opinion that we need to work together to make progress, and that involves admitted where both parties have been wrong in the past and fixing it moving forward.

As to your LBJ point, he was emblematic of a change in U.S. history where some progressive southern Democrats stepped up to the plate to stand next to Northern Progressive Democrats who supported workers and “minorities” and generally favored King as a group (while some progressives favored Malcolm X and the radicals). This, and the Civil Rights legislation passed, sincerely pissed off the more conservative solid south democrats, and many migrated to the Republican party over the next 30 or so years by W. Bush (Clinton is sort of the last straw for the south, YET ANOTHER progressive southern force with Clinton and Gore; while Gore’s dad was more an LBJ figure btw).

Lee Atwater is emblematic of the change too, but he (a Republican strategist who understood the solid south strategy) comes later.

TIP: Do Democrats favor “minorities” (like Blacks, Workers, Catholics, Jews, etc) because they want more votes? SURE. Yeah, especially the LBJ’s of the world do this. They are politicans first and politicans second. Their base though, that is made mostly of idealistic progressives and market-minded liberals and northerners who are ideologically with the party of Hamilton and Lincoln (if not with just with Teddy and Bernie). That is mainly what you see is the Democrats embraing that voter base and the Republicans taking most conservatives into their big tent (modern left-leaning finance, like tech, north east businesses, and wall street asdie). Just look at the message of Trump and Clinton to find what the base wants, then look at the lobbyists, bills passed, and money to find out the full extent of what the party does to compliment this.

TIP: Humprhy was the liberal of LBJ and Humprhy, I don’t know if you saw the HBO LBJ show, but its fairly accurate. LBJ was an ally to the deepsouth, but ended up siding with Humprhy, MLK, and the liberals. Today the Democrats are the party of liberals and have lost thier southern conservative base (who was incrediably loyal post Civil War considering Bryan, Wilson, FDR, and the New Deal Coalition dominating their party since the early 1900’s).

Lee Atwater explains, in famously unrepeatable words, that there are things southern conservatives can’t say anymore and so they say “busin'” and “illegals” and “thugs” and stuff like that. By the time we get to Atwater the Democrats hate him, and he is the Republican darling of sorts, he is Karl Roves precussor.

There may be lots of similarities between Neocons and Neoliberals, but those Paleocons (whose forefathers were Confederates and fathers before that the Patrick Henrys of the world) used to be Democrats. Today the party of Obama, Kennedy, Clinton, Gore, MLK, Jessie Jackson, etc, etc is the party of Progressives and the solid south and their ex-anti-communist and religious-right conservative sidekicks have been throwing tea parties and worse at the new left constantly since the 90’s.

So, things changed, and the argument above stands, but I do think if anything it just shows how much work we need to do and how we aren’t natural enemies in any era, but rather two forces that need to balance each other (even when aspects of those two forces change).

SAID LEE ATWATER RECORDING: https://www.thenation.com/article/exclusive-lee-atwaters-infamous-1981-interview-southern-strategy/

An easier LEE ATWATER INTERVIEW TO WATCH: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HXBfgc6Z4uo

Brett on

To make this essay a bit more credible, apart from the fact that it is inherently bias, do not at all refer to Wikipedia as a reference, either in the essay or in your rebuttals. Wikipedia sources are able to be accessed by pretty much any user, edited by said user to provide inaccurate information. For example, I could create an account, go to your source and rewrite to completely oppose your view. Wiki’s are designed this way and as such not trustworthy as a source. They are good for a starting point, as many have references that can be followed and verified. Additionally, using other people’s opinions also tends to led an author to be bias whether intentional or not. In short, get rid of the fluff and opinion, find the straight facts, present the facts, and keep a personal opinion out of it. Allow the readers to draw their own conclusions. I was very interested in your essay, but was put off immediately by the bias. Now to verify your facts, if I can find the time, I have to sift out your bias and verify them with at least three independent, non-partisan, and authoritative sources, to determine that they are indeed accurate. When presenting an essay of such a magnitude as this, it will aid the reader if such non-partisan and authoritative sources were made available for verification. As it is, your essay cites three references and thirty-six citations. Of these sources, the citations are your strongest evidence. I would recommend you find better sources and rewrite it with a concerted effort not to allow bias.

