Democrats and Republicans: two parties for a country

The democratic donkey and republican elephant are often drawn with the colors, bars and stars of the American flag. (Wikipedia)

Candidates of both the Democratic and the Republican party have taken office in the US for over one century.

Since 1852, all US presidents have been elected candidates from both the Democratic and the Republican Party, which means that the US government has been ruled by two parties for over 160 years.

There are other political parties in the United States, such as the Green Party, the Liberal Party, the Socialist Party and there is even a Communist Party (with ideas that go against Capitalist System that prevails in the country).

However, Democrats and Republicans have learned to adjust to historical changes over the years until fully controlling the two-party system: which show that they have been alternating in power for decades, without letting other political parties that could eclipse them take part in the game.

A tale about donkeys and elephants

The Democratic Party (DP) was founded in 1828 and was one of the first ever political parties in the US. The symbol the DP is a donkey, first associated with Democrat Andrew Jackson’s 1828 presidential campaign. Jackson was known amongst his opponents as Andrew the Jackass (a donkey).

Rather than getting angry and rejecting the label, took advantage of it saying that the donkey was a humble hard-working animal. Jackson won the 1828 elections and went on to serve as America’s 7th President.

The Republican Party (GOP) was founded in 1854. Its founders came from other political parties with very different ideas, but with one aim in common: the abolition of slavery. The first republican president was Abraham Lincoln, who won the election in 1860.

The symbol of the Republicans is an elephant. The symbol comes from a cartoon made in 1874, which represents the GOP’s defeat at the presidential elections. The Republicans turned it around by stating that the Elephant is a strong and intelligent animal.

Thomas Nast represented the Republican defeat as if a donkey disguised as a lion (the Democratic Party) scared away all the animals of the ‘political jungle’. The elephant (Republican Party) symbolizes a scary animal, easy to subdue. (Wikipedia)

The key to keeping power

The 1787constitution enables a two-party system: larger parties are more likely to obtain representatives, whereas smaller parties need many more votes to achieve representation at congress.

In addition, the press usually only talk about the two main parties, so there is no information to be heard about all the other parties on the media. It can be quite difficult to find information about minor political parties’ candidates and proposals.

Besides, the US is such a big and diverse country (50 states and has over 320 million people) that the ideas of both democrats and republicans can change a lot from one state to the other.

The representatives of one same party can defend and support different interests: for instance, Democrats in the south are quite more conservatives than those in the north. This leaves little space for other political alternatives. 

There are about twenty parties registered in the United States, but only two are large enough to gain power (at the moment). (Archive)


Getting into politics costs money

Preparing the election campaign, giving speech in front of thousands of people, travel all around the country with a press team… is so expensive! Parties have a budget to keep and that has been assigned by the Congress, but they are also allowed to receive donations.

Donations to parties are controlled by the US Electoral commission: there is a limited amount of money that people or corporations can donate to parties. This way any kind of political favor is tried to be prevented: large companies or corporate donors giving money to curry favor with them.

For example, a gas company that is not interested in solar or wind power being promoted.     So that it can have an influence on the country’s energy policy, it will donate a great deal of money to the political party so that its candidate wins. Thus they will have a president on their side , they will be able to pressure and stop him from investing in renewable energies.

Translated by Chaplin’s Languages | Find out more in Junior Report.


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