Legislation, Presidential & Congressional Politics/George Washington's party??

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Question
Hello.  I know very very very little about politics.  But, I was looking at a chronological map of the democratic and republican presidents.  I noticed that George Washington, was not given a party.  Could you explain why George Washington didn't have a party.  Then could you explain why the Democrat and Republican parties were formed.  If you could explain in pretty basic language that would be great :) Thank you! Cathy

Answer
Hello,

Many of the founding fathers believed that political parties were bad idea.  They would force the country into competing factions which could not work for the common good in an issue by issue basis.

George Washington took this to heart and never claimed to be a part of any party.  He never sought the nomination of a party and never joined one.  The second President, John Adams never did either.  Adams, however, is generally considered to be part of the Federalist Party because that party nominated him for President despite his refusal to join the party formally.  Both Washington and Adams tended to favor Federalist policies in their Administrations.

Although parties were disfavored by most founders, practical politics led them to be formed quickly.  Politicians quickly realized they needed an organization to ensure that like minded men would be elected around the country to support the policies they favored.  It gave voters a way to be confident that an elected leader would support a certain set of policies.

The naming of the parties can be confusing as well.  The Party founded by Jefferson and Madison was originally known as the Republican Party.  It was later called the Democratic-Republican Party and today that same party is the Democratic Party.  

The opposing party was the Federalist Party, organized primarily by Alexander Hamilton.  After Hamilton was killed in a duel with Aaron Burr (Jefferson's Vice President at the time) the party began to lose cohesion.  It was gone by the early 1800's, with the Whig party taking its place.  The Whig Party never really had a sustained solid majority and had also largely faded by the mid 1800's.  The Party we know as the Republican Party did not start until just before the Civil War and was focused almost exclusively on limiting or ending slavery.  Of course, it quickly took on many of the issues that had been supported by the Whig party and absorbed most of those party members.

Ironically, although Hamilton's political party died off rather quickly and that of Jefferson and Madison is still going strong today, both parties of today tend to support Hamiltonian policies.  Hamilton's Federalists supported a larger and more powerful federal government, a stronger military, governmental support for industry (by building infrastructure and having favorable tax policies for businesses) and a stronger alliance with Great Britain.

Jefferson and Madison's desires for a very limited federal government with strong State governments, a small military based primarily on part time militia, an agricultural economy with little manufacturing or commerce, and a sustained hostility to Great Britain have largely been disfavored.

- Mike

Legislation, Presidential & Congressional Politics

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Michael Troy

Expertise

I can answer just about any question about U.S. Political history, Constitutional law, the legislative process, elections, etc. I enjoy Presidential and Congressional historical trivia, but can answer more substantive questions too.

Experience

Former Staff member for a Congressman and Senator. I also worked on about 10 Congressional and Presidential campaigns (only one that won). For a short time, I worked in the legal department of the Federal Election Commission.    I have a B.A. in Political Science.

Organizations
Former LBJ Fellow (paid fellowship for Congressional Staff).
Pi Sigma Alpha (Political Science Honorary Society).

Publications
Washington Post
Washington Times

Education/Credentials
J.D. University of Michigan
B.A. George Washington University (Poli. Sci. major).

Awards and Honors
LBJ Fellow
Truman Scholar

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