How U.S. Politics Has Evolved Through The Ages

How U.S. Politics Has Evolved Through The Ages


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The Era of Donald Trump

When Trump emerged victorious in the 2016 presidential elections, many wondered what that would mean for American politics and also for the global political scenario.

Since then, Trump has called for, often VIA his Twitter account, more military budget, stricter immigration policies and a great, big border wall along United States’ shared border with Mexico.

But let’s be frank for a second, when Trump announced he would be running for presidency, it didn’t seem like he would make it too far. After all, there were many well-seasoned politicians that he would have to triumph over.

However, against all odds, the Republican party candidate, along with his anti-immigration policies such as the “Muslim Ban,” was hailed supreme over The Democratic Party’s nominee Hillary Clinton.

But do Trump’s beliefs resonate with The Republican Party, the party that he is affiliated to?

Major U.S. Political Parties

The United States’ politics has been majorly divided into two parties that have fought for the control of the government for decades; The Republican Party (often referred by the media as the Grand Old Party [GOP]) and The Democratic Party. Though there are several other minor parties, they have failed to gain political prominence compared to these two giants.

Modern day GOP is more center-left or in an easier term, the more conservative of the two parties. The Democrats are left-leaning or liberals.

However, looking at the history of these major political parties, one finds a huge contrast in the beliefs that they started out with to what they stand for now. In fact, it is a complete 180 degree turn.

Founded in 1854, The Republican Party, believe it or not, came into being based on their stand against slavery, with Abraham Lincoln on the forefront. They fought for the freedom of African-Americans and their rights to vote. The Democratic party started out as staunch conservatives.

For most of the 19th century, the parties stuck to their founding beliefs, with the Republicans asking for better tackling of social issues with the election of President Benjamin Harrison in 1888.

The Shift in Beliefs

It was in 1896, that the parties, started on to what would result in the reversal of values.

The Democrats nominated populist firebrand William Jennings Bryan, “The Great Commoner,” for presidency. He was the first liberal to be nominated for the White House from the party. A major shift in America’s oldest political party was around the horizon.

The Republican Party had also started it’s shift to the conservative side.

Theodore Roosevelt was probably the last Republican liberal, who received a Nobel Prize in 1906, for playing a major role in ending the war between Russia and Japan.

Roosevelt remained extremely unhappy with his successor, William Howard Taft, whom he thought was presenting a far-right set of belief that did not resonate with The Republican Party that Roosevelt aligned himself with. In fact, he challenged Taft’s GOP nomination in 1912.

Roosevelt split form the Republican Party and by the early 1900s, it was more seen as an elitist party, because of their roots in different business, which was quite in contrast with the origins of the GOP.

Taft was easily defeated after Roosevelt’s exit from the party, the split (in the party between Taft favoring conservatives and Roosevelt favoring liberals) made it impossible for the former to get re-elected.

However, the GOP still enjoyed support from African Americans because of their anti-slavery stance, despite the change in politics and general belief at the center of the party. After all, Lincoln was responsible for granting emancipation to the community, giving them voting rights and calling for equality. To many, the Democrats still represented segregation and racism.

The Great Depression and New Deal

In the 1920s, around the time of The Great Depression, something changed as more and more African-Americans began leaving the South and the Democrats in the North soon understood that in order to govern they need to form an alliance with the community.

When The Great Depression struck, many Americans blamed the Republicans for the crisis, who had enjoyed from the flourishing 1920s.

As a result of public’s anger, Franklin D. Roosevelt, easily defeated the Republican incumbent, Herbert Hoover, in 1932.

FDR’s “New Deal,” around that time, achieved landmark progressive reforms, introducing an era of Democratic dominance that would last a good 60 years.

Initially, Roosevelt did not garner any support from the African-American community which still associated him with the beliefs of the Democratic party they had known all these years. However, all changed after his first term in charge. The communities benefited from the program and with the Roosevelt administration’s policies and Eleanor Roosevelt’s Civil Rights’ activism, the African American communities casted their votes for a Democratic president, for the first time in history, in 1936.

