- remarkably stable
- From the end of the Reconstruction until the late 1890s, the electorate was divided almost precisely evenly between the Republicans and the Democrats.
- 16 states were consistently Republican, and 14 were mostly Democrats (mostly Southern), and only 5 states (most importantly NY and Ohio) were usually in doubt, and generally decided the outcome of national elections. - The congressional balance was similarly stable, with the Republicans controlling the Senate and Democrats controlling the house.
- Intensity of the parties loyalty: In most of the country, Americans viewed their party affiliations with a passion and enthusiasm: voter turnout in presidential elections between 1860 and 1900 averaged over 78% of all eligible voters (only 50% in current day elections). - Large groups of potential voters were disenfranchised in these years: women (in most states), blacks and poor whites (south).
- Party loyalty reflected cultural inclinations: regional affiliations, churches, or other ethnic group, not economic interests.
- To white southerners, loyalty to the Democratic Party was a matter of of unquestioned faith. It was a vehicle by which they had triumphed over REconstruction and preserved white supremacy.
- Religious and ethnic differences shaped party loyalties. Democratic party attracted most of the Catholic voters, recent immigrants, and poorer workers - groups that often overlapped.
- The republican party appealed to northern Protestants, citizens of old stock, much of the middle class - also considerably overlapped.
- Among the few substantive issues on which the parties took different stands was the matters connected with immigrants.
- Republicans tended to support measures restricting immigration and to favor temperance legislation, which many of them would believe to discipline immigrant communities.
- Catholics and immigrants viewed such proposals as assaults on them and their cultures and opposed them; the Democratic party followed their lead.
- American farmers were the most individualistic of citizens, and had made the most effect to organize.
- first major farm organization appeared in the 1860s: The grange
- Appeared shortly after the Civil war in ta tour throughout the South by Oilver Kelley, a minor Agricultural Department official. He was appalled by what he considered the isolation and drabness of rural life. 1867, he left government and with others, founded the National Grange of the PAtrons of Husbandry.
- At first, their purposes were modest - they attempted to bring farmers together to learn new scientific agricultural techniques.
- They also hoped to create a community, relieving the loneliness of rural life.
- By 1875, Grange claimed more than 800,000 members.
- As membership grew, the lodges in the MW began to focus less on social benefits of organization and more on economic possibilities. They attempted to organize marketing cooperatives to allow farmers to circumvent the hated "middle man" (people who managed the sale of farmers' crops, taking a large cut of the profit for themselves).
- Urged cooperative political action to curb monopolistic practices by railroads and warehouses.
- Set up cooperative stores, creameries, elevators, warehouses, insurance companies, factories that produced machines, stoves and other items.
- One corporation emerged to specifically meet the need of Grangers: The first mail-order business, founded by Montgomery Ward and Company in 1872.
- Grangers worked to elect state legislators pledged to their program. At their peak, they managed to gain control of the legislatures in most of the MW states.
- Their purpose was to subject the railroads to government controls. The granger laws of the early 1870s imposed strict regulations on railroad rates and practices.
- New Regulations were soon destroyed by courts leading to the decline of the power of the association
- Called the Peoples party, but members known as Populists.
Sentiment for a third party was strongest among the members of the NW alliance and Southerners.
- In July 1892, 1300 exultant delegates pured into Omaha, Nebraska, to proclaim the creation of the new party, approve an official set of principles, and nominate candidates for the presidency and vice presidency.
- Election of 1892 demonstrated potential power for the new movement. James B. WEaver, the populist candidate,led nearly 1500 populist candidate to win seats in state legislatures. The party elected 3 governors, 5 senators, and 10 congressmen.
- Populists dreamed of creating a broad political coalition.
- Populism always appealed to farmers, particularly small farmers, or family farmers strugging to hold onto their land. In the south there were a lot of modest landowners to, and significant numbers of sharecroppers and tenant farmers.
- Populists tended to be not only economically, but also culturally marginal. Movement appealed above all to geographically isolated farmers who felt cut off from the mainstream of national life and resent their isolation. Populism gave such people an outlet for their grievances, and provided with a social experience of belonging to a community.
- Notable for the groups they failed to attract like Labor. Reps from the Knights of LAbor attended early organization meeting; the new party added a labor plank to its platform -- calling for shorter hours for workers and restrictions on immigration, and denouncing the use of private detective agencies as strike breakers in labor disputes.
-Most of the populist leaders were members of the rural middle class: professional people, editors or lawyers, or longtime politicians and agitators.
- Although for the most part Populism never attracted significant labor support (because of the economic interests of labor and the economic interests of farmers were often at odds), the Rocky Mountain states were one exception.
- They were successful in attracting miners to their causes, partly because local populist leaders endorsed a demand for "free silver," the idea of permitting silver to become, along with gold, the basis of the currency so as to expand the money supply.
- In colorado, Idaho, Nevada, and other areas of the Far WEst, silver mining was an important activity, and the People's party enjoyed substantial, if temporary, success there.