Fourth Party System

The Fourth Party System is the term used in political science and history for the period in American political history from about 1896 to 1932 that was dominated by the Republican Party, excepting the 1912 split in which Democrats held the White House for eight years. American history texts usually call the period the Progressive Era. The concept was introduced under the name "System of 1896" by E.E. Schattschneider in 1960, and the numbering scheme was added by political scientists in the mid-1960s.[1]

The period featured a transformation from the issues of the Third Party System, which had focused on the American Civil War, Reconstruction, race, and monetary issues. The era began in the severe depression of 1893 and the extraordinarily intense election of 1896. It included the Progressive Era, World War I, and the start of the Great Depression. The Great Depression caused a realignment that produced the Fifth Party System, dominated by the Democratic New Deal Coalition until the 1960s.

The central domestic issues concerned government regulation of railroads and large corporations ("trusts"), the money issue (gold versus silver), the protective tariff, the role of labor unions, child labor, the need for a new banking system, corruption in party politics, primary elections, the introduction of the federal income tax, direct election of senators, racial segregation, efficiency in government, women's suffrage, and control of immigration. Foreign policy centered on the 1898 Spanish–American War, Imperialism, the Mexican Revolution, World War I, and the creation of the League of Nations. Dominant personalities included presidents William McKinley (R), Theodore Roosevelt (R) and Woodrow Wilson (D), three-time presidential candidate William Jennings Bryan (D), and Wisconsin's progressive Republican Robert M. La Follette, Sr..

Fourth Party System
Great Seal of the United States (obverse).svg

Fourth Party System
United States presidential election results between 1896 and 1928. Blue shaded states usually voted for the Democratic Party, while red shaded states usually voted for the Republican Party.


The period began with the realignment of 1894–96. The Republican victory in 1896 over William Jennings Bryan and his Democratic Party, while relatively close the first time, when Republican victory repeated in 1900 by an even bigger margin, restored business confidence, inaugurated a long epoch of prosperity (shown in the table), and swept away most of the issues and personalities of the Third Party System. Most voting blocs continued unchanged, but some realignment took place, giving Republicans dominance in the industrial Northeast and new strength in the border states. Thus the way was clear for the Progressive Movement to impose a new way of thinking and a new agenda for politics.[2]

During this period, a generational shift took place as the veterans of the Civil War aged out and were replaced by a younger generation more concerned with social justice and curbing the inequalities of industrial capitalism.[3] The Democratic Party, after largely being excluded from national politics in the decades following the Civil War, would see a resurgence during this period thanks to the new immigrant voting blocs. The Presidency of Woodrow Wilson marked a watershed as a new generation of Democrats without the baggage of slavery and secession.[4] Meanwhile, the Republican Party, after a brief fling with progressivism under Theodore Roosevelt, quickly reasserted itself as the party of big business and laissez-faire capitalism.[5]

Economic trends

Real GDP per capita

Year GDP
1892 104
1896 100
1900 114
1904 121
1908 119
1912 139
1916 145
1920 147
1924 164
1928 173
1932 133

Progressive reforms

Alarmed at the new rules of the game for campaign funding, the Progressives launched investigations and exposures (by the "muckraker" journalists) into corrupt links between party bosses and business. New laws and constitutional amendments weakened the party bosses by installing primaries and directly electing senators.[6] Theodore Roosevelt shared the growing concern with business influence on government. When William Howard Taft appeared to be too cozy with pro-business conservatives in terms of tariff and conservation issues, Roosevelt broke with his old friend and his old party. He crusaded for president in 1912 at the head of an ill-fated "Bull Moose" Progressive party. TR's schism helped elect Woodrow Wilson in 1912 and left pro-business conservatives as the dominant force in the GOP. The latter elected Warren G. Harding and Calvin Coolidge. In 1928 Herbert Hoover became the last president of the Fourth Party System.

Many of the Progressives, especially in the Democratic Party, supported labor unions. Unions did become important components of the Democratic Party during the Fifth Party System. However, historians have long debated why no Labor Party emerged in the United States, in contrast to Western Europe.[7]

The Great Depression that began in 1929 spoiled the nation's optimism and ruined Republican chances. In long-term perspective Al Smith in 1928 started a voter realignment—a new coalition—based among ethnics and big cities that spelled the end of classless politics of the Fourth Party System and helped usher in the Fifth Party System or New Deal coalition of Franklin D. Roosevelt.[8] As one political scientist explains, "The election of 1896 ushered in the Fourth Party System ... [but] not until 1928, with the nomination of Al Smith, a northeastern reformer, did Democrats make gains among the urban, blue-collar, and Catholic voters who were later to become core components of the New Deal coalition and break the pattern of minimal class polarization that had characterized the Fourth Party System."[9] In 1932 the landslide victory of Democrat Franklin D. Roosevelt led to the New Deal coalition that dominated the Fifth Party System, after 1932.

