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.
The need to win popular support in a republic led to the American invention of voter-based political parties in the 1790s. Americans were especially innovative in devising new campaign techniques that linked public opinion with public policy through the party.
Political scientists and historians have divided the development of America's two-party system into five eras. The first two-party system consisted of the Federalist Party, who supported the ratification of the Constitution, and the Democratic-Republican Party or the Anti-Administration party (Anti-Federalists), who opposed the powerful central government, among others, that the Constitution established when it took effect in 1789.
The modern two-party system consists of the Democratic Party and the Republican Party. Several third parties also operate in the U.S., and from time to time elect someone to local office. The largest third party since the 1980s has been the Libertarian Party.
Some political candidates, and many voters, choose not to identify with a particular political party. In some states, independents are not allowed to vote in primary elections, but in others, they can vote in any primary election of their choice. Although the term "independent" often is used as a synonym for "moderate," "centrist," or "swing voter," to refer to a politician or voter who holds views that incorporate facets of both liberal and conservative ideologies, most self-described independents consistently support one of the two major parties when it comes time to vote.
The United States Constitution is silent on the subject of political parties. The Founding Fathers did not originally intend for American politics to be partisan. In Federalist Papers No. 9 and No. 10, Alexander Hamilton and James Madison, respectively, wrote specifically about the dangers of domestic political factions. In addition, the first President of the United States, George Washington, was not a member of any political party at the time of his election or throughout his tenure as president. Furthermore, he hoped that political parties would not be formed, fearing conflict and stagnation, as outlined in his Farewell Address.
Nevertheless, the beginnings of the American two-party system emerged from his immediate circle of advisers. Hamilton and Madison, who wrote the aforementioned Federalist Papers against political factions, ended up being the core leaders in this emerging party system. It was the split camps of Federalists, given rise with Hamilton as a leader, and Democratic-Republicans, with Madison and Thomas Jefferson at the helm of this political faction, that created the environment in which partisanship, once distasteful, came to being.
The First Party System of the United States featured the Federalist Party and the Democratic-Republican Party (also called "Democratic-Republican" or "Jeffersonian Republican"). The Federalist Party grew from the national network of Washington's Secretary of the Treasury, Alexander Hamilton, who favored a strong united central government, close ties to Britain, a centralized banking system, and close links between the government and men of wealth.
The Democratic-Republican Party was founded by Madison and Thomas Jefferson, who strongly opposed Hamilton's agenda. The Jeffersonians came to power in 1800 and the Federalists were too elitist to compete effectively. They survived in the Northeast, but their refusal to support the War of 1812 verged on secession and was a devastating blow when the war ended well. The Era of Good Feelings under President James Monroe (1816–1824) marked the end of the First Party System and a brief period in which partisanship was minimal.
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The Second Party System operated from about 1828 to 1854, following the splintering of the Democratic-Republican Party. Two major parties dominated the political landscape: the Whig Party, led by Henry Clay, that grew from the National Republican Party; and the Democratic Party, led by Andrew Jackson. The Democrats supported the primacy of the Presidency over the other branches of government, and opposed both the Bank of the United States as well as modernizing programs that they felt would build up industry at the expense of the taxpayer.
The Whigs, on the other hand, advocated the primacy of Congress over the executive branch as well as policies of modernization and economic protectionism. Central political battles of this era were the Bank War and the Spoils system of federal patronage. The 1850s saw the collapse of the Whig party, largely as a result of decline in its leadership and a major intra-party split over slavery as a result of the Compromise of 1850. In addition, the fading of old economic issues removed many of the unifying forces holding the party together.
The Third Party System stretched from 1854 to the mid-1890s, and was characterized by the emergence of the anti-slavery Republican Party (nicknamed "GOP" for "Grand Old Party"), which adopted many of the economic policies of the Whigs, such as national banks, railroads, high tariffs, homesteads and aid to land grant colleges.
