Democratic Party (United States)

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Democratic Party
Party Chairman Howard Dean
Senate Leader Harry Reid
House Leader Nancy Pelosi
Founded 1820s (modern)
1792 (historical)
Headquarters 430 South Capitol Street SE
Washington, D.C.
Political ideology Liberalism
International affiliation None
Color(s) Blue1
1 Blue has been used by most media and commentators since 2000; it is official since 2006; see red state vs. blue state divide.

The Democratic Party is one of two major contemporary political parties in the United States; the other being the Republican Party. Currently, during the 109th Congress, the Democratic Party is the minority party in the United States Senate and the House of Representatives. Democrats control 22 governorships and 19 state legislatures. Ten state legislatures are split between the two parties. In the 2006 midterm elections, the Democratic Party gained outright majority control in the House of Representatives and effective majority status in the United States Senate, and appears to be set to assume the role of the majority party when the 110th Congress convenes in 2007;<ref>Broder, John M., Hauser, Christine. "Allen concedes race in Virginia", The New York Times, 2006-11-09. Retrieved on 2006-11-09. Although 49 Senators were elected as nominees of the Democratic Party and 49 Senators were elected as nominees of the Republican Party, it is presumed that Joe Lieberman (CT) and Bernie Sanders (VT) will caucus with Democrats in the Senate, giving them a slim majority of seats.</ref> the Democrats will control 28 governorships and a plurality of state legislatures.<ref>Template:Cite web</ref>

Although the name "Democratic party" was adopted during the presidency of Andrew Jackson (1829-1837), Democrats trace their origins to the Democratic-Republican Party, founded by Thomas Jefferson in 1792,<ref>By the 1820s, the old Democratic-Republican party was nearly moribund, with few activities; its name lingered on. Martin Van Buren organized a multi-state coalition that elected Jackson in 1828. Remini (1959). That coalition held its first national convention in 1832. Summary Of The Proceedings Of A Convention Of Republican Delegates, From The Several States In The Union, For The Purpose of Nominating A Candidate For The Office Of Vice-President Of The United States; Held At Baltimore, In The State Of Maryland, May, 1832. Albany: Packard and Van Benthuysen.</ref> making it the oldest political party in the world.<ref>The British Parliamentary parties were not based on the voters until the mid 19th century.</ref> Since William Jennings Bryan's takeover of the party in 1896, it has positioned itself to the left of the Republican Party in economic matters. The pro-working class, activist philosophy of Franklin D. Roosevelt, called "liberalism" in the U.S., has shaped much of the party's agenda since 1932. During the Fifth Party System Roosevelt's New Deal coalition usually controlled the national government through 1964. The Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s, championed by the party despite opposition at the time from its conservative Southern wing, has continued to inspire the party's liberal principles. The Vietnam War in the 1960s opened a split on foreign military intervention that persists into the 21st century.

Since the 1990s and the shift towards the political strategy of triangulation employed by Democratic President Bill Clinton, the Democratic Party has become less ideologically uniform and more centrist in the American political spectrum as it attempts to expand its appeal to Republican electorates.


Ideological base

Since the 1890s, the Democratic party has favored "liberal" positions. (The term "liberal" in this sense dates from the New Deal era.) The party has favored farmers, laborers, labor unions, and religious and ethnic minorities; it has opposed unregulated business and finance, and favored progressive income taxes. In foreign policy, internationalism (including interventionism) was a dominant theme from 1913 to the mid 1960s. In the 1930s, the party began advocating welfare spending programs targeted at the poor. The party had a pro-business wing, typified by Al Smith, that shrank in the 1930s. The Southern conservative wing shrank in the 1980s. The major influences for liberalism were the labor unions (which peaked in the 1936-1952 era), and the African American wing, which has steadily grown since the 1960s.<ref>Membership of the 109th Congress: A Profile. Congressional Research Service (2006-06-13). Retrieved on 2006-10-25. "A record number (43) of black Members are serving, 42 in the House, one in the Senate. All are Democrats, including two Delegates."</ref> Since the 1970s, environmentalism has been a major new component.

In recent decades, the party advocates civil liberties, social freedoms, equal rights, equal opportunity, fiscal responsibility, and a free enterprise system tempered by government intervention (what economists call a mixed-economy). The party believes that government should play a role in alleviating poverty and social injustice, even if that means a larger role for government and progressive taxation to pay for social services.

Recent issue stances

Economic issues

Minimum wage

Democrats favor a higher minimum wage, and more regular increases, in order to assist the working poor. Party leaders, like Nancy Pelosi, have said increasing the minimum wage is one of the top priorities of the 110th Congress when it convenes under Democratic control. Various state ballot initiatives in 2006 to increase the minimum wage were supported by the Democrats, and all six such initiatives passed.

Renewable energy and oil

Democrats have opposed tax cuts and incentives to oil companies, favoring a policy of developing domestic renewable energy. Democratic governors have led the way in this issue, such as Montana's state-supported wind farm and "clean coal" programs.

Fiscal responsibility

In light of deficit spending under the recent combination of a Republican administration and Republican-led Congress, which has ballooned the United States national debt, many Democrats are trying to position their party as the party of fiscal responsibility. Democrats increasingly call for responsible tax policies, budget policies such as the restoration of PAYGO rules, and government spending that keeps the budget deficit under control. DNC Chairman Howard Dean has cited Bill Clinton's presidency as a model for fiscal responsibility.

Health care and insurance coverage

Democrats call for "affordable and quality health care," and many advocate an expansion of government intervention in this area. Many Democrats favor a national health insurance system in a variety of forms to address the rising costs of modern health insurance. In 1951, President Harry S. Truman proposed national health insurance as a part of his Fair Deal program, although his proposal was defeated by the American Medical Association. More recently, some Democrats, such as Senator Edward Kennedy, have called for a program of "Medicare for All."<ref>Template:Cite web See also:</ref>

Some Democratic governors have supported purchasing Canadian drugs, citing lower costs and budget restrictions as a primary incentive. Recognizing that unpaid insurance bills increase costs to the service provider, who passes the cost on to health-care consumers, many Democrats advocate expansion of health insurance coverage.


The Democratic Party generally sides with environmentalists and favors conservation of natural resources together with strong environmental laws against pollution. Democrats support preservation of endangered lands and species, clean land management and regulation on pollutants.

The most contentious and concerning environmental issue championed by the party is global warming. Democrats, most notably former Vice President Al Gore, have pressed for stern regulation of greenhouse gases, while Republicans have expressed concern over the effect of such regulation on industry and doubt that global warming exists and requires such drastic measures to diminish.

College education

Most Democrats have the long term aim of having low-cost, publicly funded college education with low tuition fees (like in much of continental Europe) which should be available to every eligible American student, or alternatively, with increasing state funding for student financial aid such as the Pell grant or college tuition tax-deduction.<ref>Template:Cite web</ref><ref>Economic Prosperity and Educational Excellence. Retrieved on 2006-11-25.</ref>

Social issues


Democrats support Equal Opportunity for all Americans regardless of sex, age, race, sexual orientation, religion, creed, or national origin.

The Democratic party mostly supports affirmative action as a way to redress past discrimination and ensure equitable employment regardless of ethnicity or gender, but opposes the use of quotas in hiring. Democrats also strongly support the Americans with Disabilities Act to prohibit discrimination against people on the basis of physical or mental disability.

Same-sex marriage and LGBT rights

The Democratic Party is divided on the subject of same-sex marriage. Some members favor civil unions for same-sex couples, others favor legalized marriage, and others are opposed to same-sex marriage on religious grounds. Almost all agree, however, that discrimination against persons because of their sexual orientation is wrong. DNC Chairman Dean has unofficially endorsed a move by gay Democrats to require the party to guarantee that 5 to 10 percent of the DNC's 2008 convention delegates are gay or lesbian.<ref>Mercurio, John. "Dean's Meeting With Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Caucus", National Journal, 2005-12-03.</ref>

Reproductive rights

The Democratic Party believes that all women should have access to birth control, and supports public funding of contraception for poor women. The Democratic Party, in its platform in 2000 and 2004, called for abortion to be "safe, legal and rare"—namely, keeping it legal by rejecting laws that allow governmental interference in abortion decisions, and reducing the number of abortions by promoting both knowledge of reproduction and contraception, and incentives for adoption.