The New Deal also divided the Republican Party with some Republicans willing to accept the deal but not Roosevelt and others denouncing it completely.

The 1964 Civil Rights Act and The Conservative Republicans

In 1964, when President Lyndon Johnson introduced The Civil RIghts act, there came a monumental change in southern politics.

While the act received bipartisan support from most Republicans and Democrats, then Republican presidential nominee Barry Goldwater became the politician who voted against it. After that, it did not matter how progressive he was, the Republican party was seen as the party which supported a nominee who was against civil rights. This drew a massive wedge between the GOP and the African-American community.

The southern segregationists, till then, had largely associated with the Democratic party, however, in Goldman, they found way to switch to the GOP, which then gave the latter, dominance in the south, which they still maintain to date. The southerners wanted to stop the civil rights movement and this gave them way into the GOP party, effectively changing party dynamics.

The GOP Emerges as The Conservative Party

In the 1980s, then Republican President Ronald Reagan, pushed the idea of a true conservative running the country and he was quite successful. He softened the idea of conservatism. Ever since, liberal and moderate Republicans have not found them at the forefront of the party.

Barack Obama

In 2007, Barack Obama was sworn in as the United States president; the first African American to do so. He would go on to serve two terms in the office.

Obama’s time at the White House, cemented a more clear divide between the two parties, with Republicans firm in their stance as conservatives and Democrats as liberals.

Bipartisan Politics and the Importance of Compromise

With the election of Trump, the wedge has only grown deeper as he looks to tackle immigration in the extreme.

Although, that wasn’t always the case. Over the years, many politicians from both sides of the parties, believed in compromise and working together if it was in favor of America, setting their differences aside.

Prominent Republicans like John McCain and Reagan understood that it was impossible to get everything you wanted in legislations and you had to bow down and work together in politics .
Reagan criticised such politicians, whom he referred to as “radical conservatives,” in his autobiography. According to him, they “wouldn’t face the fact that we couldn’t get all of what we wanted. . . . They wanted all or nothing and they wanted it all at once. If you don’t get it all, some said, don’t take anything.” Reagan went on to say, “I’d learned while negotiating union contracts that you seldom got everything you asked for. And I agreed with FDR, who said in 1933: ‘I have no expectations of making a hit every time I come to bat.”

Former president and Democrat Barack Obama seemed to agree with Reagan.

He said, “change requires more than just speaking out—it requires listening, as well. In particular, it requires listening to those with whom you disagree, and being prepared to compromise. . . . Democracy requires compromise, even when you are 100 percent right.”

While it is difficult to find examples of compromise and cooperation between politicians from both parties in recent politics, the best example, according to Walter G. Moss, a professor emeritus of history at Eastern Michigan University, would perhaps be that of Senators Orrin Hatch and Edward Kennedy. After Kennedy’s death in 2009, Hatch described how the two worked together, despite their differences and why it’s important:

“We did not agree on much, and more often than not, I was trying to derail whatever big government scheme he had just concocted. We did manage to forge partnerships on key legislation, such as the Ryan White AIDS Care Act, State Children’s Health Insurance Program, and most recently, the Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act. Ted was a lion among liberals, but he was also a constructive and shrewd lawmaker. He never lost sight of the big picture and was willing to compromise on certain provisions in order to move forward on issues he believed important. . . .

I hope that America’s ideological opposites in Congress, on the airwaves, in cyberspace, and in the public square will learn that being faithful to a political party or a philosophical view does not preclude civility, or even friendships, with those on the other side. . . . I hope that Americans in general and Washington politicians in particular will take a lesson from Ted’s life and realize that we must aggressively advocate for our positions but realize that in the end, we have to put aside political pandering, work together and do what is best for America.”

Perhaps Obama’s words most aptly describe why compromise is so important in politics, “The best of the American spirit [is] having the audacity to believe despite all the evidence to the contrary that we could restore a sense of community to a nation torn by conflict.”

One can hope that politicians from both parties understand and value working together if it means to put their country first. After all, that is the whole essence of being a politician, doing what’s best for your country.

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