Civil war and Reconstruction issues polarized the parties until the Compromise of 1877, which ended the latter. Thus both parties became broad-based voting coalitions and the race issue pulled newly enfranchised African Americans (Freedmen) into the Republican Party while white southerners (Redeemers) joined the Democratic Party. The Democratic coalition also had conservative pro-business Bourbon Democrats, traditional Democrats in the North (many of them former Copperheads), and Catholic immigrants, among others. The Republican coalition also consisted of businessmen, shop owners, skilled craftsmen, clerks, and professionals who were attracted to the party's modernization policies.
The Fourth Party System, 1896 to 1932, consisted of the same interest groups as the Third Party System, but saw major shifts in the central issues of debate. This period also corresponded to the Progressive Era, and was dominated by the Republican Party. It began after the Republicans blamed the Democrats for the Panic of 1893, which later resulted in William McKinley's victory over William Jennings Bryan in the 1896 presidential election.
The central domestic issues changed to government regulation of railroads and large corporations ("trusts"), the protective tariff, the role of labor unions, child labor, the need for a new banking system, corruption in party politics, primary elections, direct election of senators, racial segregation, efficiency in government, women's suffrage, and control of immigration. Most voting blocs continued unchanged, but some realignment took place, giving Republicans dominance in the industrial Northeast and new strength in the border states. Historians have long debated why no Labor Party emerged in the United States, in contrast to Western Europe.
The Fifth Party System emerged with the New Deal Coalition beginning in 1933. The Republicans began losing support after the Great Depression, giving rise to Democratic President Franklin D. Roosevelt and the activist New Deal. They promoted American liberalism, anchored in a coalition of specific liberal groups, especially ethno-religious constituencies (Catholics, Jews, African Americans), white Southerners, well-organized labor unions, urban machines, progressive intellectuals, and populist farm groups.
Opposition Republicans were split between a conservative wing, led by Ohio Senator Robert A. Taft, and a more successful moderate wing exemplified by the politics of Northeastern leaders such as Nelson Rockefeller, Jacob Javits, and Henry Cabot Lodge. The latter steadily lost influence inside the GOP after 1964.
Experts debate whether this era ended (and a Sixth Party System subsequently emerged) in the mid-1960s when the New Deal coalition died, the early 1980s when the Moral Majority and the Reagan coalition were formed, the early 1990s when Third Way emerged among Democrats, the mid-1990s during the Republican Revolution, or if the Fifth system continues in some form to the present.
Since the 1930s, the Democrats positioned themselves more towards liberalism while the conservatives increasingly dominated the GOP. However, new voter coalitions emerged during the latter half of the 20th century, with conservatives and the Republicans becoming dominant in the South, rural areas, and suburbs; while liberals and the Democrats increasingly started to rely on a coalition of African-Americans, Hispanics and white urban progressives.
Although American politics have been dominated by the two-party system, several other political parties have also emerged throughout the country's history. The oldest third party was the Anti-Masonic Party and was formed in upstate New York in 1828; the party's creators feared the Freemasons, believing they were a powerful secret society that was trying to rule the country in defiance of republican principles.
The modern political party system in the U.S. is a two-party system dominated by the Democratic Party and the Republican Party. These two parties have won every United States presidential election since 1852 and have controlled the United States Congress to some extent since at least 1856.
The Democratic Party is one of two major political parties in the U.S. Founded as the Democratic-Republican Party in 1792 by Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, it is the oldest extant voter-based political party in the world.
The Democratic Party at its founding supported a different set of issues than it presently supports. From its founding until the mid-20th century, the Democratic Party was the dominant party among white Southerners, and as such, was then the party most associated with the defense of slavery. However, following the Great Society under Lyndon B. Johnson, the Democratic Party became the more progressive party on issues of civil rights, while losing dominance in the Southern states to the Republicans.
