Snapshot of US political parties since 1900
How the balance of power has shifted between the Republicans and Democrats.
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The 1960s start with Democrat John F. Kennedy’s narrow win in 1960 but hit a peak for the party with Lyndon Johnson’s historic rout of Republican Barry Goldwater in 1964. The Democrats also grab a two-thirds, vetoproof majority in Congress. Johnson pushes through Great Society programs – launching the War on Poverty and Medicare and ushering in the Civil Rights and Voting Rights acts.Skip to next paragraph
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This is the time the parties begin shifting their positions on race. The Democrats become more controlled by their Northern liberal wing and change from being the conservative party on civil rights to the liberal one. This sets off a realignment that will eventually lead to a stronger GOP in the South.
In 1972, Nixon sets an electoral college record, winning 49 states because of his opening ties to China, his strategic arms talks with the Soviet Union, and his promise to end the Vietnam War. Democrats still maintain a majority in Congress, though.In 1974, Nixon resigns as a result of the Watergate scandal, and Democrats expand their control of Congress. But Republicans rise again in 1980 as voter disgust over Jimmy Carter’s (D) handling of the Iranian hostage crisis, a spike in oil prices, and general economic malaise leads to the election of Ronald Reagan. The GOP retakes the US Senate and adds seats in the House. More important, Republicans gain in party identification. Democrats are no longer the dominant majority.
In 1992, Bill Clinton (D) defeats President Bush and tilts power toward Democrats. But the shift is brief: In 1994, the GOP takes control of both houses of Congress for the first time in 40 years because of Clinton’s mistakes and the unpopularity of Democrats on the Hill. The change is the culmination of the realignment that had been going on since the 1960s. Newt Gingrich (R) pushes the Contract With America, a 10-point policy agenda.
George W. Bush (R) serves two terms (2001-09) with a Republican majority in Congress most of the time. Opposition to the Iraq war and a scandal involving GOP congressman Mark Foley lead to Democratic control of Congress in 2006. The election of Barack Obama, running amid a deepening recession and collapse on Wall Street, gives the White House to the Democrats in 2008.