By the time Abraham Lincoln had won the election of 1860, the young Republican party had been through significant upheaval and ferocious infighting but it had a very general set of core values. It was a party opposed to the expansion of slavery along with two corollaries: granting land to independent farmers who didn’t use slavery, “free soil,” “free labor” and support for industrial development.
Just eight years later, during the administration of President Grant, many of the party’s founders had left the GOP to support Horace Greeley’s candidacy as a Democrat. The party was nearly destroyed electorally over Reconstruction, unprecedented political corruption in the White House and several business contractions during the late 19th century.
New parties, particularly those caught up in a moment of changing political dynamics and crisis are subject to wild shifts and growing pains. UKIP’s evolution in the UK is but one example of this trend. It’s obvious that from election to election minor changes in the content and emphasis of platforms occur, but in potentially seismic political moments volatility can be much greater. This is especially true within smaller political organizations that are not anchored to entrenched interests and established leadership.