The Democratic Party since 1912 has positioned itself as the liberal party on domestic issues. The economic philosophy of Franklin D. Roosevelt, which has strongly influenced modern American liberalism, has shaped much of the party's agenda since 1932. Roosevelt's New Deal coalition controlled the White House until 1968, with the exception of the two terms of President Eisenhower from 1953–1961. Since the mid-20th century, Democrats have generally been in the center-left and currently support social justice, social liberalism, a mixed economy, and the welfare state, although Bill Clinton and other New Democrats have pushed for free trade and neoliberalism, which is seen to have shifted the party rightwards. Democrats are currently strongest on the East and West Coasts and in major American urban centers. African-Americans and Latinos tend to be disproportionately Democratic, as do trade unions.
In 2004, it was the largest political party, with 72 million registered voters (42.6% of 169 million registered) claiming affiliation. Although his party lost the election for president in 2004, Barack Obama would later go on to become president in 2009 and continue to be the president until January 2017. Obama was the 15th Democrat to hold the office, and from the 2006 midterm elections until the 2014 midterm elections, the Democratic Party was also the majority party in the United States Senate.
A 2011 USA Today review of state voter rolls indicates that the number of registered Democrats declined in 25 of 28 states (some states do not register voters by party). During this time, Republican registration also declined, as independent or no preference voting was on the rise. Democrats were still the largest political party with more than 42 million voters (compared with 30 million Republicans and 24 million independents). But in 2011 Democrats numbers shrank 800,000, and from 2008 they were down by 1.7 million, or 3.9%.
The Republican Party is one of the two major contemporary political parties in the United States of America. Since the 1880s it has been nicknamed (by the media) the "Grand Old Party" or GOP, although it is younger than the Democratic Party.
Founded in 1854 by Northern anti-slavery activists and modernizers, the Republican Party rose to prominence in 1860 with the election of Abraham Lincoln, who used the party machinery to support victory in the American Civil War. The GOP dominated national politics during the Third Party System, from 1854 to 1896, and the Fourth Party System from 1896 to 1932.
Since its founding, the Republican Party has been the more market-oriented of the two American political parties, often favoring policies that aid American business interests. As a party whose power was once based on the voting power of Union Army veterans, this party has traditionally supported more aggressive defense measures and more lavish veteran's benefits. Today, the Republican Party supports an American conservative platform, with further foundations in economic liberalism, fiscal conservatism, and social conservatism. The Republican Party tends to be strongest in the Southern United States and the "flyover states", as well as suburban and rural areas in other states. One significant base of support for the Republican Party are Evangelical Christians, who have wielded significant power in the party since the early 1970s.
President Donald Trump is the 18th and the current Republican to be elected to the office of President of the United States. Since the 2010 midterm elections, the Republicans have held a majority in the United States House of Representatives up until the recent 2018 midterms where they lost it to the Democratic Party, and since the 2014 elections, the Senate.
The United States also has an array of minor parties, the largest of which (on the basis of support for their Presidential candidates in the 2016 election), are the Libertarian, Green, and Constitution parties.
The Libertarian Party was founded on December 11, 1971. It is the largest continuing third party in the United States, claiming more than 511,277 registered voters across all 50 states. As of 2019, they have about 176 elected officials, including 1 state legislator.
The 2012 Libertarian Party nominee for United States President was former New Mexico governor, Gary Johnson. He achieved ballot access in every state except for Michigan (only as a write-in candidate) and Oklahoma. He received over one million votes in the election. In 2016, Johnson ran again, receiving over four million votes, or 3% of the popular vote.
The Libertarian Party's core mission is to reduce the size, influence and expenditures of all levels of government. To this effect, the party supports minimally regulated markets, a less powerful federal government, strong civil liberties, drug liberalization, separation of church and state, open immigration, non-interventionism and neutrality in diplomatic relations, free trade and free movement to all foreign countries, and a more representative republic. As of 2016, it is the third largest organized political party in the United States.
In the United States, the Green Party has been active as a third party since the 1980s. The party first gained widespread public attention during Ralph Nader's second presidential run in 2000. Currently, the primary national Green Party organization in the U.S. is the Green Party of the United States, which has eclipsed the earlier Greens/Green Party USA.