Women's suffrage

Melanie Gustafson shows that women vigorously define their role in political parties from the 1880s to 1920. Partisan, women generally formed auxiliaries to the Republican and Democratic parties.[10] The formation of Roosevelt's Progressive Party in 1912 offered women a chance for equality. Progressive party leader Jane Addams openly advocated women's partisanship. The Democrats, led by Woodrow Wilson, dodged the feminist demands for the vote by insisting the states should handle the matter, realizing the South was strongly opposed women's suffrage. After New York Democrats came out for suffrage, Wilson altered course and supported a national constitutional amendment, which finally passed in 1920 with support from Tennessee. Women's strong support on the home front for the war effort during World War I energized supporters and weakened the opponents. After the Progressive Party loss in 1912, partisan women continued to form auxiliaries in the major parties. After 1920, inclusion and power in political parties persisted as issues for partisan women. Former suffragists, mobilized into the League of Women Voters, shifted to emphasize the need for women to purify politics, endorse world peace, support prohibition, and stimulate more local support for schools and public health. In the early 1920s both parties paid special acknowledgment to women's interests, and named token women to a few highly visible offices. Congress passed a major welfare program sought by women, the Sheppard-Towner Maternity and infant protection act of 1921.[11] By 1928, it was apparent to male politicians that women had weaker partisanship than men, but their opinions on political issues were parallel, with a few exceptions such as peace and prohibition. [12] In the long run, 1870–1940, woman suffrage at the state and federal level was correlated with increases in state government expenditures and revenue and more liberal voting patterns for federal representatives.[13]


In most of the country prohibition was of central importance in progressive politics before World War I, with a strong religious and ethnic dimension.[14] Most pietistic Protestants were "dries" who advocated prohibition as a solution to social problems; they included Methodists, Congregationalists, Disciples, Baptists, Presbyterians, Quakers, and Scandinavian Lutherans. On the "wet" side, Episcopalians, Irish Catholics, German Lutherans and German Catholics attacked prohibition as a menace to their social customs and personal liberty. Prohibitionists supported direct democracy to enable voters to bypass the state legislature in lawmaking. In the North, the Republican Party championed the interests of the prohibitionists, while the Democratic Party represented ethnic group interests. In the South, the Baptist and Methodist churches played a major role in forcing the Democratic party to support prohibition. After 1914 the issue shifted to the Germans' opposition to Woodrow Wilson's foreign policy. In the 1920s, however, the sudden, unexpected outburst of big city crime associated with bootlegging undermined support for prohibition, and the Democrats took up the cause for repeal, finally succeeding in 1932.[15][16][17]

International policies

The Spanish–American War in 1898 precipitated the end of the Spanish Empire in the Caribbean and the Pacific, with the 1898 Treaty of Paris giving the US control over the former Spanish colonies. Permanent ownership of the Philippines was a major issue in the 1900 presidential election. Bryan, although strongly supportive of the war against Spain, denounced the permanent acquisition of the Philippines, which was strongly defended by Republicans, especially the Vice-Presidential nominee Theodore Roosevelt.[18] President Roosevelt in 1904 boasted of his success in gaining control of the Panama Canal, in 1903. Democrats attacked the move, but their attempt to apologize to Colombia failed.[19]

The United States also appeared on the world scene in the last years of World War I. President Woodrow Wilson tried to negotiate peace in Europe, but when Germany began unrestricted submarine warfare against American shipping in early 1917 he called on Congress to declare war. Ignoring military affairs, he focused on diplomacy and finance. On the home front he began the first effective draft in 1917, raised billions through Liberty loans, imposed an income tax on the wealthy, set up the War Industries Board, promoted labor union growth, supervised agriculture and food production through the Food and Fuel Control Act, took over control of the railroads, and suppressed left-wing anti-war movements. Like the European states, the United States experimented with a war economy. In 1918, Wilson advocated various international reforms in the Fourteen Points, among them public diplomacy, freedom of navigation, "equality of trade conditions" and removal of economic barriers, an "impartial adjustment of all colonial claims," the creation of a Polish state, and, most important, the creation of an association of nations. The latter would become the League of Nations. The League became highly controversial as Wilson and the Republicans refused to compromise. Voters in 1920 showed little support for the League and the U.S. never joined. Peace was a major political theme in the 1920s (especially because women were now voting). Under the Harding administration, the Washington Naval Conference of 1922 achieved significant naval disarmament for ten years.

The Roaring Twenties were marked, on the international scene, by the problem of the economic reparations due by Germany to France and Great Britain, as well as by various irredentism claims. The US acted as mediators in this conflict, first with the Dawes Plan in 1924, then the Young Plan in 1929.

