In the course to 1877, Prof. McClanahan spends a good bit of time going over the role of the democrats and republicans. From what I gather, the democrats were the state’s rights/decentralized power party while the republicans did what they could to concentrate power and subvert the Constitution.
In the next set of lectures, Dr. Woods goes through the events of the last few decades of the 1800s and then we hit the progressive era where democrats are become even bigger big government advocates with the likes of Woodrow Wilson.
What changed in those couple decades? Did the progressives somehow hijack the democratic party because the republicans were more or less on their side?
The shift was the 1896 election. The “Silverite” progressives hijacked the Democrat Party with the nomination of WJ Bryan and the conservatives either supported the splinter NDP or the Republicans. The Republicans in fact attempted to persuade conservative Democrats to join them. That held for 1900 but in 1904 the conservative Democrats supported Alton Parker against he progressive TR. That was the last time the conservative Democrats had a candidate. Even W. Wilson was at one time a Cleveland man, though by 1908 he had become a progressive. So to make a long story short, the progressive hijacked both parties, though it was much easier for the progressive Republicans to do so.