Why Did The Democratic And Republican Parties Switch Platforms? See Why 

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Several years ago in American politics, Democrats and Republicans switched parties, in what many now refer to as the Great switch. 

The great switch occurred at different times in American political history. However, the major occurrence was during the 1968 presidential election between Democrat Hubert Humphrey and Republican Richard Nixon.  

You can credit that year’s presidential election result to long-term strife among the political parties. This strife led to the formation of two major political parties; Democrats and Republicans. 

Black Americans are the most powerful Democrats, while Southerners are the most powerful Republicans. 

However, the power used to be the other way round until the switch happened.

Now, here’s the major question.

Why did the Democratic and Republican Parties Switch Platforms?

This iconic shift happened in 1960 because of the Democrats’ Civil Rights policies. The standard narrative puts civil rights policy-making in 1960 as the basis of the switch. However, the party switch first began in the 1940s. 

There was an internal fight among the Democrats. Southern Democrats were shunning the liberal Republicans for supporting civil rights. In contrast, northern Democrats were pressing hard for civil and voting rights. 

The US presidential election of 1860 confirmed the division in the Democratic Party. Thus, the party division caused the northern Democrats to switch to Republicans. This switch resulted in the American Civil War.

Continue reading this article if you’d love to know more about the big switch of the 1960s. 

History Of The Democratic And Republican Parties

The Democratic Party was founded in 1828, while the Republican Party was founded in 1854. 

 You can trace the historical backgrounds of these two parties back to their Founding Fathers.

The United States’ founding fathers had different political beliefs. The contrasting political views eventually led to the formation of two parties. 

The political view of George Washington, Alexander Hamilton, and John Adams was to have a powerful government. Therefore, they wanted a government with a national bank and a central banking system. Hence, their unique banking system ideas birthed the Federalists party. 

In contrast, Thomas Jefferson and James Madison had different political ideologies. They wanted a political system where they can advocate for a minimal, more decentralized approach. With their decentralized government views, they founded the Democratic-Republicans party.

The Democratic-Republican Party

Jefferson and Madison founded the party to oppose the Federalist Party’s ideas. 

The constitution ideas of the Democratic-Republicans party tackled many of Hamilton’s initiatives. These initiatives were totally against the idea of the national bank. Instead of the national bank, they supported a freeholder.

In their party, a freeholder is held in higher esteem than an industrialist or other wealthy individuals. The rich merchants had dictatorial natures, which Democratic-Republicans opposed. 

Therefore, the Federalist government lost the election to the Democratic-Republican Party. 

Thus, you can trace the modern-day American political parties to this early co-formation. 

Democratic-Republican Division

The Democratic-Republicans became so popular and dominating at the turn of the 19th century. In contrast, the popularity of the Federalists party dwindled over time. The political wane in the Federalists party led to their final splitting. 

After this split, Democratic-Republicans became very influential. As a result of this influence, the presidential election of 1824 had four Democratic-Republican candidates. 

After the election, Andrew Jackson won the popular vote, but John Quincy Adams became the President. This sentimental vote triggered a deep political conflict within the party. 

This internal conflict resulted in the party splitting into two factions. The fractions are the Democrats and the Whig party. 

The Democratic Party had Andrew Jackson as its leader. Andrew Jackson opposed the creation of the national bank while the Whig faction endorsed the national bank.

Slavery In The 19th Century—The Whig And Democratic Party

Slavery was a controversial political topic in American during the mid-19th century. The controversies started from the Democratic Party. 

The southern Democrats believed that leaders should extend slavery to the western parts of the population. In contrast, the leaders of northern Democrats argued that the people should decide the matter by a public referendum.

This argument made a group of Whigs, Democrats, and some other politicians divide. The division led to the creation of a new party called Republican based on the anti-slavery agenda.

The anti-slavery agenda of the republicans had Abraham Lincoln as its advocate. Naturally, therefore, the Republicans won the presidential election of 1860. 

Civil War During Abraham Lincoln’s Tenure

Tensions arose between Northern and Southern states shortly after Lincoln’s inauguration. These tensions resulted in the outbreak of the Civil War in 1861. 

During Civil War Seven, the southern states created the Confederate States of America. These states also fought for independence from the United States.

However, the union won the independence war. The union’s victory led to the legal disbandment of the confederacy during the civil war. 

During the war, the issue of slavery was at the forefront of political debate. Republicans fought for the abolition of slavery. In contrast, the Democrats defended slavery in the United States and promoted its extension into the West. 

