The following is largely stol….I mean borrowed from Wikipedia with some additions and slight revisions by Win Lose or Draw.

Main Wikipedia article:  Political Parties in the United States


Historical Background:

The United States Constitution has always been silent on the issue of political parties. At the time it was signed in 1787, there were no parties in the nation. No nation in the world had voter-based political parties.

The Founding Fathers did not originally intend for American politics to be partisan. In Federalist Papers No. 9 and No. 10, Alexander Hamilton and James Madison, respectively, wrote specifically about the dangers of domestic political factions. Perhaps they had been reading Gulliver’s Travels which criticized English society of the 1700’s for the mistake of “party and faction.” In addition, the first President of the United States, George Washington, was not a member of any political party at the time of his election or throughout his tenure as president. Furthermore, he hoped that political parties would not be formed, fearing conflict and stagnation.

Nevertheless, the beginnings of the American two-party system emerged from Washington’s immediate circle of advisers, including Hamilton and Madison. The need to win popular support in a republic led to the American invention of political parties in the 1790s. Americans have always been especially innovative in devising new campaign techniques that linked public opinion with public policy through the party system.

Plot Spoiler: Win Lose or Draw sees two important political implications based on the previous paragraphs:  

1. That the parties, through technology, are becoming much better at tailoring their public face to public opinion, and

2. The parties lack a true identity because they are busily trying to project a public face to which their perceived constituency will respond positively.

Political scientists and historians have divided the development of America’s two-party system into five eras. 

First Party System: 1792-1824

The First Party System of the United States featured the Federalist Party and the Democratic-Republican Party (Anti-Federalist). The Federalist Party grew from Washington’s Secretary of the Treasury, Alexander Hamilton, who favored a strong, united central government, close ties to Britain, an effective banking system, and close links between the government and men of wealth.

The Democratic-Republican Party was founded by James Madison and by Washington’s Secretary of State, Thomas Jefferson, who strongly opposed Hamilton’s agenda.

The Era of Good Feelings (1816–1824), marked the end of the First Party System. The elitism of the Federalists had diminished their appeal, and their refusal to support the War of 1812 backfired when the war ended well. The Era of Good Feelings under President James Monroe (1816–24) marked a brief period in which partisanship was minimal.

These good feelings inspired the first short-lived “era of internal improvements” from the 18th through the 25th Congress, which ended with the panic of 1837.

Second Party System: 1828-1854

In 1829, the Second Party System saw a split of the Democratic-Republican Party into the Jacksonian Democrats, led by Andrew Jackson, which later grew into the modern Democratic Party, and the Whig Party, led by Henry Clay. The Democrats supported the primacy of the Presidency over the other branches of government, and opposed the Bank of the United States as well as modernizing programs that they felt would build up industry at the expense of the taxpayer. The Whigs, on the other hand, advocated the primacy of Congress over the executive branch as well as policies of modernization and economic protectionism. Central political battles of this era were the Bank War and the Spoils system of federal patronage.

The 1850s saw the collapse of the Whig party, largely as a result of deaths in its leadership and a major intra-party split over slavery as a result of the Compromise of 1850. In addition, the fading of old economic issues removed many of the unifying forces holding the party together.

Third Party System: 1854-1890s

The Third Party System stretched from 1854 to the mid-1890s, and was characterized by the emergence of the anti-slavery Republican Party, which adopted many of the economic policies of the Whigs, such as national banks, railroads, high tariffs, homesteads and aid to land grant colleges. Civil war and Reconstruction issues polarized the parties until the Compromise of 1877, which ended Reconstruction which led a renewal of Southern home rule and to an entrenched anti-civil rights faction of Democrats in the South.

Thus, both parties became broad-based voting coalitions. The race issue pulled newly enfranchised African Americans (Freedmen) into the Republican party while white southerners (Redeemers) joined the Democratic Party. The Democratic coalition also had conservative pro-business Bourbon Democrats, traditional Democrats in the North (many of them former Copperheads), and Catholic immigrants, among others. The Republican coalition also consisted of businessmen, shop owners, skilled craftsmen, clerks and professionals who were attracted to the party’s modernization policies.

