Origins of the Two Party System

Origins of the Two Party System

( – The Founding Fathers, by and large, did not envision the United States of America having political parties that would dominate how the country was run. One clue to support this idea can be found in article 2, section 1, clause 3 of the Constitution which says, in part:

“The electors shall meet in their respective states and vote by ballot for two persons… In every case, after the choice of President, the Person having the greatest number of votes of the electors shall be the Vice President.”

In other words, their original intent was that each of the then 13 states would submit two names with the number of electors assigned to each. Once those totals were tallied by Congress, the person with the most votes would become President and the runner-up would be the Vice President.

Parties Emerge

Throughout the history of civilization, people have formed opinions on how society should be run and who should be in charge, which naturally led to coalitions forming to reach their common goals. President George Washington in his farewell address recognized this and expressed the hope that these groups would dissolve once they achieved their desire.

In what now appears to be a prophetic vision, he saw permanent parties as a very real threat to the freedoms of the newly formed Constitutional-Republic. He saw a future where “cunning, ambitious and unprincipled [people] will be enabled to subvert the power of the people.”

President/Vice President as Running Mates

The 12th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States was an attempt to prevent a situation like what happened in 1800 when the process caused a tie in electoral votes and it was left to the House of Representatives to decide the election. The change to the law now provided that the electors would cast two ballots: one for President and a separate distinct one for Vice President.

From that point in time, up until it became time for President Franklin Delano Roosevelt to run for his third term, it was traditional for each party as a whole to decide who would fill each slot. However, FDR made it clearly known that he would decline the nomination unless Henry Wallace was his running mate.

Something that history has proven is that when a strong personality is mixed with a group of people who desperately want them to be their leader, they can shape the future. That’s what happened in 1940, and so it has become the custom for how the winner for the highest office in the land is decided.

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