The Democratic Party opposes attempts to reverse the 1973 Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade which recognized abortion as a right. As a matter of the right to privacy and of gender equality, many Democrats believe all women should have the ability to choose without governmental interference. They believe that each woman, conferring with her conscience, has the right to choose for herself whether abortion is morally correct. Many Democrats also believe that poor women should have a right to publicly funded abortions.

The largest national pro-life group within the party is the Democrats for Life. A substantial number of other party members have been shifting to the center on this issue. Some believe in programs to make abortions less frequent as well as making sure the procedure is legal and available. Senator Hillary Clinton of New York said in early 2005 that the opposing sides should find "common ground" to prevent unwanted pregnancies and ultimately reduce abortions, which she called a "sad, even tragic choice to many, many women."<ref>Healy, Patrick D.. "Clinton Seeking Shared Ground Over Abortions", The New York Times, 2005-01-25. Retrieved on 2006-10-11.</ref>

Stem cell research

The Democratic Party has voiced overwhelming support for all stem cell research with federal funding. In his 2004 platform, John Kerry affirmed his support of federally funded stem-cell research "under the strictest ethical guidelines." He explained, "We will not walk away from the chance to save lives and reduce human suffering."<ref>Template:Cite web HTML format.</ref>

Foreign policy issues

Invasion of Afghanistan

Democrats in the House of Representatives and United States Senate near-unanimously voted for the authorization of military force against "those responsible for the recent attacks launched against the United States" in Afghanistan in 2001, supporting the NATO coalition invasion of the nation.

Iraq War

In 2002, Democrats were divided as most in the Senate voted for the authorization of the use of force against Iraq while most Democrats in the House voted against it. Since then, many prominent Democrats have expressed regret about this decision, such as Senator John Edwards, and have called it a mistake. Amongst lawmakers, Democrats constitute some of the most vocal critics of the Iraq War and the President's management of the war.


Democrats mostly oppose the doctrine of unilateralism, which dictates that the United States should use military force without any assistance from other nations whenever it believes there is a threat to its security or welfare. They believe the United States should act in the international arena in concert with strong alliances and broad international support. This was a major foreign policy issue of John Kerry's 2004 presidential campaign, and unilateralism has been blamed for the failures in Iraq.

In a general sense, the modern Democratic Party is more closely aligned with the international relations theories of liberalism and neoliberalism than realism and neorealism, though realism has some influence on the party.

Legal issues


Democrats are opposed to use of torture against individuals apprehended and held prisoner by the military of the United States, and deny that categorizing military prisoners as unlawful combatants excludes them from the rights granted under the Geneva Conventions. Democrats contend that torture is inhumane, decreases the United States' moral standing in the world, and produces questionable results.


All Democrats in the U.S. Senate except for Wisconsin Senator Russ Feingold voted for the original USA PATRIOT Act legislation. After voicing concerns over the "invasion of privacy" and other civil liberty restrictions of the Act, the Democrats split on the renewal in 2006. Most Democratic Senators voted to renew it, while most Democratic Representatives voted against renewal. It should be noted renewal was only allowed after many of the most invasive clauses in the Act were removed or curbed.

Right to privacy

The Democratic Party believes that individuals should have a right to privacy, and generally supports laws which place restrictions on law-enforcement and intelligence agency monitoring of U.S. citizens. Some Democratic Party officeholders have championed consumer-protection laws that limit the sharing of consumer data between corporations.

Most Democrats believe that government should not regulate consensual non-commercial sexual conduct (among adults), as a matter of personal privacy.

Crime and gun control

Democrats often focus on methods of crime prevention, believing that preventive measures save taxpayers' money in prison, policing and medical costs, and prevent crime and murder. They emphasize improved community policing and more on-duty police officers in order to help accomplish this goal. The party's platform in 2000 and 2004 cited crackdowns on gangs and drug trafficking as preventive methods. The party's platforms have also addressed the issue of domestic violence, calling for strict penalties for offenders and protection for victims.

With a stated goal of reducing crime and homicide, the Democratic Party has introduced various gun control measures, most notably the Gun Control Act of 1968, the Brady Bill of 1993 and Crime Control Act of 1994. However, many Democrats, especially rural, Southern, and Western Democrats, favor fewer restrictions on firearm possession and warned the party was defeated in the 2000 presidential election in rural areas because of the issue.<ref>Abramsky, Sasha. "Democrat Killer?", The Nation, 2005-04-18. Retrieved on 2006-10-10.</ref> In the national platform for 2004, the only statement explicitly favoring gun control was a plan calling for renewal of the 1994 Assault Weapons Ban.


Origins: 1792-1828

The Democrats trace their roots to the Democratic-Republican Party, established by Thomas Jefferson and James Madison in the 1790s. This party arose from opposition to the policies of the ruling Federalist party, dominated by Alexander Hamilton, which advocated a strong central government, a loose interpretation of the Constitution, and a republic governed by well-educated elites. The Jeffersonians (before 1801) favored France in the wars between Britain and France, and opposed the Jay Treaty which restored peace with Britain because it might help the monarchist elements inside the United States. Democratic-Republicans idealized the independent ("yeoman") farmer as the exemplar of virtue, and distrusted cities, banks, and other monied interests. Jefferson and his close collaborator Madison made States rights a keystone of the party in 1798. The party was strongest in the South and West, and weakest in New England.

The party won control of the Presidency and Congress in 1800, and later elected Henry Clay as the powerful Speaker of the House in the 1810s. The Federalists collapsed as serious rivals by the end of the War of 1812. After 1816, the only national mechanism, the Congressional nominating caucus, fell into disuse and the remnants of the party split into factions. War hero General Andrew Jackson of Tennessee emerged as the leader of the faction that, after he was elected president in 1828, became the Democratic Party.

Jacksonian democracy: 1828-1854

With the decline of the Federalists, the Democrats main opponent became the Whig Party. The Democrats usually won by building a nationwide coalition that was strongest in New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and the frontier; it was weakest in New England). Like the Democratic-Republican Party from which it developed, the Democrats voiced strong anti-elite opposition to "aristocracy" and banks, and put their faith in "the people." By the 1820s universal suffrage, with no property restrictions, was the norm for all white American men nearly everywhere.

The Democratic Party was a complex coalition that included farmers in all parts of the country and workingmen's groups in the cities. The key issues in the 1830s were use of patronage to build a strong party machine, opposition to state and national banks, and opposition to modernizing programs that would build up industry at the expense of the taxpayer. The Democrats strongly favored expansion to new farm lands, as typified by their expulsion of eastern American Indians and acquisition of vast new lands in the West after 1846.

Martin Van Buren won the presidency in 1836 but the economic depression of 1837 caused his defeat for reelection. James K. Polk won in the 1844 election, directed the Mexican-American War, lowered the tariff, set up a subtreasury system, acquired modern-day Washington, Oregon and the Southwest, and then retired. In the 1848 election, the new Free Soil Party, opposing slavery expansion, split the Democratic Party. The Democrats in Congress passed the Compromise of 1850. As the Whigs splintered over slavery and nativism, the Democrats easily elected Franklin Pierce in 1852 and James Buchanan in 1856.