See also


  • Blum, John Morton. The Progressive Presidents: Roosevelt, Wilson, Roosevelt, Johnson (1980)
  • Burner, David. Herbert Hoover: A Public Life. (1979).
  • Burnham, Walter Dean, "The System of 1896: An Analysis," in Paul Kleppner, et al., The Evolution of American Electoral Systems, Greenwood. (1983)
    • Burnham, Walter Dean. "Periodization Schemes and 'Party Systems': The "System of 1896" as a Case in Point," Social Science History, Vol. 10, No. 3 (Autumn, 1986), pp. 263– at JSTOR
  • Carter, Susan, ed. Historical Statistics of the U.S. (Millennium Edition) (2006) series Ca11
  • Cherny, Robert W. A Righteous Cause: The Life of William Jennings Bryan (1994)
  • Cooper, John Milton The Warrior and the Priest: Woodrow Wilson and Theodore Roosevelt. (1983) a dual biography
  • Craig, Douglas B. After Wilson: The Struggle for the Democratic Party, 1920–1934 (1992)
  • Degler, Carl N. (1964). "American Political Parties and the Rise of the City: An Interpretation". Journal of American History. Organization of American Historians. 51 (1): 41–59. doi:10.2307/1917933. JSTOR 1917933.
  • Edwards, Rebecca. Angels in the Machinery: Gender in American Party Politics from the Civil War to the Progressive Era (1997)
  • Folsom, Burton W. "Tinkerers, Tipplers, and Traitors: Ethnicity and Democratic Reform in Nebraska During the Progressive Era." Pacific Historical Review 1981 50(1): 53-75. ISSN 0030-8684
  • Gosnell, Harold F. Boss Platt and His New York Machine: A Study of the Political Leadership of Thomas C. Platt, Theodore Roosevelt, and Others (1924)
  • Gould, Lewis L. America in the Progressive Era, 1890–1914 (2000)
  • Gould, Lewis L. Four Hats in the Ring: The 1912 Election and the Birth of Modern American Politics (2008) excerpt and text search
  • Gustafson, Melanie. "Partisan Women in the Progressive Era: the Struggle for Inclusion in American Political Parties." Journal of Women's History 1997 9(2): 8–30. ISSN 1042-7961 Fulltext online at SwetsWise and Ebsco.
  • Harbaugh, William Henry. The Life and Times of Theodore Roosevelt. (1963)
  • Harrison, Robert. Congress, Progressive Reform, and the New American State (2004)
  • Hofstadter, Richard. The Age of Reform: From Bryan to F.D.R. (1955)
  • Hofstadter, Richard. The American Political Tradition (1948), chapters on Bryan, Roosevelt, Wilson and Hoover
  • Jensen, Richard. The Winning of the Midwest: Social and Political Conflict, 1888–1896 (1971)
  • Jensen, Richard. Grass Roots Politics: Parties, Issues, and Voters, 1854–1983 (1983)
  • Keller, Morton. Affairs of State: Public Life in Late Nineteenth Century America (1977)
  • Kleppner, Paul. Continuity and Change in Electoral Politics, 1893–1928 Greenwood. 1987
  • Lawrence, David G. (1996). The Collapse of the Democratic Presidential Majority: Realignment, Dealignment, and Electoral Change from Franklin Roosevelt to Bill Clinton. Westview Press. ISBN 0-8133-8984-4.
  • Lee, Demetrius Walker, "The Ballot as a Party-System Switch: The Role of the Australian Ballot in Party-System Change and Development in the USA," Party Politics, Vol. 11, No. 2, 217–241 (2005)
  • Lichtman, A. J. "Critical elections theory and the reality of American presidential politics, 1916–40." American Historical Review (1976) 81: 317–348. in JSTOR
  • Lichtman, Allan J. Prejudice and the Old Politics: The Presidential Election of 1928 (1979).
  • Link, Arthur Stanley. Woodrow Wilson and the Progressive Era, 1910–1917 (1972) standard political history of the era
  • Link, Arthur. Woodrow Wilson and the Progressive Era, 1910–1917 (1963)
  • McSeveney, Samuel T. "The Fourth Party System and Progressive Politics", in. L. Sandy Maisel and William Shade (eds) Parties and Politics in American History (1994)
  • Mahan, Russell L. "William Jennings Bryan and the Presidential Campaign of 1896" White House Studies 2003 3(2): 215–227. ISSN 1535-4768
  • Morris, Edmund. Theodore Rex (2002), detailed biography of Roosevelt as president 1901–1909
  • Mowry, George. The Era of Theodore Roosevelt and the Birth of Modern America, 1900–1912. (1954)
  • Rothbard, Murray N. The Progressive Era (2017), libertarian interpretation online excerpt
  • Sanders, Elizabeth. Roots of Reform: Farmers, Workers, and the American State, 1877–1917 (1999). argues the Democrats were the true progressives and GOP was mostly conservative
  • Sarasohn, David. The Party of Reform: Democrats in the Progressive Era (1989), covers 1910–1930.
  • Schlesinger, Arthur, Jr., ed. History of American Presidential Elections, 1789–2008 (2011) 3 vol and 11 vol editions; detailed analysis of each election, with primary documents; online v. 1. 1789-1824 -- v. 2. 1824-1844 -- v. 3. 1848-1868 -- v. 4. 1872-1888 -- v. 5. 1892-1908 -- v. 6. 1912-1924 -- v. 7. 1928-1940 -- v. 8. 1944-1956 -- v. 9. 1960-1968 -- v. 10. 1972-1984 -- v. 11. 1988-2001
  • Sundquist, James L. Dynamics of the Party System, (2nd ed. 1983)
  • Ware, Alan. The American Direct Primary: Party Institutionalization and Transformation in the North (2002)
  • Williams, R. Hal. Realigning America: McKinley, Bryan, and the Remarkable Election of 1896 (2010) excerpt and text search