Fourth Party System: 1896-1932

The Fourth Party System, 1896 to 1932, retained the same primary parties as the Third Party System, but saw major shifts in the central issues of debate. This period also corresponded to the Progressive Era, and was dominated by the Republican Party. It began after the Republicans blamed the Democrats for the Panic of 1893, which later resulted in William McKinley’s victory over William Jennings Bryan in the 1896 presidential election. The central domestic issues changed to government regulation of railroads and large corporations (“trusts”), the protective tariff, the role of labor unions, child labor, the need for a new banking system, corruption in party politics, primary elections, direct election of senators, racial segregation, efficiency in government, women’s suffrage, and control of immigration.

Most voting blocs continued unchanged, but some realignment took place, giving Republicans dominance in the industrial Northeast and new strength in the border states.

Fifth Party System: 1933-present

The Fifth Party System emerged with the New Deal Coalition beginning in 1933. The Republicans began losing support after the Great Depression, giving rise to Democratic President Franklin D. Roosevelt and the activist New Deal. They promoted American Liberalism, anchored in a coalition of specific liberal groups, especially ethno-religious constituencies (Catholics, Jews, African Americans), white Southerners, well-organized labor unions, urban machines, progressive intellectuals, and populist farm groups. Opposition Republicans were split between a conservative wing, led by Ohio Senator Robert A. Taft, and a more successful moderate wing exemplified by the politics of Northeastern leaders such as Nelson Rockefeller, Jacob Javits, and Henry Cabot Lodge. They steadily lost influence inside the GOP after 1964.

Experts debate whether this era ended in the mid-1960s when the New Deal coalition did, the early 1980s when the Moral Majority and the Reagan coalition were formed, the mid-1990s during the Republican Revolution, or continues to the present.

Modern U.S. political party system:

The modern political party system in the U.S. is a two-party system dominated by the Democratic Party and the Republican Party. These two parties have won every United States presidential election since 1852 and have controlled the United States Congress to some extent since at least 1856.

Democratic Party

The Democratic Party is the oldest political party in the world.

The Democratic Party has positioned itself as the party of labor on economic issues. The economic philosophy of Franklin D. Roosevelt, which has strongly influenced American liberalism, has shaped much of the party’s agenda since 1932. Roosevelt’s New Deal coalition had controlled the White House until 1968 with the exception of Eisenhower 1953-1961.

In 2004, it was the largest political party, with 72 million voters (42.6% of 169 million registered) claiming affiliation. The president of the United States, Barack Obama, is the 15th Democrat to hold the office, and since the 2006 midterm elections, the Democratic Party is the majority party for the United States Senate.

A 2011 USA Today review of state voter rolls indicates that registered Democrats declined in 25 of 28 states (some states do not register voters by party). Democrats were still the largest political party with more than 42 million voters (compared with 30 million Republicans and 24 million independents). But in 2011 Democrats numbers shrank 800,000, and from 2008 they were down by 1.7 million, or 3.9%.

Republican Party

The Republican Party is one of the two major contemporary political parties in the United States of America. Since the 1880s it has been nicknamed (by the media) the “Grand Old Party” or GOP. Founded in 1854 by Northern anti-slavery activists and modernizers, the Republican Party rose to prominence in 1860 with the election of Abraham Lincoln, who used the party machinery to support victory in the American Civil War. The GOP dominated national politics during the Third Party System, from 1854 to 1896, and the Fourth Party System from 1896 to 1932. Today, the Republican Party supports an American conservative platform, with further foundations in economic liberalism, fiscal conservatism, and social conservatism.

Former President George W. Bush is the 19th Republican to hold that office. The party’s nominee for President of the United States in the 2012 presidential election was Mitt Romney, former Governor of Massachusetts. Since the 2010 midterm elections, the Republicans have held a majority in the United States House of Representatives.