Civil War and Reconstruction: 1854-1877

The main Democratic leader in the Senate, Stephen A. Douglas of Illinois, pushed through the Kansas-Nebraska Act in 1854 despite strong protest. A major realignment took place among voters and politicians, with new issues, new parties, and new rules. The Whig Party entirely dissolved. While the Democrats survived, many northern Democrats (especially Free Soilers from 1848) joined the newly established Republican Party. Buchanan split the party on the issue of slavery in Kansas; most Democrats in the North rallied to Stephen Douglas.

In 1860, Douglas was unable to gain the two-thirds vote needed for the party's nomination. The party nominated Douglas in the North, and John C. Breckinridge in the South. During the Civil War, no party politics were allowed in the Confederacy, but partisanship flourished in the North. After the attack on Ft. Sumter, Douglas rallied northern Democrats behind the Union. But Douglas died and the party lacked an outstanding national figure. There was a deep split between the anti-war Copperheads and the War Democrats. The party did well in the 1862 congressional elections, but in 1864 it nominated General George McClellan, a War Democrat, on a peace platform, and lost badly as many War Democrats bolted to support Lincoln. In the 1866 elections, the Radical Republicans won two-thirds majorities in Congress and took control of national affairs. Ulysses S. Grant led the Republicans to landslides in 1868 and 1872.

The nationwide depression of 1873 allowed the Democrats to retake control of the House in the 1874 Democratic landslide. The Democrats benefited from white Southerners' resentment of Reconstruction and consequent hostility to the Republican Party. After Redeemers ended Reconstruction, and the disenfranchisement of African Americans took place in the 1890s, the South, voting Democratic, became known as the "Solid South." In most of the South, there was effectively only one party, and victory in the Democratic primary was tantamount to election.

Image:President Grover Cleveland.jpg
President Grover Cleveland (1885-1889 and 1893-1897), the only Democrat elected president between 1860 and 1912

The Gilded Age: 1877-1896

The national vote was very evenly balanced in the 1880s. Though Republicans continued to control the White House until 1884, the Democrats remained competitive. Dominated by conservative pro-business Bourbon Democrats led by Samuel J. Tilden and Grover Cleveland, they had a solid base in the South and great strength in the rural lower Midwestern United States, and in ethnic German American and Irish American enclaves in large cities, mill towns and mining camps. They controlled the House of Representatives for most of that period. In the election of 1884, Grover Cleveland, the reforming Democratic Governor of New York, won the Presidency. He was defeated in the election of 1888 but was re-elected in 1892. Cleveland was the leader of the conservative Bourbon Democrats who represented mercantile, banking and railroad interests, opposed imperialism and overseas expansion, fought for the gold standard, opposed Bimetallism, and crusaded against corruption and high taxes and tariffs. The Bourbon Democrats were overthrown by William Jennings Bryan in 1896.

Bryan, Wilson, and the Progressive Era: 1896-1932

President Woodrow Wilson (1913-1921), the only Democrat elected president between 1896 and 1932

In the presidential election of 1896, widely regarded as a political realignment and beginning of the Fourth Party System, agrarian Democrats demanding free silver defeated the Bourbons and nominated William Jennings Bryan (the Populist Party then followed suit). Bryan, having gained the nomination after his stirring "Cross of Gold" speech delivered at the 1896 convention, waged a vigorous campaign attacking Eastern moneyed interests, but he lost to Republican William McKinley in an election which was to prove decisive.

The Republicans controlled the presidency for 28 of the following 36 years, dominating most of the Northeast, the Midwest, and half of the West. Bryan, with a base in the South and the Great Plains, was strong enough to get the nomination in the elections of 1900, again losing to McKinley, and 1908, losing to William Howard Taft. Bourbon conservatives controlled the convention in 1904, but they faced a Theodore Roosevelt landslide. By 1908, Bryan had dropped his free silver and anti-imperialism rhetoric and supported mainstream progressive issues, especially "anti-trust" or opposition to the big trusts.

Taking advantage of a deep split in the GOP, the Democrats took control of the House in 1910 and elected intellectual reformer Woodrow Wilson in 1912 and 1916. Wilson successfully led Congress to a series of progressive laws, including the Underwood Tariff that reduced tariffs; the Clayton Antitrust Act that systematized the antitrust system; the income tax on individuals; new programs for farmers; and the 8-hour day for railroad workers. His most important innovation was the Federal Reserve System that created a strong central bank. A law to outlaw child labor was reversed by the Supreme Court. Wilson ordered the segregation of the federal Civil Service.<ref>Template:Cite web</ref> The Eighteenth Amendment establishing Prohibition and the Nineteenth Amendment establishing Women's suffrage were passed in Wilson's second term, but they were bipartisan efforts. In effect, Wilson laid to rest the issues of tariffs, money and antitrust that had dominated politics for 40 years.

Wilson led the U.S. to victory in World War I and helped write the Versailles Treaty, which included his goal of a League of Nations. But in 1919 Wilson's political skills faltered, as did his health; suddenly everything turned sour. The Senate rejected the Versailles Treaty and the League, and a nationwide wave of strikes and violence caused unrest. Prohibition opened a bitter split in the party between the Catholic and ethnic Northern "wets" and the Southern "dries." The deeply divided party was hit by Republican landslides in the presidential elections of 1920, 1924, and 1928. However, Al Smith helped build a strong Catholic base in the big Eastern cities in 1928, and Franklin D. Roosevelt's election as governor of New York that year brought a new leader to center stage.

The New Deal and World War II: 1933-1945

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President Franklin Delano Roosevelt (1933-1945), the only person elected four times to the presidency.

The Great Depression set the stage for a more liberal government, and Franklin D. Roosevelt won a landslide victory in the presidential election of 1932, campaigning on a vague platform that promised repeal of Prohibition and criticizing Herbert Hoover's presidential failures. Within 100 days of taking office on March 4, 1933, Roosevelt came forth with a massive array of programs, the New Deal. These focused on Relief, Recovery, and Reform; that is, relief of unemployment and rural distress, recovery of the economy back to normal, and long-term structural reforms to prevent any repetition.

The 1932 election brought Democrats large majorities in both houses of Congress, and among state governors; the 1934 election increased those margins. The 1933 programs, called "the First New Deal" by historians, represented a broad consensus; Roosevelt tried to reach out to business and labor, farmers and consumers, cities and countryside. By 1934, however, he was moving toward a more confrontational policy. Roosevelt sought to move the party away from its business base toward a new base in farmers and workers. The New Deal was a program of economic regulation and insurance against hardship. Two old words took new meanings. "Liberal" now meant a supporter of the New Deal; "conservative" meant an opponent. Conservative Democrats were outraged; led by Al Smith, they formed the American Liberty League in 1934 and counterattacked, but were ineffective.

Sam Rayburn of Texas was Speaker of the House from 1940-1947, 1949-1953, and 1955-1961.

After making gains in Congress in 1934 Roosevelt embarked on an ambitious legislative program that came to be called "The Second New Deal." It was characterized by building up labor unions, nationalizing welfare by the Works Progress Administration, setting up Social Security, imposing more regulations on business (especially transportation and communications), and raising taxes on business profits. He built a new, diverse majority coalition called the New Deal Coalition, which included labor unions, minorities (most significantly, Catholics, Jews, and for the first time, Blacks). The New Deal coalition won all but two presidential elections (1952 and 1956) until it came apart in 1968.

After a triumphant landslide reelection in 1936, Roosevelt announced plans to enlarge the Supreme Court, which tended to oppose his New Deal. A firestorm of opposition erupted, led by his own vice president, John Nance Garner. Roosevelt was defeated by an alliance of Republicans and conservative Democrats, who formed a new Conservative coalition that managed to block nearly all liberal legislation and dominate Congress for the remainder of FDR's presidency. Threatened by the conservative wing of his party, Roosevelt made an attempt to purge it; in 1938, he actively campaigned against five conservative Democratic senators. They denounced national interference in state affairs, and all five senators won re-election.

New Deal liberalism meant the promotion of social welfare, labor unions, civil rights, and regulation of business. The opponents, who stressed long-term growth, support for entrepreneurship and low taxes, now started calling themselves "conservatives."