Thomas DeMichele
Thomas DeMichele on

I appreciate your feedback. I actually won’t argue with your assessment, and will work to eliminate the opinions and strengthen the citations over time (after-all http://factmyth.com/factoids/people-can-be-truly-unbiased/).

I find that Wikipedia tends to be generally accurate due to its process… but certainly again I won’t argue your point, if I was aiming to put this together as a book I would avoid Wikipedia for stronger citations (so it isn’t unreasonable to hold this page to the same standard over time).

I am confident that anyone who goes to fact-check this will come back finding that we have made a sincere effort, and will generally concur that it is based on fact (even when bias or opinion slips in), but with such a long essay pieced together over time, I won’t kid myself into thinking there isn’t room for debate or more work to do.

Thanks for the thoughtful response.

Darren Pearson on

This report is not accurate. The dxiecrats who left the democrat party to support Thurmon all returned to the democrat party except one,,Thurman himself.
No republicans became democrats during that time.
The big party switch of the 60 is a lie perpetrated by the left to escape accountability for their haenous actions. It is a complete myth.
The ideologies never changed parties. LBJ was a noted racist who voted against the civil rights act under Eisenhower. He later usurped the act as a strategy to gain the Black American vote.

Thomas DeMichele
Thomas DeMichele on

I know this is what people think, but it is a misunderstanding. Thurmond goes back with Wallace, but that is the 60’s and early 70’s. By the 1990’s those types are mostly out of the Democrats and in the Republicans, here in 2016 all these years later they are long gone (accept the converts who stayed).

Do the Yankee liberals really seem like solid south rebel flag flying Dixicrats from the deep south? NO! Of course not. That is the big hint.

You are right though, LBJ was a little racist. Pick up any LBJ biography and you’ll learn that on page 1. Then you look to his left and see the Kennedys, and MLK, and Humphrey, and the Hippies and Workers, and you are like “oh Democrats was just a big party with different factions, one faction was the solid south who were very loyal (in a sort of sweet racist side story).

LBJ’s rather ol’ boy racist politicking was what was able to garner the support of the Dixicrats at first, before him and the liberals pissed them off over and over to the extent that now we have Fox News which makes it a full-time job to attack northern liberals. Forget party names, think about issues, geography, and the character of people and you’ll see the story play out.

Anyway, we could go in circles. But the modern democratic party is not the party of the civil war. I mean, just look at a map. There are so many ways to explain this.

And really really, listen to this: https://www.thenation.com/article/exclusive-lee-atwaters-infamous-1981-interview-southern-strategy/

Sandra L Hauge on

I enjoyed your reading your perspective; however please read Chapter 6 in Dinesh D’Souza’s book “Hillary’s America: The Secret History of the Democratic Party”. It is very well documented. The Democratic Party enslaves those in poverty, especially the poor Blacks, even more than when they were in slavery. They give them just enough and do not expect anything of them. They don’t want them to be independent. Pres Johnson talked about having the “n*****” vote for the democratic party for 200 years by giving them welfare. Hopefully you will read this.

Thomas DeMichele
Thomas DeMichele on

Thanks for the comment. I do think I owe D’Souza a read through of his book, perhaps with a rebuttal on a separate page. It is obvious we disagree with some things.

I think this is something we have to look at your point separately from the solid south social conservatives / classical liberals. That faction, who would have been the confederates in the 1860’s, is with the Republicans today. So that doesn’t explain modern problems pertaining to race in the Democratic party. Instead, to me, it is the paradoxical effects of bureaucratic social justice programs after they have been porked up and cherry picked by officials and lobbyists that turns some safety nets into glass ceilings.

I think it is short sighted to equate Medicare, Medicaid, housing assistance, food stamps, obamaphones, child assistance, etc, things that help low-income of all races and sexes, with slavery. Slavery is an abomination in which not only labor, but a person, is owned by another person. Social programs are a double edged sword which create a net for our poorest, but have the downside of arguably being too comfortable and tax disadvantaged when it comes to increasing earned income.

I can look around and see the Ghettoes of the North and segragation, and if I had a time machine I could see it in early North East America too, this is not the same as the Southern Confederate rebel flag ex-slave state mentality, it is a different type of problem from a different type of American.

Today, the Democrats still have to face their own brand of elitism and racism, but it is not what you are thinking of with the Civil War Southern Confederates. That faction left the Democrats between the 1930’s – 1990’s, except in cases where reformed families like Byrds and Gores hung in there and admitted their wrongs.

