25 Little-Known Facts About US Political Parties

Posted by , Updated on April 23, 2024

For almost the entirety of its existence, political parties have been a fixture of the United States. Naturally, in a genuine democracy, power tends to be concentrated among those voters who share similar perspectives. History has shown us the ebb and flow of political parties, all subject to the currents of public opinion. An enduring characteristic of this political landscape has ostensibly been the two-party system, and the numerous politicians adeptly navigating their political tactics. Here are 25 Lesser-Known Facts About US Political Parties.


George Washington was the only American president to not be affiliated with a political party.

george washingtonSource: https://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2014/dec/31/george-washingtons-views-political-parties-america/

The Democratic Party is the oldest continuous political party, starting back in 1790 with Thomas Jefferson.

thomas jeffersonSource: http://www.politifact.com/wisconsin/statements/2016/oct/24/tim-kaine/democratic-party-oldest-continuous-political-party/

During Washington's first administration, the Federalist Party, one of the first parties to be created in America, popped up out of opposition to the Democratic-Republican party.

federalistSource: http://www.history.com/topics/federalist-party

The Federalist Party, however, came to an end after the War of 1812; their last presidential campaign was in 1816.

Battle_of_New_OrleansSource: https://sites.google.com/a/uconn.edu/bav11001/the-end-of-the-federalist-party

The Democratic Party, then known as the Democratic-Republicans under Thomas Jefferson, was once in favor of a minimalist government.

democratic republicanSource: http://www.encyclopedia.com/social-sciences-and-law/political-science-and-government/political-parties-and-movements/democratic

The Whig Party formed out of opposition to Andrew Jackson's Democrats. They died out due to their fickle stances on policies.

whig partySource: http://www.history.com/topics/whig-party

The Two Party System is not in the Constitution but has pretty much existed almost as long as the founding of the country due to the winner-take-all election method.

two partySource: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-fix/wp/2016/04/27/why-are-there-only-two-parties-in-american-politics/?utm_term=.073f8ca3e48e

While it's true that the country has run under a two-party system, we can't forget that third parties do exist. The first third party in the United States was the Anti-Masonic Party, created out of opposition to the Free Mason movement. And while third parties rarely win elections, they do shape elections, policies, and ideas.

antimasonSource: https://www.britannica.com/event/Anti-Masonic-Movement#ref281871, https://www.scholastic.com/teachers/articles/teaching-content/origins-and-functions-political-parties/

At political party conventions, both parties have pledged and un-pledged delegates to vote for a presidential candidate. Un-pledged delegates have the ability to choose whichever candidate they want.

democrat partySource: http://blog.acton.org/archives/88046-5-facts-about-the-political-party-conventions.html

The Democratic Party had one of the worst political slogans for a candidate. It read, "Vote for Al Smith and Make Your Wet Dreams Come True." Al Smith was against prohibition.

al smith buttonSource: http://www.thehistoryblog.com/archives/25561

Abraham Lincoln was a loyal member of the Whig Party longer than the Republican Party.

abe lincolnSource: https://quod.lib.umich.edu/j/jala/2629860.0016.105/--why-abraham-lincoln-was-a-whig?rgn=main;view=fulltext

The Republican Party was originally more progressive for its time. It gradually became conservative and eventually split over Progressivism.

republicanSource: http://www.encyclopedia.com/social-sciences-and-law/political-science-and-government/political-parties-and-movements/republican

The Republican Party got their elephant logo from a political cartoon by Thomas Nast of Harper's Weekly.

elephantSource: https://mic.com/articles/153376/how-an-elephant-came-to-symbolize-the-republican-party#.UzgVHDEiF

When Andrew Jackson's political opponents called him a "jackass," he embraced the insult and put a donkey on his campaign posters. The Democratic Party has used it as their symbol ever since.