The Southerners were Democrats at this time in history, while the Northern voters were Republicans. The democrats had conservative, agrarian-oriented, and anti-big-business beliefs. However, the Republicans believed in African-Americans civil rights.

How The Democratic And Republican Parties Switched Platforms

After the war, the Republican Party in Northern states had a new orientation. Their orientation was towards industry, economic growth, and large business. Because of these rich ideas, the Republicans established themselves as a wealthy party and elites. 

Therefore, many Republicans thrived financially during the successful year of the 1920s. Unfortunately, the financial market collapsed in 1929. This ill-fated market crash initiated the Great Depression era.

During this era, Americans shifted the financial crisis blame to the Republican President, Herbert Hoover. Finally, the people voted Democrat Franklin Roosevelt as President in 1932 because they were tired of the economic crises.

Roosevelt brought up a New Deal to bring the country back on track. The New Deal established several progressive government-funded social initiatives. In addition, he initiated new deals in social security, infrastructural improvements, and a minimum wage. 

However, the Southern Democrats opposed Roosevelt’s new deal and liberal agenda. Nevertheless, these liberal ideas were crucial in influencing the Democratic Party’s political agenda. The ideas birthed what we now know as the modern Democratic Party. 

Furthermore, the Democratic Party retained power in the White House under Harry Truman after Roosevelt’s death in 1945.

Harry Truman continued to lead the Democratic Party in a progressive path. He led using progressive ideas. These ideas employed the desegregation of military forces and a pro-civil rights platform.  

This pro-civil rights platform made Americans who had initially supported the Republican Party switch to the Democrats. 

Notable American Politicians Who Switched Parties

When a prominent public figure switches parties today, it becomes a national affair. In most cases, renowned people switched political parties before becoming famous.

Party switch became more frequent after the Republicans displaced the Whigs in 1856.  Here are ten politicians that switched political parties at some point in their lives.

John Tyler:

Tyler was quickly denounced by his party, the Whigs. The Whigs party dismissed him while in office. The dismissal occurred after William Henry Harrison died in 1841. 

After Harrison’s death, Tyler became a president without a party. He had no political party since he refused to join the Democrats.

Hillary Rodham Clinton:

Hillary Clinton was one of the Goldwater Girls. These girls campaigned for Arizona Republican Barry Goldwater in 1964. After the Republican National Convention in 1968, Hillary declared herself a Democrat.

Hannibal Hamlin:

He was Abraham Lincoln’s first Vice President. This vice president was a staunch Democrat. But he switched from the Democratic to the Republican Party in 1856. 

The switch to the Republicans was because he disagreed with his fellow Democrats’ pro-slavery ideas. His surprising shift to the Republican Party made headlines on the national news.

Theodore Roosevelt:

He was a progressive Republican who served nearly two full presidential terms in office. However, Roosevelt quit the Republican convention in 1912 and created his party.

 He called it a quit to create a new party because he became unsatisfied with his successor William Taft. But, unfortunately, his opponent defeated his party in his campaign for a third term in government.  Hence, he returned to join the Republican Party.

Thurmond Strom:

In 1948, Thurmond ran for President as a segregationist. He served in the United States Senate in 1950 before defecting to the Republican Party. 

Elizabeth Dole:

She was a Democrat in the Johnson administration in 1960. But in 1975, she switched parties. 

She switched to the Republican Party just before her husband, Bob Dole, endorsed Gerald Ford for President as a Republican.

Wendell Willkie:

Willkie was a delegate to the Democratic National Convention in 1932. However, he quit the Democrats in 1939 after a disagreement with Franklin Roosevelt’s government, 

Ronald Reagan:

Reagan was a lifelong Democrat before switching parties.  In 1962, he officially changed to the Republican. He said the Republicans had him because the Democratic Party abandoned him. 

Leon Panetta:

Panetta began his political career as a Republican. However, in 1971, Panetta switched from being a Republican.

Panetta’s switch to becoming a democrat occurred because he wasn’t satisfied with Nixon’s civil rights policies.

Elizabeth Warren:

Warren began her political career as a Republican because of the party’s pro-business ideas. However, she left the party in the 1990s to become a Democrat.


The Republican and Democratic parties in the United States have not always had the same political values that they have now.

The politics of the Democratic Party transformed the party from being a small government into a party of big government. In contrast, the big government of the Republican Party shifted to restricting federal power.

The switch began in the 1940s because the Democrats made Civil Rights a part of their official party platform.  The civil rights policy making in 1960 is the reason for this significant switch.

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