The World of U.S. Politics
The United States Constitution has never formally addressed the issue 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 helming this political faction, that created the environment in which, once distasteful partisanship, came to being
The Democratic Party is one of two major political parties in the U.S. It is the oldest political party in the world.
Since the division of the Republican Party in the election of 1912 with the creation of the Progressive Party, the Democratic Party has positioned itself as the liberal party on domestic issues. The economic philosophy of Franklin D. Roosevelt and Lyndon Johnson, which has strongly influenced 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 Eisenhower 1953-1961.
In 2004, it was the largest political party, with 72 million voters (42.6% of 169 million registered) claiming affiliation. The president of the United States, Barack Obama, is the 15th Democrat to hold the office, and since the 2006 midterm elections, the Democratic Party is the majority party for the United States Senate.
A 2011 USA Today review of state voter rolls indicates that registered Democrats declined in 25 of 28 states (some states do not register voters by party). 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%. [read more]
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. Today, the Republican Party supports an American conservative platform, with further foundations in economic liberalism, fiscal conservatism, and social conservatism.
Former President George W. Bush is the 19th Republican to hold that office. The party's nominee for President of the United States in the 2012 presidential election was Mitt Romney, former Governor of Massachusetts. Since the 2010 midterm elections, the Republicans have held a majority in the United States House of Representatives.
USA Today 's review of state voter rolls indicates that registered Republicans declined in 21 of 28 states (not all states register voters by party) and that Republican registrations were down 350,000 in 2011. The number of independents rose in 18 states, increasing by 325,000 in 2011, and was up more than 400,000 from 2008, or 1.7%. [read more]
The Constitution Party
The Constitution Party is a conservative United States political party. It was founded as the U.S. Taxpayers Party in 1992. The party's official name was changed to the Constitution Party in 1999; however, some state affiliate parties are known under different names.
According to ballot access expert Richard Winger, the editor of Ballot Access News, who periodically compiles and analyzes voter registration statistics as reported by state voter agencies, it ranks third nationally amongst all United States political parties in registered voters, with 438,222 registered members as of October 2008. This makes it currently the largest third party in the United States.
The Constitution Party advocates a platform that they believe reflects the Founding Fathers' original intent of the U.S. Constitution, principles found in the U.S. Declaration of Independence, and morals taken from the Bible.
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.
The Constitution Party's 2012 presidential nominee was Virgil Goode.
The Green Party
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.
Greens emphasize environmentalism, non-hierarchical participatory democracy, social justice, respect for diversity, peace and nonviolence.
The Libertarian Party
The Libertarian Party was founded on December 11, 1971. It is one of the largest continuing third parties in the United States, claiming more than 331,000 registered voters. They currently have about 144 elected officials, more than any of the other minor parties.
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, the highest for any candidate since the founding of the party in 1971.
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.
Some political candidates, and many voters, choose not to identify with a particular political party. According to a Gallup poll conducted in 2013, 42% of Americans identify themselves as independent voters. This number has increased over the last few decades. The percentage of Democratic leaning independents is growing while the percentage of Republican leaning independents is diminishing.
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. Independents can be of any political persuasion, but the term most commonly refers to politicians or voters who hold centrist views that incorporate facets of both Democratic and Republican ideology.