Andrew_JacksonSource: http://mentalfloss.com/article/23805/how-did-donkey-elephant-become-political-mascots

For several years after the Civil War, the Republican Party seated more Presidents than the Democratic Party. Their streak ended after the Great Depression.

gopSource: https://www.scholastic.com/teachers/articles/teaching-content/origins-and-functions-political-parties/

As already hinted at, political parties often change over time. For example, according to a Pew Research Study, in 2015, 41% of Democrats described themselves as liberal. In contrast, in the year 2000, 43% of Democrats considered themselves moderate while only 27% said they were liberal.

sweaterSource: http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2015/10/12/5-facts-about-democrats/

Since its founding, the Republican Party has seated a total of 19 presidents.

presidentsSource: http://www.republicanpresidents.net/

Before the Civil War, an anti-slavery party emerged in 1848 called "The Free-Soil Party." It was vehemently opposed to slavery expansion in the western territories but the party only polled 10 percent of the popular vote.

free soil partySource: https://www.britannica.com/topic/Free-Soil-Party

At the time, more Republicans than Democrats voted for the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Southern Democrats were heavily divided over the issue. In fact, The Republican Party started out of an anti-slavery convention in Jackson, Michigan, and the first African-American congressman and senators were in the Republican Party.

republican anti slaverySource: https://www.gop.com/history/, http://www.history.com/topics/american-civil-war/black-leaders-during-reconstruction, http://www.cnn.com/2014/04/10/politics/civil-rights-act-interesting-facts/index.html

Immigration hasn't always been a modern controversial issue. In 1840, the "Know-Nothings Party" grew out of nativist fears about millions of immigrants from Germany, Ireland, China, and other countries flooding into America. Wary of attention, party members would say, "I know nothing" when asked about the party's existence.

know nothingSource: http://mentalfloss.com/article/84536/8-political-parties-you-might-remember-history-class

According to the Pew Research Center, independents outnumber either Republicans or Democrats. In 2014, 39% of the public identified as Independent, 32% as Democrat, and 23% as Republican. However, this doesn't necessarily show that there's another party about to replace the main two; it more shows that even people who "lean" towards one of the main parties don't fully support everything that party represents or stands for.

independentsSource: http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2016/07/05/5-facts-about-americas-political-independents/

Since World War II, a Republican president has been in power during at least one economic recession.

recessionSource: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2016-12-21/republican-presidents-and-recessions-a-pattern-trump-would-like-to-break

In opposition to the conservatism of the Republican Party, Theodore Roosevelt started the more progressive Bull-Moose Party. After a defeat, the Bull-Moose party dissolved and joined back up with the Republicans.

teddy rooseveltSource: https://www.britannica.com/topic/Bull-Moose-Party

A third party that makes some waves is the Green Party. It's been active in the United States since 1984 and focuses on peace, ecology, social justice, and democracy.

welfareSource: http://www.latina.com/lifestyle/politics/green-party-facts

Despite their good intentions and struggle for changes across the board, many blame Ralph Nader and the Green Party for stealing votes from Al Gore and by proxy electing George W. Bush. The trend of blaming the third party for stealing votes from the main two parties happens every presidential election, and the general debate over voting third party continues to this day.

Ralph_Nader_headshotSource: https://www.realclearpolitics.com/articles/2016/05/31/nader_elected_bush_why_we_shouldnt_forget_130715.html

Photos: 25 – 20. Wikipedia Commons.com (Public Domain), 19. Tomwsulcer, Two party system diagram, CC BY-SA 3.0, 18 -17. flickr user Ava Lowery, 20080825 Michelle Obama Speaks at 2008 Democratic National Convention, CC BY 2.0, 16. The History Blog (Fair Use: No Free Images Available), 15 – 11. Wikipedia Commons.com (Public Domain), 10. TheUglySweaterShop.com via flickr. CC BY 2.0, 9 – 4. Wikipedia Commons.com (Public Domain), 3. Wikipedia Commons.com (Public Domain), 2. Midnightblueowl, Welfare Not Warfare, CC BY-SA 3.0, 1. http://www.flickr.com/photos/wickenden/ Don LaVange, Ralph Nader headshot, CC BY-SA 2.0