Primary sources

  • Bryan, William Jennings. First Battle (1897), speeches from 1896 campaign.
  • Ginger, Ray, ed. William Jennings Bryan; Selections (1967).
  • La Follette, Robert. Autobiography (1913)
  • Roosevelt, Theodore. Autobiography (1913)
  • Whicher, George F., ed. William Jennings Bryan and the Campaign of 1896 (1953), primary and secondary sources.


  1. ^ To cite a standard political science college textbook: "Scholars generally agree that realignment theory identifies five distinct party systems with the following approximate dates and major parties: 1. 1796–1816, First Party System: Jeffersonian Republicans and Federalists; 2. 1840–1856, Second Party System: Democrats and Whigs; 3. 1860–1896, Third Party System: Republicans and Democrats; 4. 1896–1932, Fourth Party System: Republicans and Democrats; 5. 1932–, Fifth Party System: Democrats and Republicans." Robert C. Benedict, Matthew J. Burbank and Ronald J. Hrebenar, Political Parties, Interest Groups and Political Campaigns. Westview Press. 1999. Page 11.
  2. ^ R. Hal Williams, Realigning America: McKinley, Bryan, and the Remarkable Election of 1896 (University Press of Kansas, 2010).
  3. ^ Robert Wiebe, The Search For Order, 1877–1920 (1967).
  4. ^ Maureen Flanagan, America Reformed: Progressives and Progressivisms, 1890s–1920s (2007)
  5. ^ Kathleen Dalton, "Changing interpretations of Theodore Roosevelt and the Progressive era." in Christopher M. Nichols and Nancy C. Unger, eds., A Companion to the Gilded Age and Progressive Era (2017): 296-307.
  6. ^ Ware (2002)
  7. ^ Robin Archer, Why Is There No Labor Party in the United States? (Princeton University Press, 2007)
  8. ^ Degler (1964)
  9. ^ Lawrence (1996) p. 34.
  10. ^ Melanie Gustafson, "Partisan women n the progressive era: The struggle for inclusion in American political parties." Journal of Women's History 9.2 (1997): 8-30. online
  11. ^ J. Stanley Lemons, "The Sheppard-Towner act: Progressivism in the 1920s." Journal of American History 55.4 (1969): 776-786. online
  12. ^ Kristi Andersen, After suffrage: Women in partisan and electoral politics before the New Deal (1996).
  13. ^ John R. Lott, Jr, and Lawrence W. Kenny. "Did women's suffrage change the size and scope of government?." Journal of political Economy 107.6 (1999): 1163-1198.
  14. ^ Norman Clark, Deliver Us from Evil: An Interpretation of American Prohibition (1976)
  15. ^ Sabine N. Meyer, We Are What We Drink: The Temperance Battle in Minnesota (U of Illinois Press, 2015)
  16. ^ Burton W. Folsom, "Tinkerers, Tipplers, and Traitors: Ethnicity and Democratic Reform in Nebraska During the Progressive Era." Pacific Historical Review (1981) 50#1 pp: 53–75 in JSTOR
  17. ^ Michael A. Lerner, Dry Manhattan: Prohibition in New York City (2009)
  18. ^ Thomas A. Bailey, "Was the Presidential Election of 1900 a Mandate on Imperialism?." Mississippi Valley Historical Review (1937): 43– JSTOR
  19. ^ Thomas E. Morrissey (2009). Donegan and the Panama Canal. p. 298.

External links

1894 United States elections

The 1894 United States elections was held on November 6, and elected the members of the 54th United States Congress. These were mid-term elections during Democratic President Grover Cleveland's second term. The Republican landslide of 1894 marked a realigning election In American politics as the nation moved from the Third Party System that had focused on issues of civil war and reconstruction, and entered the Fourth Party System, known as the Progressive Era, which focused on middle class reforms.The Democrats suffered a landslide defeat in the House losing over 100 seats to the Republicans in the single largest swing in the history of the House. The Democrats also lost four seats in the Senate, thus resulting in the President's party completely losing control of both houses of Congress, the first time this ever happened in a midterm election.

