History of the American Two - . , thirdp

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History of the American Two-Party System Most Americans look favorably on the two-party system because it has dominated much of American politics from the very beginning. The Republican and Democratic  parties have existed for more than 150 years, and that history gives them a legitimacy that third parties do not have. The two-party system is also self-perpetuating. Children grow  up identifying with one of the two major parties instead of a  third party  because children tend to share their parents’ political views. Polarizing Issues Throughout much of American history, central issues have divided the electorate. In the  early decades of the republic, for example, the extent of federal power dominated politics. Some political scientists might argue that today’s polarizing issues include abortion and  gay marriage. Such polarizing issues have helped maintain the two-party system in the  United States: Each party rallies around one side of the issue at hand. The Early Republic: Federalists Versus Antifederalists (1792–1800) The first political issue that divided American statesmen was the ratification of the  Constitution. On one side were the Federalists, who wanted to ratify the Constitution in  order to create a stronger national government; the Antifederalists, on the other side,  feared that the Constitution would strip people of the liberties they had just won in the  Revolutionary War. Although the Constitution was ratified, this early political division  extended into the first decades of the republic. The Federalists allied themselves to  Alexander Hamilton and President John Adams, while Thomas Jefferson rallied the  Antifederalists, who had begun calling themselves the Democratic Republicans. Neither  faction was a true party in the modern sense, though, because both lacked strong  cohesion. The “Era of Good Feeling” (1800–1824) Following Jefferson’s victory in the presidential election of 1800, the Federalists faded  away as a serious political threat, so that by the time of James Monroe’s presidency (1817 to 1825), almost all Americans identified with the Democratic Republicans. Because of  the absence of party competition, this period has been dubbed the “Era of Good Feeling.” The public still debated and fought over issues but not within the context of distinct  political factions.
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The Jacksonian Era: Democrats Versus Whigs (1824–1850) The first modern political party was the Democratic Party, which formed in the wake of  the highly contested presidential election of 1824, when Andrew Jackson won the popular vote but did not win a majority of electoral votes. The House of Representatives chose 
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