USA Today’s review of state voter rolls indicates that registered Republicans declined in 21 of 28 states (not all states register voters by party) and that Republican registrations were down 350,000 in 2011. The number of independents rose in 18 states, increasing by 325,000 in 2011, and was up more than 400,000 from 2008, or 1.7%.

Since the 1930s, the Democrats have positioned themselves more towards Social Welfare, and issues promoting diversity. The GOP has attempted to unite traditional values and patriotism (My Country, right or wrong), with a newly emerging cry for “Less Government,”  echoing the traditional views of 1700’s Liberalism which demanded more rights for the individual.

Minor parties and independents

Although American politics have been dominated by the two-party system, several other political parties have also emerged throughout the country’s history. The oldest third party was the Anti-Masonic Party and was formed in upstate New York in 1828; the party’s creators feared the Freemasons, believing they were a powerful secret society that was trying to rule the country in defiance of republican principles.

Despite the large influence of political parties, a number of political candidates and voters refer to themselves as independents and choose not to identify with any particular political party at all. Several state governors and congressmen such as Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders have officially run as independents.

Since the 1930s, the modern American political spectrum and the usage of left–right politics have basically differed from the rest of the world. For example, among the two major parties, economic liberalism and classical liberalism’s central principle of limited government is generally supported by modern American Conservatism and the right-leaning Republican Party, rather than modern American Liberalism and the left-leaning Democratic Party.

Plot Spoiler 2: Notice that the term “Liberalism” has three different meanings in the paragraph above, and that two of them (fiscal liberalism and classical liberalism (limited government and, by extension, extended personal rights) are attributed to the modern American Conservative movement. Modern American Liberalism is described as “left-leaning” and associated with the Democratic party. It is impossible to discuss people and their attitudes in terms of their “Liberalism” or “Conservatism” unless the underlying meanings of those terms are clearly revealed. 

The term “left-leaning can also be extremely mis-leading. The left–right political spectrum is a system of classifying political positions, ideologies and parties. Left-wing politics and right-wing politics are often presented as opposed, although a particular individual or group may take a left-wing stance on one matter and a right-wing stance on another. In France, where the terms originated, the Left has been called “the party of movement” and the Right “the party of order.” The intermediate stance is called centrism and a person with such a position is a moderate. There is general consensus that the “Left,” as a term may be used to designate several otherwise incompatible groups including progressives, social-liberals, greens, social-democrats, socialists, democratic-socialists, civil-libertarians (as in “social-libertarians”; not to be confused with the right’s “economic-libertarians”), secularists, communists, and anarchists, and that the “Right” may likewise be used to designate several incompatible groups including conservatives, reactionaries, neoconservatives, capitalists, neoliberals, economic-libertarians (not to be confused with the left’s “civil-libertarians”), social-authoritarians, monarchists, theocrats, nationalists, Nazis (including neo-Nazis) and fascists.

Several third parties also operate in the U.S., and from time to time elect someone to local office. The largest third party since the 1980s is the Libertarian Party.

Major third parties

Constitution Party

The Constitution Party is a conservative United States political party. It was founded as the U.S. Taxpayers Party in 1992. The party’s official name was changed to the Constitution Party in 1999; however, some state affiliate parties are known under different names.

According to ballot access expert Richard Winger, the editor of Ballot Access News, who periodically compiles and analyzes voter registration statistics as reported by state voter agencies, it ranks third nationally amongst all United States political parties in registered voters, with 438,222 registered members as of October 2008. This makes it currently the largest third party in the United States.

The Constitution Party advocates a platform that they believe reflects the Founding Fathers’ original intent of the U.S. Constitution, principles found in the U.S. Declaration of Independence, and morals taken from the Bible.

In 2006, Rick Jore of Montana became the first Constitution Party candidate elected to a state-level office, though the Constitution Party of Montana had disaffiliated itself from the national party a short time before the election.

The Constitution Party’s 2012 presidential nominee was Virgil Goode.