Also, lest we forget, all politicians are politicians. I promise you, the modern progressive social liberal Democrat will jump through hoops to keep any voter they can, so i’m not saying that a Democrat wouldn’t beef up a social program to retain the votes of those who it benefits, they would! But, in the Republican party the same thing happens, they want to slash the net because they don’t even want to give them “just enough”. They want to give them nothing.

MLK knew history, he made his choice. Kennedy knew history, he made his choice. Bernie knew history, he made his choice. Obama knew history, he made his choice.

I really don’t think Wallace and Andrew Jackson would be Democrats today, but Democrats need to do a lot of work to explain why this list isn’t filled with southern states: https://www.neighborhoodscout.com/neighborhoods/crime-rates/25-most-dangerous-neighborhoods/

In short, I see what you are saying, and will read D’Souza’s book, but from my understanding of history, you are all seeing the continued problems of the North (since the days of Hamilton, to Lincoln, to FDR, to Kennedy, to Clinton, to Obama) and thinking you are seeing a continuation of the south… but the south is actually right under your nose.

Anyway, we are all Americans regardless of geographic location and race, and if anything the story only tells us we all have more work to do and have more in common than we sometimes like to admit.

Martin on

Reasonable information and a reasonable level of support. I appreciate your diligence. You’ll always have those that disagree but from what I’ve read their arguments are very weak and not worth consideration. Please keep up the good work!

Shavri on

You keep saying “However, the conservative coalition and solid south shifted from the Democrats to the Republicans and this is what caused a southernization of the Republican party. So the switch is real, but anyone really paying attention is right to not give either party a free pass.” Yett when people point out that only 3 people or 1% actually switched, you keep saying that the rest of them just retired. Well, yes, over the next SIXTY years. Yet you still want to say the parties changed when the “Solid south” moved to the Republican party. Huh? You seem to have ignored you OWN statement that the majority of them stayed on for the next thirty to sixty years. How is that switching in any sense? Just accept that neither party has ANY racist tendencies with some individuals being racist regardless of party. Different actions but same result.

Thomas DeMichele
Thomas DeMichele on

Look at a map of voters (as offered in the video above for example). The south used to be blue, now it is red. That is the big hint.

The parties switch platforms and a voter base from the 1930’s to the 1960’s. The main thing that happens is that the “solid south” switch. Those southern ol’ boys used to be Democrats, but now we know the rebel flag waving Americans are Republicans. We know this logically, we don’t need to see a signed document from a southern gentleman that says “I switched!”

While we can see William Jennings Bryan, FDR, and Kennedy like figures in the Democratic party since the late 1800’s, the solid south allies (the old Democrats) and their ideology is today found in the Republican party. We can point to the 1% who actually switched like Strom, we can point to Northern Ghettos, we can point to LBJ being sort of racist, we can point all over the place, but you know which party David Duke wanted to win, we know what party Jackson would have been in today, we know who the Confederates would be today… The Republican party’s anti-communist conservatism attracted the solid south, as both factions wished to “conserve” America.

I will say that the Clintons and Gores of the world are hybrids. They, like LBJ, still have a dash of ol’ southern boy in them, but obviously it isn’t enough to attract a modern gentlemen from Georgia is it? I mean, look at a map, look at the 2016 election, look at the party platforms.

American history is complex, but the current south is the south and was the south, and that was the group who joined the Confederates, and that was not the group that Lincoln and the pro-bank northerners fought against. I mean, we can say this a thousand ways.

AND “Just accept that neither party has ANY racist tendencies with some individuals being racist regardless of party. Different actions but same result.”…

Yeah, we freely point out the prejudice of a Northern Ghetto and compare it to say “the Black Belt”, but one type of racist is an elitist New York Liberal kind and the other kind is a solid south pre-civil war kind. I’m simply saying the northern kind is still the northern kind, but the party that represented that switched.

Thus, each party today is an evolution of past parties, but when having the Lincoln / LBJ conversation, we MUST look to the south and see how the solid south voter and political switched from Democrat to Republican. If they didn’t, Hillary would have just won 2016 as the Dems would have had a TON more votes than the Gilded Age Populist War Democrat like Trump.

