This was followed by increased federal regulation of businesses with the passage of the Interstate Commerce Act and the Sherman Antitrust Act. These laws began to correct the abuses committed by larger businesses against smaller ones and industry's domination over such things as transportation at the expense of farmers.
In addition, the government took steps to stabilize the economy by setting the gold standard for money and controlling the amount of paper money printed. But one of the major influences was the depression of the 1890's, which led to events such as the establishment of a third political party. The Farmer's Alliance, which fought to alleviate the many financial pressures on American farmers, was not able to bring about changes for such things as loans, but the Populist or People's Party brought together other small parties into one group. This group engineered the defeat of the Republican Party in 1890 and was instrumental in the passage of anti-monopoly laws.
All these changes play a much more prominent role in today's politics and elections. Both the 1996 election between Clinton and Dole and the 2000 election between Clinton and Bush focused on what the federal government could do for voters by passage of laws instead of through patronage. Instead of a "hands off" federal government, the differences were in how the candidates intended to influence federal government policy. Campaign finance reform laws have diminished the influence of special interest groups both on who is elected and what policies are instigated by government.
While in the 19th century the role of the political party was to deliver votes for the party candidate, today the political parties work to get the candidate's message out. Elections are no longer determined by blind party loyalty but by voters who examine the issues and cross party lines to vote for the candidate who best represents what they want from their government.
Once civil servant jobs moved out of the realm of being a reward for delivering votes, party hold over voters diminished. Whereas in the 19th century a campaign rally was a huge community event, as parties were less able to buy votes with jobs, influence or even food donations, people were more free to make up their own minds, and politicians had to consider what services they would bring to the voters.
This has had tremendous influence on Congress as well as the Presidency. In both roles, candidates are now expected to come in prepared to work hard for the voters. While the Populist Party from the 19th century did not survive, its influence was felt as candidates had to become more responsive to the needs of the voters.
For much of the 19th century, the Presidency reflected the triumph of the patronage system, with the President dispensing jobs and other favors. After a disgruntled supplicant shot and killed President Garfield, however, people realized this was a poor way to use the Presidency.
While political parties still exist and are very active, they now work hard to get the views of the party in front of the voters, and try to convince the voters that their party's policies will serve them best. While it has always been up to the voters to decide who will be president, in today's political climate, the decision is based on the issues,…