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Republicans and Democrats: The Switch

By Cecilia Ridgeway

Many are familiar with the most popular political parties in the United States; the Democrats and the Republicans. So far, all the presidents that have served in office since 1852 have been affiliated with one of these parties. While the two parties have historically butted heads, their views have seemed to flip over the years.

Around 1860, the U.S mainly had Democratic presidents that served in office. Back then, Republicans, who had more votes in the north, were more forward thinkers and far more against slavery than the Democrats in the south, who were pro-slavery.

“The most significant change between the parties was concerning the political issues focused on race and racial equality [Civil Rights Act and Voting Rights Act]. I would say, because of this, people of color would be the most affected by the change,” Mr. Kromer, a La Follette history teacher said.

The change was a very slow process lasting from around 1900 to as late as 1980. In 1909, Republicans gained support from African American voters because they believed that the Republicans were on their side; working together to front the Jim Crow laws. But the 27th president, President William Howard Taft, a Republican himself, decided that they were going to stop fighting these laws, which caused African Americans to start their switch over to supporting Democrats.

During the Great Depression when the stock market crashed, the country went into a crisis state where many people lost their jobs and life savings, sending thousands of people into poverty. But when democrat president Franklin Delano Roosevelt pushed New Deal programs, an attempt to bring back jobs and help people who were in need using new programs like social security, the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) and the Works Progress Administration (WPA), African Americans started voting even more in the favor of Democrats.

President Harry S. Truman, who was a Democrat, started to support civil rights for African Americans. The Democrats in the South, also known as the Dixiecrats, disagreed with Truman, which prompted Southern voters to switch their party to what we know today as Republican. At this time, the Republicans started to be more conservative like the Democrats once were, since most of the Democrats were switching parties, bringing their perspectives to the Republican party.

“Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was able to use his position to speak to President Lyndon Johnson on a regular basis and push hard to accomplish the gains made in the Civil Rights Acts and Voting Rights Act, as well as the economic benefits of Johnson's 'Great Society’,” Kromer said.

Even though not all moments in history are as relevant as others, political parties are one piece of history that still has a big impact on us and our country today.

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