The Democratic Party losses can be traced largely to the Panic of 1893 and the ineffective party leadership of Cleveland. Republicans effectively used the issues of the tariff, bimetallism, and the Cuban War of Independence against Cleveland. The Democrats suffered huge defeats outside the South (almost ninety percent of Northeastern and Midwestern House Democrats lost re-election), and the Democratic Party underwent a major turnover in party leadership. With the defeat of many Bourbon Democrats, William Jennings Bryan took the party in a more populist direction starting with the 1896 elections.

1896 United States elections

The 1896 United States elections elected the 55th United States Congress. Republicans won control of the Presidency and maintained control of both houses of Congress. The election marked the end of the Third Party System and the start of the Fourth Party System, as Republicans would generally dominate politics until the 1930 elections. Political scientists such as V.O. Key, Jr. argue that this election was a realigning election, while James Reichley argues against this idea on the basis that the Republican victory in this election merely continued the party's post-Civil War dominance. The election took place in the aftermath of the Panic of 1893, and featured a fierce debate between advocates of bimetallism ("free silver") and supporters of the gold standard.In the Presidential election, Republican former Governor William McKinley of Ohio defeated Democratic former Representative William Jennings Bryan of Nebraska. McKinley took the Republican nomination on the first ballot, while Bryan took the Democratic nomination on the fifth ballot (at age 36, he became youngest presidential nominee of a major party), defeating former Missouri Representative Richard P. Bland and several other candidates. Bryan's Cross of Gold speech, in which he advocated for "free silver," helped deliver him the Democratic nomination, and also attracted the support of the Populist Party and the Silver Republican Party. Though Bryan carried most of the South and the West, McKinley won a comfortable margin in both the electoral college and the popular vote by carrying the Northeast and the Great Lakes region.

Democrats won major gains in the House, but Republicans continued to command a large majority in the chamber. The Populists also won several seats, holding more seats in the House than any third party since the Civil War.In the Senate, the Republicans maintained their plurality, keeping control of the same number of seats. The Democrats lost several seats, while the Silver Republicans established themselves for the first time with five seats. Republican William P. Frye won election as President pro tempore.

1896 United States presidential election

The United States presidential election of 1896 was the 28th quadrennial presidential election, held on Tuesday, November 3, 1896. Former Governor William McKinley, the Republican candidate, defeated Democrat William Jennings Bryan. The 1896 campaign, which took place during an economic depression known as the Panic of 1893, was a realigning election that ended the old Third Party System and began the Fourth Party System.Incumbent Democratic President Grover Cleveland did not seek election to a second consecutive term, leaving the Democratic nomination open. Bryan, an attorney and former Congressman, galvanized support with his Cross of Gold speech, which called for a reform of the monetary system and attacked business leaders as the cause of ongoing economic depression. The 1896 Democratic National Convention repudiated the Cleveland administration and nominated Bryan on the fifth presidential ballot. Bryan then won the nomination of the Populist Party, which had won several states in 1892 and shared many of Bryan's policies. In opposition to Bryan, some conservative Bourbon Democrats formed the National Democratic Party and nominated Senator John M. Palmer. McKinley prevailed by a wide margin on the first ballot of the 1896 Republican National Convention.

Since the onset of the Panic of 1893, the nation had been mired in a deep economic depression, marked by low prices, low profits, high unemployment, and violent strikes. Economic issues, especially tariff policy and the question of whether the gold standard should be preserved for the money supply, were central issues. McKinley forged a conservative coalition in which businessmen, professionals, and prosperous farmers, and skilled factory workers turned off by Bryan's agrarian policies were heavily represented. McKinley was strongest in cities and in the Northeast, Upper Midwest, and Pacific Coast. Republican campaign manager Mark Hanna pioneered many modern campaign techniques, facilitated by a $3.5 million budget. Bryan presented his campaign as a crusade of the working man against the rich, who impoverished America by limiting the money supply. Silver, he said, was in ample supply and if coined into money would restore prosperity while undermining the illicit power of the money trust. Bryan was strongest in the South, rural Midwest, and Rocky Mountain states. Bryan's moralistic rhetoric and crusade for inflation (to be generated by the institution of bimetallism) alienated conservatives.

Bryan campaigned vigorously throughout the swing states of the Midwest, while McKinley conducted a "front porch" campaign. At the end of an intensely heated contest, McKinley won a majority of the popular and electoral vote. Bryan won 46.7% of the popular vote, while Palmer won just under 1% of the vote. Turnout was very high, passing 90% of the eligible voters in many places. The Democratic Party's repudiation of its Bourbon faction largely gave Bryan and his supporters control of the Democratic Party until the 1920s, and set the stage for Republican domination of the Fourth Party System.

1898 United States elections

The 1898 United States elections occurred in the middle of Republican President William McKinley's first term, during the Fourth Party System. The elections took place shortly after the end of the Spanish–American War. Members of the 56th United States Congress were chosen in this election. Republicans retained control of both houses of Congress.