Think about which party waves the rebel flag today, think about which party lives in the south, look at the vote map and see the switching colors, you have good points for sure, but I can’t and won’t sit here and pretend like Hamilton and Adams weren’t Federalists, National Republicans, Whigs, Republicans, and I won’t pretend that after Teddy things didn’t go south via Harding, Coolidge, and Hoover, I won’t pretend FDR isn’t an extension of Teddy’s social liberalism, I won’t pretend Kennedy and LBJ didn’t change things, I won’t not connect Reagan and Trump as California republicans, and I won’t ignore the southern strategy or which side the south votes for today.

And I certainly won’t ignore Lee Atwater when he, as a student of American history like many of us, says the same exact thing.

The Conservative Coalition and New Deal Coalition still exist today you know. Lets just recognize them for what they are.

To avoid a continued rant i’ll end by saying:

“If the Democrats are today the party of the Confederate south… Why in God’s name won’t the south vote for us?” Long live Dixie, vote for Bernie, Warren, and Obama?! Right? Climate change is real, a woman’s right to choose, LGBT rights, long live the south fella? See where i’m going with this? It is a silly line of thought, no? If so, try giving the above essay another read and suspend the disbelief. There are many factions in America, I admit the Gore / Clinton New Democrats exist, they just aren’t the same as their more traditionally Jacksonian brethren who today are Republicans.

TIP: For more reading, see my essay on “what is liberalism” http://factmyth.com/what-is-liberalism/. Today’s republicans are radical classical liberals / social conservatives, the Democrats are generally social liberals / classical conservatives. People in the cities and north tend to be Democrats today, people in the south and cities tend to be Republicans today. Prior to the Civil War it was the other way around, just ask Patrick Henry and Thomas Jefferson, two amazing founders from Virginia who our northern darlings like Governor Morris and Alexander Hamilton managed to grit their teeth and get along with… and thank god they used critical thinking to find common ground, that is where our America and ‘Murica come from. We can do the same, but not based on some half-baked misunderstanding of history that tries to make the modern Republicans the party of Lincoln. We can take responsibility for the despair of Northern poor, but not for the actions of the south.

Jim Hill on

I personally still believe that Republicans and Democrats didn’t switch but I do like this article for being highly evidence-based and explaining every factoid in history that made you come to your conclusion. I find this admirable.
However, I find it extremely insulting that you said Abraham Lincoln would be a democrat in the modern political landscape. This underscores a creeping sensation that this article is subtly trying to imply that modern republicans and conservatives are evil racists and democrats are everyone moral in history. This detracts from the quality. Saying that every almost good republican in American history would be “left-wing” in this day and age is both alienating to anyone who isn’t a loyal democrat and makes you look hypocritical considering that this article tries to tell its readers to look past party names and assess politicians as individuals. It’s a simplistic line of thinking and only feels like more “republicans and southerners are evil racists” spew that will turn away anyone who isn’t left-wing.

Furthermore, after reading the article, I think a far more appropriate title would not be “Democrats and Republicans Switched Platforms”, but more that they’re tactics evolved.

In the article itself, you say that their ideological core has always stayed the same, individual freedoms vs collective benefit, which is what I believe as well. However the word, “switched” could make you sound like your saying politics has always been evil racists versus civil rights champions. You say yourself that neither party is necessarily racist in this day and age but the title “switched” seems rather counter-intuitive to the message. Parties evolved, people cross party lines, but considering that both republicans and democrats have voted for civil rights and freedoms in the past (not including the debate on affirmative action, and many republicans advocate for color blindness in the admissions process which is objectively less racist and condescending to minorities such as myself.)

Thomas DeMichele
Thomas DeMichele on

All good points. Thank you for the insight. I’m constantly having to reassess my stance on things. For the record I don’t think there is an evil party or faction and a good party or faction, it is just different types of Americans in different groups rallying behind different leaders with the sole intention of taking the country in the right direction.

I come from a family where 1/2 is staunch Republican, from Florida, super excited about building a wall, and think liberals are destroying the country, and 1/2 staunch Democrats, who live in the nice part of Connecticut, and think the country is doomed. I would no sooner dismiss an entire party than dismiss half my family (as tempting as it may be in heated moments when reason takes a back seat to passion).

I don’t want to lose 1/2 of my audience over my bias leaking through (my bias being that i’m a Hamiltonian first, a Jeffersonian second, and have to stretch to put myself in the shoes of John C. Calhoun or George C. Wallace)… But yeah I mean, at the end of the day, your points are valid, and I can put effort into not alienating my audience (with the article probably being better for it).

