American Unity From Political Parties with Joseph Postell | BRI Scholar Talks
How can political parties help to unite Americans? To explore this question, BRI Senior Fellow Tony Williams is joined by Joseph Postell, Professor of Politics at Hillsdale College. They discuss together how American political parties can be forces of unity rather than division and partisanship, how the Founders viewed political parties, and attempts made during the Progressive Era to eliminate them. What are the positive roles of political parties throughout American history? What were the arguments of constitutional conservatives regarding their constructive role?
From the Founding to the present, Americans have always expressed a distrust of political parties. Hardly a day passes without someone’s—the president, a Senator, a Representative—attacking politics in Washington for the spirit of partisanship.
William “Boss” Tweed and Political Machines
By the end of this section, you will explain the similarities and differences between the political parties during the Gilded Age.
The Election of 1800
The 1800 election was a major test of whether the young republic and its Constitution would live beyond its Founding generation. It was the first election in which two competing political parties engaged in an extended campaign against one another to win the presidency. This challenge was made more difficult by the fact that the new Constitution’s system for electing a President was not designed with political parties in mind. In fact, the Constitution’s process for electing the President had been designed to limit the influence of political parties. In the election of 1796, this method of electing the President led to the potentially dangerous situation of joining a President with a Vice President from the opposing party. In the election of 1800, this method of electing the President led to a tie, which was only settled after a long battle in the House of Representatives. The republic endured the election of 1800, but it was clear to most that the constitutional process for electing the President needed to be amended. To do so, Congress passed the Twelfth Amendment in 1803; the states ratified the amendment in 1804.