The Green Party in the United States has won elected office mostly at the local level; most winners of public office in the United States who are considered Greens have won nonpartisan-ballot elections (that is, elections in which the candidates' party affiliations were not printed on the ballot). In 2005, the Party had 305,000 registered members in the District of Columbia and 20 states that allow party registration. During the 2006 elections the party had ballot access in 31 states. In 2017, Ralph Chapman, a Representative in the Maine House of Representative switched his association from Unaffiliated to the Green Independent Party. 
The United States Green Party generally holds a left-wing ideology on most important issues. Greens emphasize environmentalism, non-hierarchical participatory democracy, social justice, respect for diversity, peace and nonviolence. As of 2016, it is the fourth largest organized political party in the United States.
The Constitution Party is a small national, conservative political party in the United States. It was founded as the U.S. Taxpayers Party in 1992 by Howard Phillips. The party's official name was changed to the Constitution Party in 1999; however, some state affiliate parties are known under different names.
In 2006, Rick Jore of Montana became the first Constitution Party candidate elected to a state-level office, though the Constitution Party of Montana had disaffiliated itself from the national party a short time before the election.
In 2010 former Congressman Tom Tancredo was the Constitution Party candidate for governor of Colorado coming in second with 617,030 votes, 36.4% and ahead of the Republican candidate, Dan Maes, with 11.1%.
The Constitution Party's 2012 presidential nominee was former Congressmen Virgil Goode of Virginia.
Tennessee Attorney Darrell Castle was the 2016 Constitution Party nominee for President of the United States and Scott Bradley of Utah was the nominee for Vice President.
As of 2016, it is the fifth largest organized political party in the United States.
Because American political parties are more loosely organized than those in other countries, not all members of a party subscribe to all of the officially held positions in their respective party's platform. The usual degree of variation generally is higher for the larger parties. Party members may hold different views on legislation to be enacted at the state or federal levels, and an elected official once in office may act contradictory to many of his or her party's positions (this has led to terms such as "Republican In Name Only"). Furthermore, the modern American political spectrum, and the usage of left–right politics, differs from the rest of the world. For example, the Democratic Party, the primary left-of-center party in the country, generally supports a social liberal position rather than a social democratic one.
The American Vegetarian Party was a United States political party formed on July 28, 1947. The party held conventions and nominated candidates for President and Vice-President in several national elections, although they never seriously pursued ballot access or official recognition as a political party by election officials.Christian Party (United States, 1930s)
The Christian Party was an American fascist political party founded by William Dudley Pelley in 1935. The party can be considered the political wing of Pelley's paramilitary organization, the Silver Legion of America. It ran with Pelley as its candidate for the 1936 presidential campaign (Silver Legion member Willard Kemp was the vice presidential candidate). Pelley gained just 1,600 votes in the election. The party was quickly dissolved after the United States entered World War II.Justice Party (United States)
The Justice Party USA is a political party in the United States. It was organized in November 2011 by a group of political activists including former mayor of Salt Lake City Rocky Anderson as an alternative to what he saw as a duopoly of the two major political parties. One of the major goals of the Justice Party is removing corporate influence and other concentrated wealth from politics.List of political parties in Minnesota
This article lists political parties in Minnesota.List of political parties in the United States
This is a list of political parties in the United States, both past and present.List of political parties in the United States Virgin Islands
This article lists political parties in the United States Virgin Islands.
The United States Virgin Islands has a three-party system, and many additional candidates run as independents.National Republican Party
The National Republican Party, also known as the Anti-Jacksonian Party and sometimes the Adams Party, was a political party in the United States that evolved from a faction of the Democratic-Republican Party that supported John Quincy Adams in the 1824 presidential election.
Known initially as "Adams-Clay Republicans" in the wake of the 1824 campaign, Adams' political allies in Congress and at the state-level were referred to as "Adams' Men" during his presidency (1825–1829). When Andrew Jackson became president, following his victory over Adams in the 1828 election, this group became the opposition, and organized themselves as "Anti-Jackson". The use of the term "National Republican" dates from 1830.