Appreciate the level-headed feedback.

ps. I do think you are onto something with the word “evolved”. That kind of splits the difference and lets us discuss changes without having to play hot potato with complex social issues. Dixie has its history, but part of that history has nothing to do with race and everything to do with being an underdog in the story of the rise of modern banking and neoliberalism. Likewise, that anti-communist Coolidge ideology or centered Eisenhower ideology has little to do with the solid southern wing of Wilson, FDR, and LBJ’s Democrats (and that aspect of modern Republicanism is still going strong). Always trying to step into the other person’s shoes, especially when it is the shoes of those whom I personally identify with the least…. although that is easier said than done for sure.

DK on

Fantastic stuff, but I especially applaud the genuine effort you put to remain balanced, hear criticism, and respond thoughtfully.

Thomas DeMichele
Thomas DeMichele on

Thank you for the kind words. It is difficult to tell a large and complex story like this without letting any bias slip through. I think, from a modern frame, it is tempting to believe that whatever party we are in today has always held nothing but the positive values we support it for in this moment… but that isn’t true.

It is also perhaps tempting to believe that progressives have always been in a party opposite of other less progressive figures like very conservative slave holders, warhawks, or globalist or nativist businesses barons… but that is also not true. What is true is that different progressive and conservative factions have fluidly changed parties over time and embraced different voter issues in different regions and eras… and sometimes, like with LBJ, this results in single figures holding mixed ideologies.

Nothing about our history magically makes a modern Progressive “exactly the same” as a staunch Confederate, or a McKinley / Roosevelt Republican “exactly the same” as a Know Nothing in any era, but it does hint that alliances can be made between nearly any type of American and that who today we see as our “opponent” was not always this.

Interestingly, parties are still changing today. Some who voted for Trump voted for Obama, some who were Democrats are now Green, some who were Republican now libertarian, some who were Democrat now “BernieCrats”, some who were Establishment old gaurd Republicans now “Trumpsters”. All this just in the 2010’s!

Who wants big government? Who wants small government? Well it really depends. Is government putting “one nation under god” in the national anthem? Or is government expanding public healthcare? Is government taxing imports? Or is government signing fair trade deals? In each case, you’ll attract different ideological factions to different ideological stances.

Still, all changes and nuances aside, while some modern Republicans are roughly Lincoln Republicans, and some modern Democrats are roughly George B. McClellan Democrats, mostly (if we had to divide by north / south today) the North would be Democrats calling for a Union, Central Government, and Social Justice and the South Republicans calling for limited government, nativist “America first” policies, and rural interests. Of course, even in that Civil War, we had War Democrats in the north and to some extent the equivalent in the south and in some eras, even after they had become more progressives, Democrats were the party of rural America and Republicans the party of big cities like NYC.

We must remember, there is no mandate for history to be simple, and for our all our differences, our love of liberty unites us, even if we disagree on what liberty should look like and government’s role in defending liberties and rights any era.

There is too much history binding us together for us to try to make overly simple and divisive conclusions today, and that means we can’t just say overly simple and “alternative-fact” truths like: “because welfare can be oppressive and because a Democrat is called a Democrat the modern Democratic party is still the party of the 1850’s conservative south”…. most of us logically know that isn’t true in general, but it takes a lot a true facts and history to understand the nuances. Once we have the nuances down, we can just simplify it as “factions change and the solid south faction that led the confederate army has mostly shifted to the Republican party… not every member, but mostly from the Civil War to the modern era… and meanwhile, concurrently, the Progressive coalition in the modern Democratic party has grown as well”.

There are a thousand ways to phrase it, but the answers are always found in key figures like Bryan and the Rooselvets, Calhoun, Jackson, and the many Wallaces, and in factions like the Know Nothings, Tea Party, Populist Party, Progressives, Bourbon Liberals, Neoliberals, Red scare, states’ rights, etc.

All that said, we all live in the same America, so who am I to tell a modern Republican who loves Lincoln that Lincoln isn’t for them? Figures like Reagan, Lincoln, Jefferson, and Esienhower are too great and centered for one party to hold a monopoly on. It is American tradition to at least allow for a duoploy 😀

http://factmyth.com/political-duopolies/