|Tweedledum and Tweedledee
|Digital History ID 3116
During the 1870s and 1880s, the Democratic and Republican Parties
were of almost exactly equal strength. In the elections between
1876 and 1892, no more than 3.1 percentage points separated the
two parties. The two parties differed enormously in their principles,
programs, and ethno-cultural composition.
In the late 19th century, it was sometimes said that
there wasn't a dime's difference between the two parties, that
the difference between the two parties was the difference between
tweedledum and tweedledee. This wasn't true.
The Republican Party tended to emphasize national unity, economic
modernization, and moral reform. Regarding the Democrats as the
party of treason for opposing the Civil War, the Republicans ran
Union veterans in eight of nine presidential elections between
1868 and 1900. The sole exception, James G. Blaine, lost in 1884.
The party urged the faithful to "vote as you shot."
They portrayed Democrats as "the old slave-owner and slave
driver, the saloon-keeper, the ballot-box-stuffer, the Kuklux
[Klan member], the criminal class of the great cities, the men
who cannot read or write."
The Republicans were committed to rapidly modernizing the economy
through such measures as protective tariffs to assist industry
and land grants to encourage railroad construction. The Republican
Party was also committed to using the 14th Amendment to protect
corporations' ability to operate free from excessive state regulation.
The Democrats were split on this program of economic modernization.
Grover Cleveland supported big business and the gold standard
but in 1887 came out strongly against the tariff, which he viewed
as a tax on consumers for the benefit of rich industrialists.
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