The Democratic Party developed in Louisiana by the middle 1830s. The party was the product of the Jacksonians, “who had come to be called simply Democrats.” The early support for the Democratic Party came from cotton planters, who supported its anti-tariff stance, and people of ethnic French and Spanish ancestry, who were descended largely from colonists. Anglo-Americans who had settled the state from other parts of the South sometimes supported the Whigs. By the 1840s New Orleans had a large increase in population due to an influx of thousands of Irish and German immigrants; most of them became Democrats, as the party worked to integrate them into American life.
As the Civil War approached, the main opposition party to the Democrats, the Whigs, collapsed. The dispute over the issue of slavery divided the Whigs into two main camps, those who opposed the expansion of slavery and those who agreed with the Democrats’ stance “that the expansion of slavery was essential to its survival.” As a result, the Democratic Party dominated antebellum Louisiana.
In the era after World War II, black veterans and other leaders pressed to have their constitutional rights recognized: to be able to vote, use public places and facilities, and be treated as the United States citizens they were. In the early 1960s African Americans increased their efforts to create political change, at a time when there was social unrest related to cultural changes and gradually increasing opposition to the Vietnam War. In many southern states, white conservative voters began to vote for Republican presidential candidates, as a sign of their future political realignment.
The national Democratic Party supported civil rights, as exemplified by President Lyndon B. Johnson gaining passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Many southern white conservative voters began to leave the Democratic Party for the Republican Party. Following passage of the Voting Rights Act, gradually African Americans in Louisiana and other states regained the ability to register and vote. Most affiliated with the national Democratic Party and supported its candidates. Voter turnout rose dramatically as African Americans rejoined the political process; people began to be politically active at all levels. They began to field their own candidates.