Green Party

In the United States, the Green Party has been active as a third party since the 1980s. The party first gained widespread public attention during Ralph Nader’s second presidential run in 2000. Currently, the primary national Green Party organization in the U.S. is the Green Party of the United States, which has eclipsed the earlier Greens/Green Party USA.

The Green Party in the United States has won elected office mostly at the local level; most winners of public office in the United States who are considered Greens have won nonpartisan-ballot elections (that is, elections in which the candidates’ party affiliations were not printed on the ballot). In 2005, the Party had 305,000 registered members in the District of Columbia and 20 states that allow party registration.

During the 2006 elections the party had ballot access in 31 states.

Greens emphasize environmentalism, non-hierarchical participatory democracy, social justice, respect for diversity, peace and nonviolence.

The 2012 Green Party presidential nominee was Jill Stein.

Libertarian Party

The Libertarian Party was founded on December 11, 1971. It is one of the largest continuing third parties in the United States, claiming more than 250,000 registered voters.

The 2012 Libertarian Party nominee for United States President was former New Mexico governor, Gary Johnson.

Other parties

Besides the Constitution, Green and Libertarian parties, there are many other political parties that receive only minimal support and only appear on the ballot in one or a few states.


Some political candidates, and many voters, choose not to identify with a particular political party. In some states, independents are not allowed to vote in primary elections, but in others, they can vote in any primary election of their choice. Independents can be of any political persuasion, but the term most commonly refers to politicians or voters who hold centrist views that incorporate facets of both Democratic and Republican ideology.

Party comparisons

The following table lists some political ideologies most often associated with the five U.S. political parties with the most members, as well the tendencies of the official party positions on a number of reformist issues where positions diverge. Nuances may be found in the parties’ respective platforms. Not all members of a party subscribe to all of its officially held positions, the usual degree of variation generally being higher for the larger parties. Party members may hold different views on legislation to be enacted at the state or federal levels.

Modern political party comparisons


1. Abortion restrictions    

Green Party    Democratic Party        Libertarian Party        Republican Party    Constitution Party 

 No                              No                                    No                              Yes                           Yes

 2. Limiting private financing of campaigns

Green Party    Democratic Party        Libertarian Party        Republican Party    Constitution Party

 Yes                              Yes                                    No                            No                             No

 3. Legalization of same-sex marriages

Green Party    Democratic Party        Libertarian Party        Republican Party    Constitution Party

  Yes                              Yes                                   Yes                            No                             No

 4. Universal government health care

Green Party    Democratic Party        Libertarian Party        Republican Party    Constitution Party

  Yes                               Yes                                  No                             No                              No

 5. Progressive taxation

Green Party    Democratic Party        Libertarian Party        Republican Party    Constitution Party

Yes                                  Yes                                  No                            No                               No

 6. Immigration restrictions

Green Party    Democratic Party        Libertarian Party        Republican Party    Constitution Party 

 No                                   No                                   No                          Yes                               Yes

 7. Capital punishment

Green Party    Democratic Party        Libertarian Party        Republican Party    Constitution Party

  No                                   No                                   No                          Yes                               Yes

 8. Drug liberalization

Green Party    Democratic Party        Libertarian Party        Republican Party    Constitution Party

 Yes                                    No                                  Yes                          No                                No

 9. Civilian gun control

Green Party    Democratic Party        Libertarian Party        Republican Party    Constitution Party

 Yes                                    Yes                                  No                          No                                 No

 10. Non-interventionist foreign policy

Green Party    Democratic Party        Libertarian Party        Republican Party    Constitution Party

 Yes                                     No                                 Yes                          No                                 Yes

 Wikipedia Main article: Tea Party Platform (The following paragraph only)

The Tea Party does not have a fully developed platform on all of these issues, but can be described as Republican on many issues, Constitutional, though some members favor the repeal of some amendments (14, 16, and 17th.), and Libertarian on some issues. They support the Balanced Budget amendment and the Repeal Amendment by which two thirds of the states could band together to successfully repeal Federal Law. They are opposed to Universal Health Care and they are in favor of Immigration Restrictions. They do not have a cohesive foreign policy.

