Political parties IN THE UNITED STATES

Essay by chim0bay March 2005

download word file, 8 pages 3.0

1. Historical background of the two major parties

There was no provision for political in the American Constitution. President Washington was opposed to the factionalism that parties represented. Political parties, however, are a key element in the American political system. They began to foremen before Washington left office. The Federalists won the first contested election (1796). They were soon defeated by the Democratic-Republicans, the forerunner of the Democratic Party--the oldest political party in the world. The initial political contest was between Hamilton 's Federalists representing the northern elite and Jefferson's Democratic-Republicans representing agrarian and backwoods interests. The Federalists soon lost out in their attempt to restrict the suffrage. In the first half of the 19th century, political contests were between the Whigs and the Democrats who won most of the elections. At the time farming and Western interests wanted nothing more than being left along by Government. Beginning with Jefferson in 1800, this is just what the Democrats provided.

The Republican Party was founded in 1856 out of the collapsing Whig Party and the growing northern sentiment for the abolition of slavery. The election of the Republican candidate, Abraham Lincoln, in 1860 meant Civil War. Since the Civil war, the Democrats and Republicans have remained the major American political parties, although there has been a startling reversal in the principles of the two parties

2. Why are Democrats represented by a donkey and Republicans by a elephant?

Thomas Nast, a great cartoonist for the popular Harper's Weekly magazine, first used the donkey and elephant as symbols in 1874. He first drew a parody illustrating the New York Herald, a Democratic newspaper, as a donkey and the Republicans vote as an elephant hiding in the forest.

Other cartoonists mimicked the idea, and the animals became the symbols of the two...