Truman to Kennedy: 1945-1963

Roosevelt died in office on April 12, 1945, and Harry S. Truman took over. The rifts inside the party that FDR had papered over began to emerge. Former Vice President Henry A. Wallace denounced Truman as a war-monger for his anti-Soviet programs, the Truman Doctrine, the Marshall Plan, and NATO. However the Wallace supporters and far left were pushed out of the party and the CIO in 1946-48 by young anti-Communists like Hubert H. Humphrey, Walter Reuther, and Arthur Schlesinger Jr.. On the right the Republicans blasted Truman’s domestic policies. "Had Enough?" and "To err is Truman" were winning slogans for Republicans, who recaptured Congress in 1946 for the first time since 1928.

Many party leaders were ready to dump Truman, but they lacked an alternative. Truman counterattacked, pushing out Strom Thurmond and his Dixiecrats and, as an audacious and inspired strategic move, calling the GOP-controlled Congress into special session in July, sending them legislation he knew was anathema to the congressional Republicans, and then, upon the end of the predictably deadlocked and unproductive session, blasting them as the "Do-Nothing" 80th Congress in a relentless whistle-stopping campaign across the country. In perhaps the most stunning presidential election result of the 20th century, Truman won re-election over Thomas Dewey in 1948, and the Democrats regained control of Congress. However, Truman’s Fair Deal proposals, such as universal health care, were defeated by the conservative coalition in Congress.

In 1952, Dwight D. Eisenhower recaptured the White House for the Republicans, defeating Illinois governor Adlai Stevenson. Four years later, Eisenhower repeated his success against Stevenson. In Congress the powerful Texas duo of House Speaker Sam Rayburn and Senate Majority Leader Lyndon B. Johnson held the party together in the shadow of the war hero, often by compromising with Eisenhower. In 1958, thanks largely to organized labor, the party made dramatic gains in the off-year congressional elections.

Senator John F. Kennedy won the presidential election of 1960, defeating then-Vice President Richard Nixon. Though Kennedy's term in office lasted only about a thousand days, he tried to hold back Communist gains after the failed Bay of Pigs invasion in Cuba and the construction of the Berlin Wall, and sent 16,000 soldiers to Vietnam to advise the hard-pressed South Vietnamese army. He challenged America in the Space Race to land an American man on the moon by 1969. After the Cuban Missile Crisis he moved to de-escalate tensions with the Soviet Union. Kennedy also pushed for civil rights and racial integration, one example being Kennedy assigning federal marshals to protect the Freedom Riders in the south. President Kennedy was assassinated on November 22, 1963 in Dallas, Texas. Soon after then-Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson was sworn in as the 36th President of the United States. Johnson, heir to the New Deal broke the Conservative Coalition in Congress and passed a remarkable number of liberal laws, known as the Great Society. Johnson succeeded in passing major civil rights laws that started the racial integration in the south. At the same time, Johnson escalated the Vietnam War, leading to an inner conflict inside the Democratic party that shattered the party in the elections of 1968.

The Civil Rights Movement: 1963-1968

African-Americans, who had traditionally given strong support to the Republican Party since the American Civil War, shifted to the Democratic Party in the 1930s, largely due to New Deal relief programs, patronage offers, and the advocacy of civil rights by First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt. In many cities, such as Chicago, entire ward-based Republican apparatuses in black neighborhoods switched parties virtually overnight. However, in the late 1960s, the New Deal Coalition began to fracture, as more Democratic leaders voiced support for civil rights, upsetting the party's traditional base of conservative Southern Democrats and ethnic Catholics in Northern cities. After Harry Truman's platform showed support for civil rights and desegregation laws during the 1948 Democratic National Convention, some Southern Democrats, called "Dixiecrats," temporarily abandoned the national party and voted for South Carolina governor Strom Thurmond. They voted for his electors on the regular state Democratic ticket. Although Republican Dwight D. Eisenhower carried half the South in 1952 and 1956, and Senator Barry Goldwater also carried five Southern states in 1964, Democrat Jimmy Carter carried all of the South except Virginia, and there was no long-term realignment until Ronald Reagan's sweeping victories in the South in 1980 and 1984.

The national party's dramatic reversal on civil rights issues culminated when Johnson signed into law the Civil Rights Act of 1964. On doing so he commented, "We [the Democrats] have lost the South for a generation." Meanwhile, the Republicans, led again by Richard Nixon, were beginning to implement their Southern strategy, which aimed to resist federal encroachment on the states, while appealing to conservative and moderate white Southerners in the rapidly growing cities and suburbs of the South.

The year 1968 was a trying one for the party as well as the United States. In January, even though it was a military defeat for the Viet Cong, the Tet Offensive began to turn American public opinion against the Vietnam War. Senator Eugene McCarthy rallied anti-war forces on college campuses and won the New Hampshire primary. In a stunning move, Johnson withdrew from the election on March 31, and shortly afterward, Senator Robert Kennedy, brother of the former president, entered the race. He won the California primary on June 4 and seemed well on his way to capturing the nomination, but he was assassinated in Los Angeles. During the Democratic National Convention, while Chicago police violently confronted anti-war protesters outside the convention hall, the Democrats nominated Vice President Hubert H. Humphrey, a stalwart New Dealer from Minnesota. Meanwhile Alabama's Democratic governor George C. Wallace launched a third-party campaign and at one point was running second to the Republican candidate Richard M. Nixon. Nixon barely won, with the Democrats retaining control of Congress.

The degree to which white and black Southerners had reversed their historic parties became evident in the 1968 election, when every Southern state except Texas deserted Humphrey and voted for either Republican Nixon or former Democrat Wallace. The party's main electoral base thus shifted to the Northeast, marking a dramatic reversal from tradition.

Transformation years: 1969-1992

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President Jimmy Carter (1977-1981)

In the presidential election of 1972, the Democrats nominated South Dakota Senator George McGovern with his anti-war slogan "Come Home, America!" McGovern's platform advocated immediate withdrawal from Vietnam and a guaranteed minimum income for all Americans. McGovern tried to crusade against the policies of Nixon, but disclosures about his running-mate Thomas Eagleton (who had undergone secret electroshock therapy) proved disastrous to McGovern's public image. Sargent Shriver, an ally of Daley's, finally accepted the vice presidential candidacy. The general election was a landslide for Nixon, as McGovern carried only Massachusetts. However, Democrats retained their large majorities in Congress and most state houses.

The sordid Watergate scandal soon destroyed the Nixon presidency, giving the Democrats a flicker of hope. With Gerald Ford's pardon of Nixon soon after his resignation in 1974, the Democrats were given a "corruption" issue they used to make major gains in the off-year elections. In the 1976 election the surprise winner was Georgia governor Jimmy Carter, a little-known outsider who promised honesty in Washington.

Some of President Carter's major accomplishments consisted of the creation of a national energy policy and the consolidation of governmental agencies, resulting in two new cabinet departments, the Department of Energy and the Department of Education. Carter led the bipartisan effort to deregulate the trucking, airline, rail, finance, communications, and oil industries, thus eliminating the New Deal approach to regulation of the economy. He bolstered the Social Security system, and appointed record numbers of women and minorities to significant government and judicial posts. He helped enact strong legislation on environmental protection, through the expansion of the National Park Service in Alaska, creating 103 million new acres of federally administered land. In foreign affairs, Carter's accomplishments consisted of the Camp David Accords, the Panama Canal Treaties, the creation of full diplomatic relations with the People's Republic of China, and the negotiation of the SALT II Treaty with the Soviet Union. In addition, he championed human rights throughout the world and used human rights as the center of his administration's foreign policy.

