AP US Government : Evolution of the Party System

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for AP US Government

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Example Questions

Example Question #31 : Political Parties

Since the beginning of the twentieth century, support for the Democratic Party __________

Possible Answers:

has waned across the United States.

has primarily migrated towards the Midwest.

has been consistently growing among all sectors of the population.

has primarily migrated South and towards the center.

has primarily migrated North and towards the coasts.

Correct answer:

has primarily migrated North and towards the coasts.

Explanation:

In the decades after the Civil War, the Republican Party was the party of liberals and the North, whereas the Democratic Party was dominant in the South. Over the last century, particularly the last thirty years, there has been a shift and reversal of this trend. The Democratic Party is now primarily supported in the Northeast and on the West coast. Whereas the Republican Party has its greatest success in the Deep South.

Example Question #32 : Political Parties

The Republican Party emerged __________.

Possible Answers:

in support of Prohibition and the progressive movement

in opposition to the Civil War

in opposition to the extension of slavery into the territories

in support of manifest destiny

in opposition to the industrial revolution taking place in the North

Correct answer:

in opposition to the extension of slavery into the territories

Explanation:

The Republican Party emerged in the 1850s, solidifying in 1854, in opposition to the Kansas-Nebraska Act and the extension of slavery into the territories. By the election of 1858, the Party contained former Whigs, Free-Soilers, and many Northern Democrats, and it carried the majority in every Northern state. It was led by Abraham Lincoln during the Civil War.

Example Question #33 : Political Parties

The Second Party System in America saw which two political parties dominate?

Possible Answers:

Federalists and Whigs

Whigs and Democrats

Democrats and Republicans

Democrats and Federalists

Republicans and Whigs

Correct answer:

Whigs and Democrats

Explanation:

The Second Party System in America evolved during the highly contentious elections of 1824 and 1828. The Jacksonian Democrats, led by Andrew Jackson, were pitted against the Whigs, who were for the most part led by Henry Clay. The Second Party System followed the Era of Good Feelings, in which only the Democratic-Republicans existed as a major party. The Second Party System ended in the 1850s, as the party split heavily over the issue of slavery.

Example Question #34 : Political Parties

The First Party System in American political history pitted the __________.

Possible Answers:

Whigs against the Federalists

Federalists against the Democratic-Republicans

Federalists against the Republicans

Democrats against the Whigs

Democratic-Republicans against the Anti-Federalists

Correct answer:

Federalists against the Democratic-Republicans

Explanation:

The First Party System in American political history witnessed the Federalists, led by Alexander Hamilton, pitted against the Democratic-Republicans. The Federalists favored a strong central government and close ties with Britain, whereas the Democratic-Republicans (usually considered to be led by Thomas Jefferson) favored more power in the hands of the States. The First Party System endured until the end of the War of 1812, when the Federalists refusal to support the war effort effectively looked like cowardice and treason in the face of America’s favorable emergence from the war.

Example Question #35 : Political Parties

Which of these was the most significant result of the Presidential election of 1980?

Possible Answers:

It demonstrated a movement towards conservatism among the voting population.

It was the first election in which voter turnout among women was higher than among men.

It encouraged greater political participation among the common people.

It demonstrated that younger people will consistently vote more liberal than the rest of the population.

It witnessed the beginning of the end of the Democratic Party.

Correct answer:

It demonstrated a movement towards conservatism among the voting population.

Explanation:

The Presidential election of 1980 was the election that ushered Ronald Reagan into the White House on the back of a landslide victory over incumbent Jimmy Carter. It witnessed a dramatic shift in the American voting public towards conservatism, which has not really abated in the thirty years since. It showed that the general public had completed its turning away from the New Deal ideology of Roosevelt and the 1930s Democratic Party and now desired lower taxes and less government intervention in the economy, not to mention a much larger military.

Example Question #1 : Evolution Of The Party System

The modern Republican Party was founded in the nineteenth century largely around the issue of __________.

Possible Answers:

tariffs

slavery

immigration

temperance

Correct answer:

slavery

Explanation:

When the Whig Party collapsed in the 1850s, it was largely attributable to a defection of Southern Whigs to the Democratic Party over the issue of slavery. The remaining anti-slavery Whigs banded together with Northern Democrats who were anti-slavery, as well as a few other smaller political groups, to form a new party, christened the Republican Party, for the 1856 Presidential Election.

Example Question #37 : Political Parties

Why was the election of 1964 significant?

Possible Answers:

All of the answers are correct

Whites in the South began realigning with the Republican party

African Americans in the South began realigning with the Democrat party

Barry Goldwater, a Republican, managed to capture most of the deep south

Lyndon B. Johnson, a Democrat, ran, in part, on improving race relations

Correct answer:

All of the answers are correct

Explanation:

The election of 1964 is incredibly important, in terms of realignment and the South. Before getting into it, however, we need to examine a decent amount of background information.

Remember: Abraham Lincoln, the first Republican president, comes to be associated with abolition and winning the civil war, among many other things. For some strange reason, he was not popular among Southern whites (hopefully you can see why this is true).

Remember: The South, in the wake of the Civil War and after the end of Reconstruction, aligned with the Democrats. This make sense, if you think about it: Republicans (anti-slavery, civil war victors) and Democrats (fought a war in part based off of slavery, lost the civil war) were natural enemies. Thus, after the end of Reconstruction, southern whites voted exclusively for Democrats—on all levels of government. Southern blacks, then, came to associate the Democratic Party with racial oppression (Jim Crow), as Democrats controlled southern governments and brutally enforced race laws. Many political scientists describe the political atmosphere of the south (during this time) as existing in a vacuum—it stayed basically the same, while Democrats in the rest of the country evolved differently.

We see this difference in a particularly bright light with the policies of FDR during the New Deal. FDR, a Democrat, appeals nearly nationwide and managed to weave incredibly diverse groups together with the New Deal. His liberal policies appealed particularly strongly to northern African Americans (among other groups). Political scientists generally refer to this as one of the first major racial realignments, as northern African Americans realigned (that is, changed party allegiances) to the Democratic Party. Southern African Americans, however, did not realign with the Democratic Party. Remember: southern blacks lived day-to-day under the oppressive politics of Democrats at a STATE level, thus making a realignment (from being Republican) to that party relatively unlikely.

The election of 1964, however, marks the beginning of a massive change. LBJ, a democrat—from Texas no less!—runs on a platform that stresses civil rights. Barry Goldwater, however, a Republican from Arizona, runs on a platform that stresses states’ rights. It’s around this time that southern blacks realize that the Republican Party may no longer be their party of choice, and whites in the Deep South vote for a Republican president. 

Example Question #2 : Evolution Of The Party System

Which of the following statements best defines party realignment?

Possible Answers:

The expulsion from control of the dominant party by the minority party

The gradual withdrawal of voters from both main parties

The collapse of a political party after one too many electoral defeats

The dissolution of party leadership following a loss in membership and/or voter allegiance

Correct answer:

The expulsion from control of the dominant party by the minority party

Explanation:

Party realignment occurs when the dominant party is displaced and ousted from power by the minority party. Such shifts usually happen as the result of what is known as a critical election– a shakeup of an election in which fissures caused by new issues and/or disagreements within the majority party conspire to divide voters, so that some voters end up deserting the party altogether. This desertion weakens the majority party from the inside out and ultimately prevents it from maintaining its governmental dominance. In turn, this allows the minority party to take advantage of the newly-opened power vacuum and thus rise to prominence by in fact becoming the new majority party.

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