From Ohio History Central
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Donkey with American flag in background
The Democratic Party is one of the two major political parties in the United States of America today.
In 1816, the Federalist Party collapsed, leaving only the Democratic-Republican Party in existence. By the early 1820s, the Democratic-Republican Party also began to change, as new opposition groups came together to replace the Federalists. By 1828, the Democratic Party had formed. After several years, a new party, the Whig Party, emerged to challenge the Democratic Party.
During the late 1820s and the early 1830s, the Democratic Party developed a set of ideas that formed the foundation of the party until the twentieth century. The Democrats believed that the states should retain as much power as possible. The federal government should only have the powers absolutely necessary for the nation to function. The Democrats emphasized the rights of the individual. This was a message that was especially well received by small farmers and factory workers. Slaveowners also favored this message, fearing that the federal government might try to end slavery. The Democratic Party also called for the territorial expansion of the United States.
Many Ohioans supported the Democratic Party during the 1820s and 1830s. The major leader of the Democratic Party during this time was Andrew Jackson. He was a hero of the War of 1812 and a man with whom the working class identified. One issue that united Democrats together during this era was opposition to the Bank of the United States. Following the War of 1812, President James Madison became convinced that the nation needed a national bank. He believed that the bank would provide a sound currency that permitted the transaction of business. It also could provide loans to help develop the United States economically. The Bank of the United States, however, did not prevent downturns in the economy. Its actions partly resulted in the Panic of 1819, as well as the Banking Crisis of 1819. A deep distrust of banks developed among white Americans. Andrew Jackson used this hatred to help him build a coalition that elected him President of the United States in 1828. As president, Jackson destroyed the Second Bank of the United States.
Other Ohioans did not support Jackson and his policies. Jackson believed internal improvements were necessary for the continued advancement of the United States. Most Democrats believed that states and not the federal government should fund these improvements. Jackson also believed that the states should finance turnpikes, canals, and eventually, railroads. Isolated from the East by the Appalachian Mountains, many Ohioans wanted federal government assistance for roads and other forms of transportation. As a result of Jackson's opposition to this kind of help, many Ohioans supported the Whig Party.
Following the collapse of the Whig Party during the 1850s, many Ohioans joined the Republican Party. Some of these people opposed the Democratic Party's support for the expansion of slavery. Most Ohioans were not abolitionists, but they did not want slavery to expand, principally because they did not want to compete economically with slaveowners. The Republican Party stated that slavery was morally wrong, but Republicans were willing only to limit where slavery could exist in the future.
During the American Civil War, a majority of Ohioans supported the war effort and the Republican Party, although there was a sizable minority, known as the Peace Democrats who opposed the conflict. Following the war, Republicans and Democrats vigorously struggled for control of state government. Historically, the Democratic Party has been strongest in the northeastern and southern sections of the state. Between the Civil War and the late 1950s, Republicans often were in control of state government, although the Democratic Party had its successes as well.
During the late nineteenth and the early twentieth century, the Democratic Party began to change in its core constituency and its beliefs. As immigration to the United States soared during the late 1800s and the early 1900s, most immigrants joined the Democratic Party. The two main reasons for this were because the Republican Party was much more pro American and anti immigrant at this time than the Democratic Party and also because many immigrants found employment in large factories for poor wages. During this era, most factory owners favored Republican policies.
As the twentieth century progressed, Democrats increasingly supported social programs that sought to aid struggling Americans. The Democratic Party increasingly believed that the federal government should do all in its power to assist the American people. This belief especially materialized during the Great Depression and President Franklin Delano Roosevelt's New Deal programs. Many Ohioans embraced the Democratic Party because of these new beliefs. The Democrats were quite influential in Ohio especially during the 1960s and the 1970s, as Ohioans and other Americans united together behind the Civil Rights Movement and President Lyndon Baines Johnson's Great Society programs.
During the 1990s and early part of the 21st Century, Republicans had firm control over many state government offices. This was principally due to the declining industrial sector during this time. Numerous working-class Ohioans faced unemployment, especially as jobs moved overseas. Other Ohioans welcomed the Republicans' desire for reduced taxes and smaller government. The Democrats re-gained control of several state offices in the election of 2006, principally due to a declining economy and perceived political corruption among Republicans serving in state government.
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