Despite all of these successes, Carter failed to implement a national health plan or to reform the tax system, as he had promised in his campaign. Inflation was also on the rise. Abroad, the Iran hostage crisis (November 4, 1979 - January 20, 1981) involved 52 Americans held hostage for 444 days, and Carter's diplomatic and military rescue attempts failed. The Soviet war in Afghanistan starting in December 1979 helped weaken the perception Americans had of Carter. In the presidential election of 1980, Carter defeated Ted Kennedy to regain the party's nomination, but lost to Ronald Reagan in November. The Democrats lost 12 Senate seats, and, for the first time since 1954, the Republicans controlled the Senate. The House, however, remained in Democratic hands.

Instrumental in the election of Republican President Ronald Reagan in the 1980 election were Democrats who supported many conservative policies. These "Reagan Democrats" were Democrats before and after the Reagan years. They were mostly white ethnics in the Northeast and Midwest who were attracted to Reagan's social conservatism and his hawkish foreign policy. Reagan carried 49 states against former Vice President Walter Mondale, a New Deal stalwart, in the 1984 election. Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis, running not as a New Dealer but as an efficiency expert in public administration, lost by a landslide in the 1988 election to Vice President George H. W. Bush.

The Democrats remained in control of Congress, although conservative "Blue Dog Democrats" often voted with Reagan and the GOP controlled the Senate 1980-86. The Democrats clashed frequently with Reagan on numerous issues. In foreign policy, they disagreed with the president on the nuclear freeze and the Boland Amendment, which tried to restrict funding of the Contras who were challenging the left-wing government of Nicaragua. Democrats failed to block Reagan's income tax cuts. They supported his increases in military spending, but they did keep funding for social programs that he tried to cut or eliminate, but did not veto. Congress voted for most of the spending increases and tax cuts that Reagan proposed, but not his spending cuts. Annual federal budget deficits, and the national debt, rose to record heights under Reagan.

In response to three landslide defeats in a row (1980, 1984, 1988), the Democratic Leadership Council was created to move the party to the ideological center. With the party retaining left-of-center supporters as well as supporters holding moderate or conservative views on some issues, the Democrats, more so than ever, became a big tent party with widespread appeal to most opponents of the Republicans.

The Clinton era: 1993-2001

Image:Bill Clinton.jpg
It was during Bill Clinton's presidency (1993-2001) that the Democratic Party's campaigning ideology moved towards the center.

In 1992, for the first time in 12 years, the United States elected a Democrat to the White House. President Bill Clinton balanced the federal budget for the first time since the Kennedy presidency and presided over a robust American economy that saw incomes grow across the board. In 1994, the economy had the lowest combination of unemployment and inflation in 25 years. President Clinton signed into law the Brady Bill, which imposed a five-day waiting period on handgun purchases; he also signed into legislation a ban on many types of semi-automatic firearms (which expired in 2004). His Family and Medical Leave Act, covering some 40 million Americans, offered workers up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-guaranteed leave for childbirth or a personal or family illness. He helped temporarily restore democracy to Haiti, took a strong (if ultimately unsuccessful) hand in Palestinian-Israeli peace negotiations, brokered a historic cease-fire in Northern Ireland, and negotiated the Dayton accords, which helped bring an end to nearly four years of terror and killing in the former Yugoslavia. In 1996, Clinton became the first Democratic president to be reelected since Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1944.

However, the Democrats lost their majority in both houses of Congress in 1994. Clinton vetoed two Republican-backed welfare reform bills before signing the third, the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Act of 1996. The tort reform Private Securities Litigation Reform Act passed over his veto. Labor unions, which had been steadily losing membership since the 1960s, found they had also lost political clout inside the Democratic Party; Clinton enacted the North American Free Trade Agreement with Canada and Mexico over their strong objections.<ref>Kilborn, Peter T.. "THE FREE TRADE ACCORD: Labor; Unions Vow to Punish Pact's Backers", The New York Times, 1993-11-19. Retrieved on 2006-11-17.</ref>

When the Democratic Leadership Council attempted to move the Democratic agenda in favor of more centrist positions, prominent Democrats from both the centrist and conservative factions (such as Terry McAuliffe) assumed leadership of the party and its direction. Some liberals and progressives felt alienated by the Democratic Party, which they felt had become unconcerned with the interests of the common people and left-wing issues in general.<ref>Moore, Michael (2002). Stupid White Men ...and Other Sorry Excuses for the State of the Nation!. Chapter 10. Regan Books. ISBN 0-06-039245-2.</ref>

The 21st century: 2000-present

Presidential election of 2000

During the presidential election of 2000, the Democrats chose Vice President Al Gore to be the party's candidate for the presidency. Gore and George W. Bush, the Republican candidate and son of former President George H.W. Bush, disagreed on a number of issues, including abortion, gun politics, environmentalism, gay rights, tax cuts, foreign policy, public education, global warming, judicial appointments, and affirmative action. Nevertheless, Gore's affiliation with Clinton and the DLC caused critics—Green Party presidential candidate Ralph Nader in particular—to assert that Bush and Gore were too similar, especially on free trade, reductions in social welfare, and the death penalty. "We want to punish the Democrats, we want to hurt them, wound them," Nader's closest advisor said.<ref>Levine, Harry G.. "Ralph Nader, Suicide Bomber", The Village Voice, 2004-05-03. Retrieved on 2006-10-11.</ref>.

Gore won a popular plurality of over 500,000 votes over Bush, but lost in the Electoral College by four votes. Many Democrats blamed Nader's third-party spoiler role for Gore's defeat. They pointed to the states of New Hampshire (4 electoral votes) and Florida (25 electoral votes), where Nader's total votes exceeded Bush's margin of victory. In Florida, Nader received 97,000 votes; Bush defeated Gore by a mere 538.

Despite Gore's close defeat, the Democrats gained five seats in the Senate, to turn a 55-45 Republican edge into a 50-50 split (with a Republican Vice President breaking a tie). However, when Republican Senator Jim Jeffords of Vermont decided in 2001 to become an independent and vote with the Democratic Caucus, the majority status shifted to the Democrats. It was temporary, as the Republicans regained their Senate majority with gains in 2002 and 2004, leaving the Democrats with only 44 seats, the fewest since the 1920s.

In the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 attacks, the nation's focus was changed to issues of national security. All but one Democrat voted with their Republican counterparts to authorize President Bush's 2001 invasion of Afghanistan. House and Senate Democratic leaders pushed Democrats to vote for the USA PATRIOT Act and the invasion of Iraq. The Democrats were split over entering Iraq in 2003 and increasingly expressed concerns about both the justification and progress of the War on Terrorism, as well as the domestic effects, including threats to civil rights and civil liberties, from the USA PATRIOT Act.

In the wake of the financial fraud scandal of the Enron Corporation and other corporations, Congressional Democrats pushed for a legal overhaul of business accounting with the intention of preventing further accounting fraud. This led to the bipartisan Sarbanes-Oxley Act in 2002. The Democrats generally campaigned on the issue of economic recovery for the 2002 midterm elections.

Presidential election of 2004

Image:John Kerry headshot with US flag.jpg
Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts was the Democratic Party's 2004 candidate for President.

The 2004 campaign started as early as December 2002, when Gore announced he would not seek the party's nomination for president. Howard Dean, an opponent of the war and a critic of the Democratic establishment, was the early front-runner leading into the Democratic primaries. Massachusetts Senator John Kerry was nominated because he was seen as more "electable" than Dean.<ref>Template:Cite web</ref>

As layoffs of American workers occurred in various industries due to outsourcing, some Democrats such as Howard Dean and Erskine Bowles began to refine their positions on free trade. By 2004, the failure of George W. Bush's administration to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, mounting combat casualties and fatalities in that country, and the lack of any end point for the War on Terror were frequently debated issues in the election. That year, Democrats generally campaigned on surmounting the jobless recovery, solving the Iraq crisis, and fighting terrorism more efficiently.

