During the 1860s, Republicans, who dominated northern states, orchestrated an ambitious expansion of federal power, helping to fund the transcontinental railroad, the state university system and the settlement of the West by homesteaders, and instating a national currency and protective tariff. Democrats, who dominated the South, opposed these measures. After the Civil War, Republicans passed laws that granted protections for African Americans and advanced social justice; again, Democrats largely opposed these expansions of power.
Sound like an alternate universe? Fast forward to 1936. Democratic president Franklin Roosevelt won reelection that year on the strength of the New Deal, a set of Depression-remedying reforms including regulation of financial institutions, founding of welfare and pension programs, infrastructure development and more. Roosevelt won in a landslide against Republican Alf Landon, who opposed these exercises of federal power. (Read more)