Henry Clay served as the party's nominee in the 1832 election, but he was defeated by Jackson. The party supported Clay's American System of nationally financed internal improvements and a protective tariff. After the 1832 election, opponents of Jackson coalesced into the Whig Party. National Republicans, Anti-Masons and others joined the new party.National Socialist League (United States)
The National Socialist League was a neo-Nazi political party in the United States that existed from 1974 until the late-1980s. It was founded by Russell Veh in Los Angeles, United States. Veh financed the party using the profits from his printing business. He also financed the party with a film distribution unit that specialized in Nazi propaganda films, including Triumph of the Will. The National Socialist League had chapters in various parts of California, and implied in their mass mailing on July 4th, 1978 that they had established an offshoot organization in Manhattan.National Socialist Liberation Front
The National Socialist Liberation Front was originally established as a youth wing of the National Socialist White People's Party in 1969. In 1974 it was reconstituted as a separate neo-Nazi organization after its leader Joseph Tommasi had been expelled by NSWPP leader Matt Koehl.National Socialist Movement (United States)
The National Socialist Movement (NSM) is a neo-Nazi organization based in Detroit, Michigan. It is a part of the Nationalist Front. The Party claimed to be the "largest and most active" National Socialist organization in the United States. Although classified as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, it refers to itself as a "white civil rights organization", and compares itself to the NAACP. The party also objects to being referred to as "racist", and "Neo-Nazi", stating that such descriptions of their goals are unflattering and inaccurate. Each state has members in smaller groups within areas known as "regions". The NSM holds national meetings and smaller regional and unit meetings.In January 2019, the leadership of the group was turned over to James Hart Stern, a black activist, who announced his intention to undermine the group and "eradicate" it.National Socialist Party of America
The National Socialist Party of America was a Chicago-based organization founded in 1970 by Frank Collin shortly after he left the National Socialist White People's Party. The NSWPP had been the American Nazi Party until shortly after the assassination of leader George Lincoln Rockwell in 1967. Collin, a follower of Rockwell, developed differences with his successor Matt Koehl.
The party's headquarters were in Chicago's Marquette Park, and its main activity in the early 1970s was organizing loud demonstrations against blacks moving into previously all-white neighborhoods. The marches and community reaction led the city of Chicago to ban all demonstrations in Marquette Park unless they paid an insurance fee of $250,000. While challenging the city's actions in the courts, the party decided to redirect its attention to Chicago's suburbs, which had no such restrictions.National States' Rights Party
The National States' Rights Party was a far right, white supremacist party that briefly played a minor role in the politics of the United States.New Afrikan Black Panther Party
The New Afrikan Black Panther Party (NABPP) is a revolutionary socialist organization in the United States. The group is largely based in prison and commonly referred to as the New Afrikan Black Panther Party – Prison Chapter (NABPP-PC). The party is built as a modern-day continuation of the Black Panther Party prison chapter developed by George Jackson and W. L. Nolen.New Alliance Party
The New Alliance Party (NAP) was an American political party formed in New York City in 1979. Its immediate precursor was an umbrella organization known as the Labor Community Alliance for Change, whose member groups included the Coalition of Grass Roots Women and the New York City Unemployed and Welfare Council. All of these groups were associated with controversial psychologist and political activist Fred Newman, whose radical health care collectives, Centers for Change and Marxist International Workers Party, were active in grassroots politics in New York City. The NAP's first chairperson was then-South Bronx City Councilman Gilberto Gerena-Valentin, a veteran Puerto Rican political activist. The party is notable for getting African American psychologist Lenora Fulani on the ballot in all 50 states during her first Presidential campaign in 1988, making her both the first African-American and woman to do so.Opposition Party (Northern U.S.)
The Opposition Party was a party identification under which Northern, anti-slavery politicians, formerly members of the Democratic and Whig parties, briefly ran in the 1850s. This was in response to the expansion of slavery into the new territories. It was one of the movements which arose from the political chaos in the decade before the Civil War in the wake of the Compromise of 1850. The movement arose before and was quickly subsumed by the coalescence of the Republican Party in 1856.