In the election, Kerry lost both the popular vote by 3 million votes and the Electoral College. Republicans also gained four seats in the Senate and three seats in the House of Representatives. For the first time since 1952, the Democratic leader of the Senate lost re-election. Democrats gained governorships in Louisiana, New Hampshire, and Montana while losing the governorship of Missouri and a legislative majority in Georgia—which had long been a Democratic stronghold.

After the election most analysts concluded that Kerry was a poor campaigner.<ref name=future>Thomas, Evan, Clift, Eleanor, and Staff of Newsweek (2005).Election 2004: How Bush Won and What You Can Expect in the Future. PublicAffairs. ISBN 1-58648-293-9.</ref><ref>Kelly, Jack. "Kerry's Fall From Grace", Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 2004-09-05. Retrieved on 2006-10-10. See also: Last, Jonathan V.. "Saving John Kerry", The Weekly Standard, 2004-11-12. Retrieved on 2006-10-10.</ref> The Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, ballot initiatives banning same-sex marriage, Kerry's inability to reconcile his vote to authorize the war in Iraq with his opposition to it, all played various parts in his defeat. Other factors included a healthy job market, a rising stock market, strong home sales, and low unemployment.

The party today

Image:Barack Obama portrait 2005.jpg
Senator Barack Obama of Illinois is the only African-American currently serving in the United States Senate.

After the 2004 election, prominent Democrats began to rethink the party's direction, and a variety of strategies for moving forward were voiced. Some Democrats proposed moving towards the right to regain seats in the House and Senate and possibly win the presidency in the election of 2008; others demanded that the party move more to the left and become a stronger opposition party.

These debates were reflected in the 2005 campaign for Chairman of the Democratic National Committee, which Howard Dean won over the objections of many party insiders. Dean sought to move the Democratic strategy away from the establishment, and bolster support for the party's state organizations, even in Red states.<ref>Interview with Howard Dean, This Week, 2005-01-23. American Broadcasting Company (ABC). Retrieved on 2006-10-11.</ref>

When the 109th Congress convened, Democratic Senators chose Harry Reid of Nevada as their Minority Leader and Richard Durbin of Illinois to replace Reid as their Assistant Minority Leader. Reid tried to convince the Democratic Senators to vote more as a bloc on important issues; he forced the Republicans to abandon their push for privatization of Social Security. In 2005, the Democrats retained their governorships in Virginia and New Jersey, electing Tim Kaine and Jon Corzine, respectively. However, the party lost the mayoral race in New York City, a Democratic stronghold, for the fourth straight time.

Scandals involving lobbyist Jack Abramoff, former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, the House GOP leadership's purported cover-up of the Mark Foley scandal, and Ohio governor Bob Taft gave the Democrats the opportunity of using corruption as an issue for the 2006 campaign. President Bush's slow response to the Hurricane Katrina disaster seemed to be an issue that highlighted conflicts in the emergency response system in many areas, including the local agencies. Public opinion on the war in Iraq continued its steady negative trend, and this, along with widespread sentiment among conservatives that the government had let spending get out of control, continued to drag President Bush's job approval ratings down to the lowest levels of his presidency. The main hurdle for Democratic victory in the House was the districting system (see Gerrymandering) that made over 90% of the seats "safe" for one party or the other. To regain a majority, the Democrats needed to take nearly all the rest.

Image:Nancy Pelosi official portrait.jpg
In late 2006, Democrats chose Representative Nancy Pelosi of California to be their nominee for the next Speaker of the House.

As a result of the 2006 midterm elections, the Democratic Party is set to become the majority party in the House of Representatives as well as the effective majority party in the United States Senate when the 110th Congress convenes in 2007 (The Senate will consist of 49 Democrats, 49 Republicans and two Independents who will caucus with the Democratic party). The Democrats had spent twelve successive years as the minority party in the House before the watershed 2006 mid-term elections. Part of the Democratic Party's electoral success can be attributed to running mostly conservative-leaning Democrats against at-risk Republican incumbents.<ref>Hook, Janet. "A right kind of Democrat", Los Angeles Times, 2006-10-26. Retrieved on 2006-11-10. See also: Dewan, Shaila, Kornblut, Anne E.. "In Key House Races, Democrats Run to the Right", The New York Times, 2006-10-30. Retrieved on 2006-11-10.</ref> The Democrats also went from controlling a minority of governorships to an expected majority. The number of seats held by party members likewise increased in various state legislatures, giving the Democrats control of a plurality of them nationwide. No opposition party challenger defeated any incumbent Democratic Governor, U.S. Senator, or U.S. Representative in the election.

In the 2006 Democratic caucus leadership elections, Democrats chose Rep. Steny Hoyer of Maryland for House Majority Leader and nominated Rep. Nancy Pelosi of California for Speaker of the United States House of Representatives. If elected by the House of Representatives, she would become the first female House Speaker as well as second in the line of succession to the presidency. Senate Democrats chose Harry Reid of Nevada for United States Senate Majority Leader. Those elected would assume these roles in the 110th Congress.

The Democratic Party, once dominant in the Southern states of the former Confederacy, is now strongest in the Northeast (Mid-Atlantic and New England), Upper Midwest and Great Lakes Region and along the Pacific Coast, including California and in Hawaii. The Democrats are also strongest in the major cities, such as New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, Philadelphia, Boston, Detroit, San Francisco, Dallas and Washington D.C.. Recently, Democrats have been faring better in some southern states, such as Virginia and Florida, and in the Rocky Mountain states.

2008 outlook

Image:Hillary Rodham Clinton.jpg
Senator Hillary Clinton of New York has led the opinion polls in the race for the party's 2008 presidential nomination.

Senator Hillary Clinton has taken an early lead as the most likely 2008 Democratic Party presidential nominee although she has not formally announced her candidacy. Delaware Senator Joe Biden, Connecticut Senator Christopher Dodd, former Alaska Senator Mike Gravel, and Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack have announced their intentions to seek the nomination. Other possible candidates include former national nominees John Kerry, John Edwards, and Al Gore, as well as retired General Wesley Clark, Indiana Senator Evan Bayh, Illinois Senator Barack Obama (who could become the first African-American on a major party ticket), and New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson (who could become the first Hispanic on a major party ticket). Based on past election cycles, analysts expect serious candidates will have to announce their intentions by the end of 2006 in order to secure pledges of funding and recruit high visibility supporters.

Presidential tickets

Election year Result Nominees
President Vice President
1828 won Andrew Jackson John Caldwell Calhoun[1]
1832 won Martin Van Buren
1836 won Martin Van Buren Richard Mentor Johnson
1840 lost
1844 won James Knox Polk George Mifflin Dallas
1848 lost Lewis Cass William Orlando Butler
1852 won Franklin Pierce William Rufus de Vane King[2]
1856 won James Buchanan John Cabell Breckinridge
1860 lost Stephen Arnold Douglas (Northern) Herschel Vespasian Johnson
lost John Cabell Breckinridge (Southern) Joseph Lane
1864 lost George Brinton McClellan George Hunt Pendleton
1868 lost Horatio Seymour Francis Preston Blair, Jr.
1872 lost Horace Greeley[3] Benjamin Gratz Brown
1876 lost Samuel Jones Tilden Thomas Andrews Hendricks
1880 lost Winfield Scott Hancock William Hayden English
1884 won Stephen Grover Cleveland Thomas Andrews Hendricks[2]
1888 lost Allen Granberry Thurman
1892 won Adlai Ewing Stevenson
1896 lost William Jennings Bryan Arthur Sewall
1900 lost Adlai Ewing Stevenson
1904 lost Alton Brooks Parker Henry Gassaway Davis
1908 lost William Jennings Bryan John Worth Kern
1912 won Thomas Woodrow Wilson Thomas Riley Marshall
1916 won
1920 lost James Middleton Cox Franklin Delano Roosevelt
1924 lost John William Davis Charles Wayland Bryan
1928 lost Alfred Emmanuel Smith Joseph Taylor Robinson
1932 won Franklin Delano Roosevelt[2] John Nance Garner
1936 won
1940 won Henry Agard Wallace
1944 won Harry S. Truman
1948 won Harry S. Truman Alben William Barkley
1952 lost Adlai Ewing Stevenson II John Jackson Sparkman
1956 lost Estes Kefauver
1960 won John Fitzgerald Kennedy[2] Lyndon Baines Johnson
1964 won Lyndon Baines Johnson Hubert Horatio Humphrey
1968 lost Hubert Horatio Humphrey Edmund Sixtus Muskie
1972 lost George Stanley McGovern Robert Sargent Shriver[4]
1976 won James Earl Carter, Jr. Walter Frederick Mondale
1980 lost
1984 lost Walter Frederick Mondale Geraldine Anne Ferraro
1988 lost Michael Stanley Dukakis Lloyd Millard Bentsen Jr.
1992 won William Jefferson Clinton Albert Arnold Gore, Jr.
1996 won
2000 lost Albert Arnold Gore, Jr. Joseph Isadore Lieberman
2004 lost John Forbes Kerry John Reid Edwards