Democrats picked up several seats in the House at the expense of Republicans and the Populist Party. However, Republicans continued to control the chamber with a slightly diminished majority.In the Senate, Republicans picked up several seats at the expense of the Democrats, growing the Republican majority. Several Senators continued to affiliate with third parties.The elections helped Democrats further incorporate the remaining elements of the Populist Party, many of whom had been attracted to the Democratic Party after the 1896 candidacy of William Jennings Bryan. Republican Senate gains helped ensure ratification of the Treaty of Paris, which ended the Spanish–American War and left the US in control of Cuba, the Philippines, Guam, and Puerto Rico.

1900 United States elections

The 1900 United States elections elected the 57th United States Congress. The election was held during the Fourth Party System. Republicans retained control of the Presidency and both houses of Congress, while third parties suffered defeats.

In a re-match of the 1896 presidential election, Republican President William McKinley defeated Democratic former Representative William Jennings Bryan of Nebraska. McKinley's previous running mate, Vice President Garret Hobart, had died in office, so the Republicans nominated New York Governor Theodore Roosevelt as their vice presidential candidate. McKinley again won by a comfortable margin in both the popular vote and the electoral college, and he picked up a handful of states in the West and the Midwest. McKinley's win made him the first sitting President to win re-election since Ulysses S. Grant in 1872.

Republicans won minor gains in the House, maintaining their majority.In the Senate, the Democrats made moderate gains while the Populist Party lost three seats. Republicans continued to maintain a commanding majority in the chamber.

1902 United States elections

The 1902 United States elections elected the 58th United States Congress, and occurred in the middle of Republican President Theodore Roosevelt's first term, during the Fourth Party System. Roosevelt had become president on September 14, 1901, upon the assassination of his predecessor, William McKinley. Republicans retained a majority in both chambers of Congress, while the Populist Party and Silver Republican Party disappeared from Congress.

Reapportionment added twenty nine seats to the House. Democrats picked up several seats in the newly enlarged House, while Republicans made lesser gains. Republicans continued to control the chamber with a slightly diminished majority.In the Senate, Republicans and Democrats each picked up one seat, while the Populist Party lost both its seats. Republicans maintained a commanding majority in the chamber.

1904 United States elections

The 1904 United States elections elected the members of the 59th United States Congress. It occurred during the Fourth Party System. Republicans maintained control of the Presidency and both houses of Congress. For the first time since the 1828 election, no third party or independent won a seat in Congress.

In the Presidential election, Republican President Theodore Roosevelt defeated Democratic judge Alton Parker from New York. Parker, a conservative Bourbon Democrat, won the Democratic nomination on the first ballot, as former President Grover Cleveland and former presidential nominee William Jennings Bryan both declined to run. Roosevelt dominated both the popular vote and the electoral college, carrying every state outside the South. Roosevelt, who succeeded William McKinley after the latter was assassinated in 1901, became the first vice president to succeed to the presidency and later win election to the presidency in his own right. The election also saw Florida hold the first ever presidential primary, although Florida delegates were not bound by the results of the primary.Republicans won major gains in the House, boosting their majority.In the Senate, the Republicans picked up one seat, and maintained a commanding majority.

1906 United States elections

The 1906 United States elections elected the members of the 60th United States Congress. It occurred in the middle of Republican President Theodore Roosevelt's second (only full) term, during the Fourth Party System. Republicans retained control of both houses of Congress.

Democrats won several seats in the House, but Republicans retained a solid majority in the chamber.In the Senate, Republicans won moderate gains and maintained their commanding majority in the chamber.

1908 United States elections

The 1908 United States elections elected the members of the 61st United States Congress, occurring during the Fourth Party System. Oklahoma joined the union during the 61st Congress. Despite the Panic of 1907, Republicans continued to control the Presidency and both houses of Congress.

In the Presidential election, Republican former Secretary of War William Howard Taft defeated Democratic former Representative William Jennings Bryan of Nebraska. Taft and Bryan won both of their respective parties' nominations on the first ballot. Taft easily won the election, taking most states outside the South. Bryan's loss made him the only presidential nominee of a major party to lose three general elections.

Democrats made minor gains in the House, but Republicans maintained a solid majority in the chamber.In the Senate, Democrats picked up one seat, but Republicans continued to hold a commanding majority.

1910 United States elections

The 1910 United States elections elected the members of the 62nd United States Congress, occurring during the Fourth Party System. The election was held in the middle of Republican President William Howard Taft's term. The Socialist Party won election to Congress for the first time. Arizona and New Mexico were admitted as states during the 62nd Congress.