The Green Tea Party is a party with only one declared member—Win Lose or Draw. The Green Tea Party is of two minds on abortion and gun control, favors limiting private financing of campaigns, agrees with the ideals of letting gays have their guaranteed equal rights, and favors decriminalization of “crimes” that have no victims. The Green Tea Party is in favor of anything that reduces government spending and government bone-headed and heavy handedness in general, while, at the same time, finding a need for government oversight and regulations.

The Green Tea Party actively supports the concept of Subsidiarity as applied to government. Subsidiarity is an organizing principle that promotes decentralization. In a Democracy utilizing Subsidiarity, the most local authority that can effectively handle a disputed matter should be the governing authority on that matter.

The Green Tea Party further believes that the deficit must be reduced and the economy must “remain” strong.  


Minor political parties

America First Party 2002  

American Conservative Party 2008  

American Freedom Party 2010 American Third Position Party 

Americans Elect 2011  

America’s Party 2008 America’s Independent Party 

Christian Liberty Party* 1996 American Heritage Party 

Citizens Party of the United States 2004 New American Independent Party 

Communist Party of the United States of America 1919  International Meeting of Communist and Workers’ Parties

Freedom Socialist Party 1966  

Independent American Party 1998  

Justice Party 2011  

Modern Whig Party 2008  

National Socialist Movement 1974 World Union of National Socialists

Objectivist Party 2008  

Party for Socialism and Liberation 2004  

Peace and Freedom Party 1967  

Prohibition Party 1869  

Reform Party of the United States of America 1995 United We Stand America 

Socialist Action 1983 Fourth International

Socialist Alternative 1986 Committee for a Workers’ International

Socialist Equality Party 1966 Workers League International Committee of the Fourth International

Socialist Party USA 1973  

Socialist Workers Party 1938 Pathfinder tendency (unofficial)

United States Marijuana Party 2002  

United States Pacifist Party 1983  

United States Pirate Party 2006 Pirate Party International (observer)

Unity Party of America 2004  

Workers World Party 1959  



Historical parties

The following parties are no longer functioning; they are listed in order of founding.Federalist Party (c.?1789 – c.?1820)

Anti-Federalist Party (c.?1789 – c.?1792)

Democratic-Republican Party (1792 – c.?1824)

Toleration Party (1816 – c.?1827)

Anti-Masonic Party (1826–1838)

National Republican Party (1825–1833)

Nullifier Party (1830–1839)

Whig Party (1833–1856)

Liberty Party (1840–1848)

Law and Order Party of Rhode Island (1840s)

Free Soil Party (1848–1855)

Anti-Nebraska Party (1854)

American Republican Party (1843–1854)

American Party (a.k.a. “Know-Nothings”) (c.?1854 – 1858)

Opposition Party (1854–1858)

Constitutional Union Party (1860)

Unconditional Union Party (1861-1866)

National Union Party, (1864–1868)

Readjuster Party (1870–1885)

People’s Party of Utah (1870–1891)

Liberal Party (Utah) (1870–1893)

Liberal Republican Party (1872)

Greenback Party (1874–1884)

Socialist Labor Party of America (1876-2008)

Anti-Monopoly Party (1884)

People’s Party (a.k.a. “Populists”) (1887–1908)

Silver Party (1892–1902)

National Democratic Party (“Gold Democrats”) (1896–1900)

Silver Republican Party (1896–1900)

Social Democratic Party (1898–1901)

Home Rule Party of Hawaii (1900–1912)

Socialist Party of America (1901–1972)

Independence Party (a.k.a. “Independence League”) (1906–1914)

Progressive Party 1912 (a.k.a. “Bull Moose Party”) (1912–1914)

National Woman’s Party (1913–1930)

Non-Partisan League (1915–1956)

Farmer-Labor Party (1918–1944)

Proletarian Party of America (1920–1971)

Progressive Party 1924 (1924)

Communist League of America (1928–1934)

American Workers Party (1933–1934)

Workers Party of the United States (1934–1938)

Union Party (1936)

American Labor Party (1936–1956)

America First Party (1944) (1944–1996)

States’ Rights Democratic Party (a.k.a. “Dixiecrats”) (1948)

Progressive Party 1948 (1948–1955)

Vegetarian Party (1948–1964)

Puerto Rican Nationalist Party (1922-1965)

Constitution Party (1950s) (1952–1968?)