[1] Resigned.
[2] Died in office.
[3] The Greeley/Brown ticket was first nominated by the Liberal Republican Party. Greeley died before the electoral votes were cast.
[4] Thomas Eagleton was the original vice presidential nominee, but was forced to withdraw his nomination.

Current factions

New Democrats, Centrists and the DLC

Though centrist Democrats differ on a variety of issues, they typically foster a mix of political views and ideas. Compared to other Democratic factions, they are mostly more supportive of the use of military force, including the war in Iraq, and are more willing to reduce government welfare, as indicated by their support for welfare reform and tax cuts. Centrists argue that their ideas are more in line with the majority of Americans. Progressive Democrats such as Governor Howard Dean classify "new democrats" as "Republican Lite" due to their willingness to promote and vote for a Republican agenda and their willingness to accept corporate fundraising.

One of the most influential factions is the Democratic Leadership Council (DLC), an influential non-profit organization that advocates centrist positions for the party. Members often self-identify under the title "New Democrat." Selected former party leaders of the 1980s founded the DLC in response to the landslide victory of Ronald Reagan over Walter Mondale in 1984, believing the Democratic Party needed to reform its political philosophy if it was to ever retake the White House. The DLC hails President Bill Clinton as proof of the viability of third way politicians and a DLC success story. The DLC has no official allegiance with or control over the Democratic National Committee. Many Progressive Democrats believe the DLC to be partially responsible for the Republican takeover of Congress in 1994 and their taking back of the Senate in 2002. Chairman Howard Dean is the first DNC Chair since 1992 to not be aligned or involved with the DLC. However, critics contend that the DLC is effectively a powerful, corporate-financed influence within the Democratic Party that acts to keep Democratic Party candidates and platforms sympathetic to corporate interests.

Prominent politicians associated with the DLC include its former chairman President Bill Clinton, former chairman Connecticut Senator Joseph Lieberman (elected over the Democratic nominee for Senate in 2006), New York Senator Hillary Clinton, former Vice President Al Gore (up to 2000, but not since), and former Virginia Governor Mark Warner. The DLC was founded and continues to be led by Al From. Governor Tom Vilsack of Iowa is the current chairman.

Libertarian Democrats

Civil libertarians also often support the Democratic Party because its positions on such issues as civil rights and separation of church and state are more closely aligned to their own than the positions of the Republican Party, and because the Democrats' economic agenda may be more appealing to them than that of the Libertarian Party. They oppose gun control, the "War on Drugs," protectionism, corporate welfare, governmental borrowing, and an interventionist foreign policy. The Democratic Freedom Caucus is an organized group of this faction. Libertarian socialists (also called "left libertarians") are divided over the issue of voting, but may individually choose to support progressive Democratic political candidates.

Progressive Democrats

Many Progressive Democrats are descendants of the New Left of Democratic Presidential candidate/Senator George McGovern of South Dakota; others were involved in the presidential candidacies of Vermont Governor Howard Dean and U.S. Rep. Dennis Kucinich of Ohio; and still others are disaffected former members of the Green Party. Progressive Democratic candidates for public office have had popular support as candidates in metropolitan areas outside the South, and among African-Americans nationwide. Unifying issues among progressive Democrats have been opposition to the War in Iraq, opposition to economic and social conservatism, opposition to heavy corporate influence in government, support for universal health care, revitalization of the national infrastructure and steering the Democratic Party in the direction of being a more forceful opposition party. Compared to other factions of the party, they've been most critical of the Republican Party, and most supportive of social and economic equality. The 21st Century Democrats is a political organization active since 2000 in assisting candidates it describes as "progressive" or "populist" in winning elections. Its strategy puts emphasis on training large numbers of organizers to work at the grassroots level and targeting specific campaigns it sees as important. It has strong ties to veterans of campaigns for the late Minnesota Senator Paul Wellstone.

The Congressional Progressive Caucus or CPC is a caucus of progressive Democrats, along with one independent, in the U.S. Congress. It is the single largest Democratic caucus in the House of Representatives, although it currently has no members from the Senate. Well-known members include Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH), Rep. John Lewis (D-GA), Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA), and Rep. Bernie Sanders (I-VT). The CPC advocates universal health care, fair trade agreements, living wage laws, the right of all workers to organize into trade unions and engage in strikes and collective bargaining, the repeal of significant portions of the USA PATRIOT Act, the formation of a Department of Peace, the legalization of gay marriage, strict campaign finance reform laws, a complete pullout from Iraq, a crackdown on corporate crime and corporate welfare, an increase in income tax on whom they consider "wealthy," tax cuts for those they consider "poor," and an increase in welfare spending by the federal government.

Progressive Democrats have included Congressmen Kucinich, Congressman John Conyers (Michigan), Jim McDermott (Washington), John Lewis (Georgia), the late Senator Paul Wellstone (Minnesota). The Democracy for America (DFA) political action committee generally supports fiscally responsible and socially progressive candidates at all levels of government. It was founded by ex-Vermont Governor and current Democratic Party Chairman Howard Dean during his presidential campaign; its current Chairman is James H. Dean, Howard Dean's brother. DFA fights against the influence of the far-right on American politics and works to rebuild the Democratic Party "from the bottom up."

The Progressive Democrats of America lends itself to the progressive ideology within the party. Founded by members of Dennis Kucinich's 2004 presidential campaign, it does not hold much sway in the Democratic Party, being considered more liberal than other factions.


Since the 1930s, a critical element in the Democratic Party coalition are labor unions. Unions supply a great deal of the money, grass roots political organization, and voting base of support for the party. Union membership in the private sector of the economy has fallen to 8 from 35 percent in the past 50 years, but is still important in some industrial states and in the national capital. The most important unions in the 21st century represent government employees, such as teachers, policemen, nurses, and prison guards, as well as service-sector workers, such as hotel workers and janitors.

The old industrial unions are more protectionist and are concerned with preservation of pensions, collective bargaining, and access to health insurance. Important union organizations in the Democratic coalition include SEIU, UNITE HERE, AFSCME, UAW, and the Change to Win and AFL-CIO Labor Federations. Prominent politicians associated with the labor wing include Ohio congressman and Senator-elect Sherrod Brown and Byron Dorgan, the populist senator from North Dakota, as well as prospective 2008 Presidential candidate John Edwards. Most of the members in this faction identify with the progressive faction of the party.

Liberal Democrats

Liberal Democrats are to the left of centrist Democrats. The liberal faction was dominant in the party for several decades, although they have been hurt by the rise of centrist forces such as President Bill Clinton. Compared to conservatives and moderates, liberal Democrats generally have advocated fair trade and other less conservative economic policies, and a less militaristic foreign policy, and have a reputation of being more forceful in pushing for civil liberties. Liberals are increasingly identified as being part of the larger progressive wing of the party.