During the fragmenting of the Second Party System of Jackson Democrats and Clay Whigs, the Democratic efforts to expand slavery into western territories, particularly Kansas, led to organized political opposition, which coalesced in Congress as the "Opposition Party." As the Whig Party disintegrated, many local and regional parties grew up, some ideological, some geographic. When they realized their numbers in Congress, they began to caucus in the same way US political parties had arisen before the Jacksonian national party conventions. Scholars such as Kenneth C. Martis have adopted a convention to explain the Congressional coordination of anti-Pierce and anti-Buchanan factions as the "Opposition Party".Peace and Freedom Party
The Peace and Freedom Party (PFP) is a left-wing political party with affiliates and former members in more than a dozen American states, including California, Colorado, Florida, Hawaii, Indiana and Utah, but none now have ballot status besides California. Peace and Freedom's first candidates appeared on the ballot in 1966 in New York. The Peace and Freedom Party of California was organized in early 1967, gathering over 103,000 registrants which qualified its ballot status in January 1968 under the California Secretary of State Report of Registration.
The Peace and Freedom Party has appeared in other states as an anti-war and pro-civil rights organization opposed to the Vietnam War and in support of black liberation, farm-worker organizing, women's liberation, and the gay rights movements. In 2004, 2008, 2012 and 2016, the party's presidential candidates were Leonard Peltier, Ralph Nader, Roseanne Barr and Gloria La Riva, respectively.Silver Party
The Silver Party was a political party in the United States active from 1892 until 1911 and most successful in Nevada which supported a platform of bimetallism and free silver.In 1892, several Silver Party candidates were elected to Nevada public offices. The party's success continued throughout the decade, culminating in the election of Governors John E. Jones and Reinhold Sadler. Nevada was the only state to elect both Senators and Congressional representatives from the Silver Party.Nationally, the Silver Party aligned with the Populist Party and to a lesser extent with the Silver Republican Party. By 1902, most pro-silver factions in Nevada had been absorbed by the state Democratic Party organization.Silver Republican Party
The Silver Republican Party was a United States political party in the 1890s. It was so named because it split from the Republican Party over the issues of free silver (effectively, expansionary monetary policy) and bimetallism. The main Republican Party supported the gold standard. Silver Republican strength was concentrated in the Western states where mining, particularly silver mining, was an important industry. Silver Republicans were elected to the Congress from several Western states. In 1896, Silver Republicans supported Democratic presidential nominee William Jennings Bryan over William McKinley. After 1900, the Silver Republican Party was on the decline and most of its members rejoined the Republican Party. However, some such as Senator Fred Dubois of Idaho and former Secretary of the Interior Henry M. Teller of Colorado joined the Democratic Party.White Patriot Party
The White Patriot Party (WPP) was an American anti-Semitic white supremacist paramilitary political party associated with Christian Identity and the Ku Klux Klan. It was led by its founder, Frazier Glenn Miller Jr., through various organizational incarnations. The organization began in the mid-1970s as the Carolina Knights of the Ku Klux Klan. It was involved in the incident in Greensboro, North Carolina, when a confrontation between Klansmen, Nazis and communists left five people dead. The organization became the Confederate Knights of the Ku Klux Klan in the early 1980s and the White Patriot Party in 1985.At a time of a poor farming economy in North Carolina, the group built support by blaming economic problems on Jewish bankers. Estimates were that its numbers might have been as high as 3000. On April 6, 1987, the group declared war against the federal government, which they called "Zionist Occupation Government" (ZOG).The WPP collapsed after Miller violated an injunction against paramilitary activity and was convicted of threatening the civil rights activist Morris Dees. He was imprisoned from 1987 to 1990. In a 1988 sedition trial in Arkansas, Miller testified for the prosecution that he had received $200,000 in stolen money from The Order to finance operations of the White Patriot Party. The Order was also called the Brüder Schweigen, or Silent Brotherhood.
State and local political parties without a federal or national parent body
United States articles