American Nazi Party (1959–1967)

Puerto Rican Socialist Party (1959–1993)

Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party (1964)

Black Panther Party (1966–1970s)

Patriot Party (1960s–1980s)

Youth International Party (a.k.a. “Yippies”) (1967)

Communist Workers Party (1969–1985)

People’s Party (1971–1976)

New Union Party (1974-2005?)

U.S. Labor Party (1975–1979)

Concerned Citizens Party (1975–1992)

Citizens Party (1979–1984)

New Alliance Party (1979–1992)

Populist Party of 1980s–1990s (1984–1994)

Looking Back Party (1984–1996)

Independent Party of Utah (1988–1996)

A Connecticut Party (1990-?)

New Party (1992–1998)

Aloha Aina Party (1997-2000?)

Marijuana Reform Party (1998-2002)

Natural Law Party (1992–2004)

Southern Party (1999-2003)

Veterans Party (2003–2008)

Christian Freedom Party (2004)

Personal Choice Party (2004-2006?)

Labor Party (1996-2007)

United Citizens Party (1969-2008?)

The American Party (1969-2008)

Moderate Party (Illinois) (2005-2008)

Populist Party of Maryland (2004-2008)

New Jersey Conservative Party (1992-2009)

American Populist Party (2009-2010)

Republican Moderate Party of Alaska (1986-2011)

Taxpayers Party of New York (2010-2011)

Freedom Party of New York (2010-2011)

Florida Whig Party (2006-2012)

Boston Tea Party (2006-2012)

Raza Unida Party (1970-2012)

Independence Party of America (2007-2013)

Connecticut for Lieberman (2006-2013)


Non-electoral organizations

These organizations do not nominate candidates for election but otherwise function similarly to political parties. Some of them have nominated candidates in the past.

American Nazi Party 1959 World Union of Free Enterprise National Socialists 

American Reform Party 1997  

Committees of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism 1991 Committees of Correspondence 

Communist Voice Organization 1995  

Democratic Socialists of America 1982 Socialist International

Freedom Road Socialist Organization ( group) 1985  

Freedom Road Socialist Organization ( group) 1985 International Communist Seminar

Fourth International Caucus (faction of Solidarity) 1995 Fourth International (USFI)

Greens/Green Party USA 1991   

International Socialist Organization 1977  

Internationalism 1970 International Communist Current

Internationalist Group 1996 League for the Fourth International

Internationalist Workers’ Group 2002 International Communist Tendency

League for the Revolutionary Party 1976 Communist Organization for the Fourth International

League of Revolutionaries for a New America 1993  

News and Letters Committees 1955  

Progressive Labor Party 1961 Progressive Labor Movement *

Refoundation and Revolution (faction of Solidarity) 2002 Trotskyist League Coordinating Committee for the Refoundation of the Fourth International

Revolutionary Communist Party, USA 1975  

Revolutionary Organization of Labor 1961 Ray O. Light International Communist Seminar, International Conference of Marxist-Leninist Parties and Organizations (International Newsletter), International Coordination of Revolutionary Parties and Organizations

Social Democrats, USA 1972  

Socialist Organizer 1991 Fourth International (International Center of Reconstruction)

Socialist Workers Organization 2001  

Solidarity 1986  

Spartacist League 1966 International Communist League (Fourth Internationalist)

The Spark 1971 International Communist Union

U.S. Marxist–Leninist Organization 1981  

Workers Party 2003  

World Socialist Party of the United States 1916 Socialist Party of the United States

Socialist Educational Society

Workers’ Socialist Party

World Socialist Movement