America’s political parties are so strange that they often confuse Americans.
Studying history does not help because the history of America’s political parties is also weird. The history of America’s political parties is odd enough to confuse even veteran political junkies.
Some weird facts about America’s political parties include:
There are no Democrats on Mount Rushmore
Strangely, America’s largest and oldest political party is absent from the nation’s biggest monument to the presidents. To explain, there are no Democrats on Mount Rushmore.
The four presidents on Mount Rushmore are George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, and Theodore Roosevelt. Washington hated political factions and belonged to no party.
Meanwhile, Jefferson was a member of what historians call the Democratic-Republican Party. However, during Jefferson’s lifetime they called that organization the Republican Party. Roosevelt and Lincoln were Republicans.
So why are there no Democrats on Mount Rushmore? An obvious reason is that the monument is in South Dakota. South Dakota has long been a staunch Republican state.
In addition, when artist Gutzon Borglum began carving Mount Rushmore in 1925, Republicans controlled both Houses of Congress and the White House. Hence, politics influenced the selection of the men on Mount Rushmore.
Had Borglum started carving a decade later in 1935, when Democrats controlled both houses of Congress and the White House. There is a strong possibility that the faces of presidents Andrew Jackson (D-Tennessee) and Woodrow Wilson (D-New Jersey) could grace Mount Rushmore, today.
America once had a Major Political Party called the Whigs
Between 1834 and 1852, America’s second largest political party was the Whigs.
The Party’s official name was the National Republican Party, but the nickname Whigs became more popular. The name Whig Party came from an anti-monarchist British political party, the Whigs. Notably, many of the Founding Fathers called themselves Whigs during the American Revolution.
19th Century conservatives and centrists adopted the name Whig Party as an attack on President Andrew Jackson (D-Tennessee). Many Americans derided Jackson as “King Andrew” because of his arrogant style of leadership, disdain for democratic norms, and the personality cult that grew up around Old Hickory.
Strangely, the most famous Whig, Abraham Lincoln (R-Illinois) became President as a Republican. Yet Lincoln, was elected to the US House of Representatives as a Whig. Today’s Republican Party is the successor organization to the Whigs. It even uses the name Republican. Lincoln became a Republican after the Whigs collapsed.
The Whigs elected two Presidents William Henry Harrison (W-Indiana) and Zachary Taylor (W-Louisiana) both of whom died in office. The last Whig President was Millard Fillmore (W-New York).
Ronald Reagan was a Democrat who campaigned for Harry Truman
Today, President Ronald Reagan (R-California) is an icon of the Republican Party.
However, Reagan began his political life as a New Deal Democrat and an admirer of President Franklin D. Roosevelt (D-New York). In the late 1940s Reagan, then a movie actor and president of the Screen Actors Guild, was an active Democrat. Reagan even organized rallies for President Harry S. Truman (D-Missouri) during the 1948 presidential campaign.
Reagan’s politics changed after he married actress Nancy Davis in 1952. In the early 1960s, Reagan switched to the Grand Old Party and became one of the nation’s most famous Republicans. In 1980, voters elected Reagan President as a Republican.
Hillary Clinton was a Republican
Reagan was not the only American political icon to switch parties. Feminist icon and prominent Democrat Hillary R. Clinton (D-New York) began her career as an ultraconservative Republican.
In fact, Clinton was a Goldwater Girl who campaigned for US Senator Barry Goldwater (R-Arizona) one of the most conservative presidential nominees in American history in 1964. In her memoirs, Clinton claims she carried a copy of Goldwater’s book, The Conscience of a Conservative, in college.
Clinton also admired moderate Governor Nelson Rockefeller (R-New York). Ironically, Rockefeller was the first political hero of Donald J. Trump (R-Florida), the man who defeated Clinton in the 2016 presidential race.
Clinton’s politics moved left while she was studying at Yale University in the late 1960s. Like Reagan, marriage influenced Clinton’s political choices. At Yale, Hillary married Bill Clinton, a Southern Democrat from Arkansas. When her husband entered politics as a Democrat, Hillary followed.
Oddly, during her unsuccessful presidential bids in 2008 and 2016, many Democrats complained Clinton was too conservative. Similarly, in 2016, some renegade Republicans supported Clinton because they regarded her as a better Republican than Trump.
So yes, America’s political parties are totally weird. Therefore, don’t be ashamed if American political parties confuse you. The sheer weirdness of American politics makes it confusing.