Democrats won massive gains in the House, taking control of a chamber of Congress for the first time since the 1894 elections.In the Senate, Democrats won major gains, but Republicans continued to control the chamber.The election was a major victory for progressives in both parties. Taft had alienated many progressives in his own party, and allies of Taft lost several nomination battles. The strengthening of progressive Republicans helped lead to Theodore Roosevelt's third party run in 1912. Meanwhile, Woodrow Wilson's landslide gubernatorial election victory in New Jersey helped position him as a major candidate for the 1912 Democratic nomination. The progressive victory led to the passage of the 17th Amendment and the establishment of the Department of Labor during the 62nd Congress.

1912 United States elections

The 1912 United States elections elected the members of the 63rd United States Congress, occurring during the Fourth Party System. Amidst a division between incumbent Republican President William Howard Taft and former Republican President Theodore Roosevelt, the Democratic Party won the Presidency and both chambers of Congress, the first time they accomplished that feat since the 1892 election.

In the Presidential election, Democratic Governor Woodrow Wilson of New Jersey defeated Republican President William Howard Taft and former president and Progressive Party nominee Theodore Roosevelt. Socialist union leader Eugene Debs, running his fourth campaign, took six percent of the vote. At the 1912 Democratic National Convention, Wilson took the nomination on the 46th ballot, defeating Speaker Champ Clark and several other candidates. Roosevelt left the Republican Party after an unsuccessful challenge to Taft at the 1912 Republican National Convention. Though Wilson carried just over 40% of the popular vote, he dominated the electoral college and won a greater share of the electoral vote than any candidate since Ulysses S. Grant in 1872. Wilson's election made him the first Democratic president since Grover Cleveland left office in 1897. Roosevelt's candidacy finished second in the popular vote and the electoral college, the only time a third party candidate accomplished either feat.

Following the 1910 census, 41 seats were added to the House, setting the House at 435 seats. Democrats made major gains in the House, further strengthening their majority, while the new Progressive Party won ten seats.In the last Senate election before the ratification of the 17th Amendment, Democrats made moderate gains and won control of the chamber for the first time since the 1892 election.

1916 United States elections

The 1916 United States elections elected the members of the 65th United States Congress. The election occurred during the Fourth Party System, six months before the United States entered World War I. Unlike 1912, the Democrats did not benefit from a split in the Republican Party, but the Democrats still retained the Presidency and the majority in the Senate. Democrats lost the majority in the House, but retained control of the chamber.

Democratic President Woodrow Wilson defeated the Republican nominee, former Supreme Court Justice Charles Evans Hughes, in the presidential election. Hughes won the Republican nomination on the third ballot of the 1916 Republican National Convention, defeating several other candidates. Republicans won several Northern states, but Wilson's success in the rest of the country gave him a small margin in the electoral college and the popular vote. Wilson's win made him the first sitting Democratic President to win re-election since Andrew Jackson. Wilson's running mate, Thomas R. Marshall, was the first sitting Vice President to win re-election since John C. Calhoun.

Republicans made moderate gains in the House, gaining a narrow plurality. However, Democrat Champ Clark won re-election as Speaker of the House.

In the second Senate election since the ratification of the 17th Amendment, Republicans made minor gains, but Democrats retained a solid majority.

1918 United States elections

The 1918 United States elections elected the 66th United States Congress, and took place in the middle of Democratic President Woodrow Wilson's second term. The election was held during the Fourth Party System. It was the lone election to take place during America's involvement in World War I. Republicans won control of both chambers of Congress for the first time since the 1908 election.

In an example of the six-year itch phenomenon, Republicans took complete control of Congress from the Democrats. The Republicans won large gains in the House, taking 25 seats and ending coalition control of the chamber. In the Senate, Republicans gained 5 seats, taking control of the chamber by a slim majority.The elections were a major defeat for progressives and Wilson's foreign policy agenda, and foreshadowed the Republican victory in the 1920 election. Republicans ran against the expanded war-time government and the Fourteen Points, especially Wilson's proposal for the League of Nations. The Republican victory left them in control of both houses of Congress until the 1930 election.

1930 United States elections

The 1930 United States elections were held on November 4, 1930, in the middle of Republican President Herbert Hoover's term. Taking place shortly after the start of the Great Depression, the Republican Party suffered substantial losses. The election was the last of the Fourth Party System, and marked the first time since 1918 that Democrats controlled either chamber of Congress.The Republicans lost fifty-two seats to the Democratic Party in the House of Representatives. While the Republicans maintained a one-seat majority after the polls closed, they lost a number of special elections (since some Republican members died) before the start of the new congress. This allowed the Democrats to take control of that chamber with a one-seat majority.The Republicans also lost eight seats to the Democrats in the U.S. Senate, but were able to maintain control with Republican Vice President Charles Curtis casting the tie breaking vote.The election was a victory for progressives of both parties, as Republicans closely aligned with Hoover lost several Congressional elections. Additionally, New York Governor Franklin D. Roosevelt's landslide re-election established him as the front-runner for the 1932 Democratic nomination.

1932 United States elections

The 1932 United States elections was held on November 8, during the Great Depression. The presidential election coincided with U.S. Senate, U.S. House, and gubernatorial elections in several states. The election marked the end of the Fourth Party System and the start of the Fifth Party System. The election is widely considered to be a realigning election, and the newly established Democratic New Deal coalition experienced much more success than their predecessors had in the Fourth Party System.Democratic New York Governor Franklin D. Roosevelt defeated Republican incumbent President Herbert Hoover. Roosevelt won in a landslide, and Hoover only won six Northeastern states. Roosevelt's victory was the first by a Democratic candidate since Woodrow Wilson won re-election in 1916. Roosevelt took his party's nomination on the fourth ballot, defeating 1928 nominee Al Smith and Speaker of the House John Nance Garner.

The Republicans suffered massive defeats in both congressional chambers with many seats switching to Democratic control. Democrats gained ninety-seven seats in the House of Representatives, increasing their majority over the Republicans (and achieving a House supermajority). The Democrats also took control of the Senate, gaining twelve seats from the Republicans. Republicans had controlled the chamber since their electoral success in 1918.The election took place after the 1930 United States Census and the subsequent Congressional re-apportionment. The Reapportionment Act of 1929 provided a permanent method of apportioning 435 House seats; previously, Congress had had to pass apportionment legislation after each census.

1932 United States presidential election

The United States presidential election of 1932 was the thirty-seventh quadrennial presidential election, held on Tuesday, November 8, 1932. The election took place against the backdrop of the Great Depression. Incumbent Republican President Herbert Hoover was defeated in a landslide by Democrat Franklin D. Roosevelt, the Governor of New York. The election marked the effective end of the Fourth Party System, which had been dominated by Republicans.

Despite poor economic conditions, Hoover faced little opposition at the 1932 Republican National Convention. Roosevelt was widely considered the front-runner at the start of the 1932 Democratic National Convention, but was not able to clinch the nomination until the fourth ballot of the convention. The Democratic convention chose a leading Southern Democrat, Speaker of the House John Nance Garner of Texas, as the party's vice presidential nominee. Roosevelt united the party around him, campaigning on the failures of the Hoover administration. He promised recovery with a "New Deal" for the American people.

Roosevelt won by a landslide in both the electoral and popular vote, carrying every state outside of the Northeast and receiving the highest percentage of the popular vote of any Democratic nominee up to that time. Hoover had won over 57% of the popular vote in the 1928 presidential election, but saw his share of the popular vote decline to 39.7%. Socialist Party nominee Norman Thomas won 2.2% of the popular vote. Subsequent landslides in the 1934 mid-term elections and the 1936 presidential election confirmed the commencement of the Fifth Party System, which would be dominated by Roosevelt's New Deal Coalition.

Party system

A party system is a concept in comparative political science concerning the system of government by political parties in a democratic country. The idea is that political parties have basic similarities: they control the government, have a stable base of mass popular support, and create internal mechanisms for controlling funding, information and nominations.

The concept was originated by European scholars studying the United States, especially James Bryce and Moisey Ostrogorsky, and has been expanded to cover other democracies.Giovanni Sartori devised the most widely used classification method for party systems. He suggested that party systems should be classified by the number of relevant parties and the degree of fragmentation. Party systems can be distinguished by the effective number of parties.

Political parties in the United States

Political parties in the United States are mostly dominated by a two-party system consisting of the Democratic Party and the Republican Party. The United States Constitution has always been silent on the issue of political parties, since at the time it was signed in 1787 there were no parties in the nation.

Third Party System

The Third Party System is a term of periodization used by historians and political scientists to describe the history of political parties in the United States from 1854 until the mid-1890s, which featured profound developments in issues of American nationalism, modernization, and race. This period, the later part of which is often termed the Gilded Age, is defined by its contrast with the eras of the Second Party System and the Fourth Party System.

It was dominated by the new Republican Party, which claimed success in saving the Union, abolishing slavery and enfranchising the freedmen, while adopting many Whiggish modernization programs such as national banks, railroads, high tariffs, homesteads, social spending (such as on greater Civil War veteran pension funding), and aid to land grant colleges. While most elections from 1876 through 1892 were extremely close, the opposition Democrats won only the 1884 and 1892 presidential elections (the Democrats also won the 1876 and 1888 presidential election popular vote, but lost the electoral college vote), though from 1876 to 1892 the party often controlled the United States House of Representatives and from 1879 to 1887 frequently controlled the United States Senate. Democrats were back in control of the Senate at the end of the Third Party System and held the upper chamber for most of the 1890s. Indeed, some scholars emphasize that the 1876 election saw a realignment and the collapse of support for Reconstruction. The northern and western states were largely Republican, save for closely balanced New York, Indiana, New Jersey, and Connecticut. After 1876, the Democrats took control of the "Solid South."

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