Prominent liberal Democrats include U.S. Senators Barbara Boxer (California), Russ Feingold (Wisconsin), Ted Kennedy (Massachusetts), Tom Harkin (Iowa), and House Minority leader Nancy Pelosi (California).

Conservative Democrats

Also see: Bourbon Democrat, a forerunner of Conservative Democrats.

The Democratic Party had a conservative element, mostly from the South and Border regions, into the 1980s. Their numbers declined sharply as the GOP built up its Southern base. They were sometimes humorously called "Yellow dog Democrats," or "boll weevils," "Dixiecrats." In the House, they form the Blue Dog Democrats caucus of fiscal and social conservatives and moderates, primarily southerners, willing to broker compromises with the Republican leadership. They have acted as a unified voting bloc in the past, giving its forty plus members some ability to change legislation. The Blue Dogs added nine new members as a result of the 2006 midterm elections.<ref>Reiss, Cory. "House Blue Dogs ready to hunt", The Star-News, 2006-11-16. Retrieved on 2006-11-18.</ref>

Prominent conservative Democrats of recent time include Senators Ben Nelson (Nebraska), Ken Salazar (Colorado) and Mary Landrieu (Louisiana); as well as Congressmen Ike Skelton (Missouri), Gene Taylor (Mississippi), Henry Cuellar (Texas), Collin Peterson (Minnesota), and Jim Marshall (Georgia). Moderate Blue Dogs include Harold Ford, Jr. (Tennessee). Joe Lieberman (Connecticut) has sided with conservatives on some foreign policy issues (especially his support for the Iraq war), but is considered liberal on many social and economic issues.

A newly emerging trend is the return of active pro-life Democratic groups and candidates. Some of these candidates have won office or are being backed by the party establishment in their state. While some of these pro-life Democrats are more conservative than most Democrats in general, most are centrists or liberals {cite} in keeping with the majority of the Democratic Party on other issues. The largest national pro-life group within the party is the Democrats for Life. Pro-life candidate Bob Casey, Jr. (Pennsylvania) was elected as a U.S. Senator in the 2006 midterm elections.

The 2006 congressional elections brought to Congress a significant bloc of conservative Democrats who are likely to support protectionist policies.<ref>Brodzinsky, Sibylla, Goodman, Peter S.. "Latin Americans Wonder If Democrats Are Traders", The Washington Post, 2006-11-23. Retrieved on 2006-12-02. See also: Weisberg, Jacob. "The Lou Dobbs Democrats", Slate, 2006-11-08. Retrieved on 2006-12-02.</ref>

Current structure and composition

Further information: Politics of the United States#Organization of American political parties

The Democratic National Committee (DNC) is responsible for promoting Democratic campaign activities. While the DNC is responsible for overseeing the process of writing the Democratic Platform, the DNC is more focused on campaign and organizational strategy than public policy. In presidential elections it supervises the national convention and, during the primary season, raises funds, commissions polls, and coordinates campaign strategy. Following the selection of a Party nominee, the public funding laws permit the National party to coordinate certain expenditures with the Nominee, but additional funds are spent on general, party-building activities.<ref>Template:Cite web</ref>

The chairman of the DNC (currently Howard Dean) is elected by vote of the Democratic National Committee Members for a four year term.<ref name=charter>Template:Cite web</ref> When there is a sitting President who is a Democrat, the Members generally elect the President's candidate for DNC Chair.

Dean ran against numerous candidates to win his position in early 2005. Rather than focusing just on close "swing states," Dean proposed the "50 State Strategy." His goal is for the Democratic Party to be committed to winning elections at every level in every region of the country, with Democrats organized in every single voting precinct in the country.<ref> O'Donell, Shawn M., Badurina, Drucilla (2005). Rebuilding The Democratic Party From The Grassroots: The Ultimate Guidebook For Democrats. iUniverse, Inc.. ISBN 0-595-35620-6. See also: Mann, Thomas E., Ortiz, Daniel R., Potter, Trevor, Corrado, Anthony (2005). The New Campaign Finance Sourcebook. Brookings Institution Press. ISBN 0-8157-0005-9.</ref>

According to the Charter of the Democratic Party, the National Convention is, subject to the Charter, the ultimate authority within the Democratic Party when it is in session, with the DNC running the party's organization at other times.<ref name=charter /> The DNC is composed of the Chairs and Vice-Chairs of each state Democratic Party Committee, two hundred members apportioned among the states based on population and generally elected either on the ballot by primary voters or by the State Democratic Party Committee, a number of elected officials serving in an ex-officio capacity, and a variety of representatives of major Democratic Party constituencies.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (or DCCC) assists party candidates in House races, It has raised over $70 million through the first eighteen months of the 2005-2006 election cycle; its current head (selected by the party caucus) is Rep. Rahm Emanuel of Illinois. Similarly the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee raises large sums for Senate races. It is currently headed by Senator Charles E. Schumer of New York.

Smaller groups with much less funding include a group focused on state legislative races, the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee. The DNC sponsors two youth-oriented organizations: the Young Democrats of America (YDA) and the College Democrats.

Each state also has a State Committee, made up of elected committee members as well as ex-officio committee members (usually elected officials and representatives of major constituencies), which in turn elects a Chair. County, Town, City and Ward committees generally are comprised of individuals elected at the local level. State and local committees often coordinate campaign activities within their jurisdiction, oversee local conventions and in some cases primaries or caucuses, and may have a role in nominating candidates for elected office under state law. Rarely do they have much funding, but in 2005 Chairman Dean began a program of using DNC national funds to assist the state parties, and paying for full time professional staffers. Dean's policy of spreading national funds evenly across the red and blue states angered the Senate and House campaign chairmen who wanted the DNC funds concentrated in states and districts that were closely contested, thereby increasing the chances the party could win control of Congress in 2006.<ref>Edsall, Thomas B.. "Democrats Are Fractured Over Strategy, Funds", The Washington Post, 2006-05-11. Retrieved on 2006-10-10.</ref>

Symbols and name

"A Live Jackass Kicking a Dead Lion" by Thomas Nast

In the 1790s, the Federalists deliberately used the terms "Democratic Party" and "Democrat" as insults against Jeffersonians. For example, in 1798, George Washington wrote, "…you could as soon scrub the blackamore white, as to change the principles of a profest Democrat."<ref>Template:Cite web Transcript.</ref> By the 1830s, however, the term that had once been considered an insult became the party's name, and the party called itself "The Democratic Party of the United States of America."[citation needed] In the late 19th century, the term "The Democracy" was in common use for the party.

The most common symbol for the party is the donkey, although the party itself never officially adopted it.<ref>History of the Democratic Donkey. Retrieved on 2006-11-15.</ref> The origins of this symbol are unknown, but several theories have been proposed. According to one theory, in its original form, the jackass was born in the intense mudslinging that occurred during the presidential race of 1828 as a play on the name of Andrew Jackson, the Democratic candidate. Jackson had been called "Andrew Jackass," and the defiant Jackson adopted the nickname.[citation needed]

On January 19, 1870, a political cartoon by Thomas Nast in Harper's Weekly titled "A Live Jackass Kicking a Dead Lion" revived the donkey as a symbol for the Democratic Party (the symbol had also been used in the 1830s). Cartoonists followed Nast and used the donkey to represent the Democrats, and the elephant to represent the Republicans.

The song "Happy Days Are Here Again" is the unofficial song of the Democratic Party. It was used prominently when Franklin Delano Roosevelt was nominated for president at the 1932 Democratic National Convention and remains a sentimental favorite for Democrats today.

Jefferson-Jackson Day is the most common name given to the annual fundraising celebration held by local chapters of the Democratic Party. It is named after Presidents Thomas Jefferson and Andrew Jackson, whom the party regards as its distinguished early leaders.

Although both major political parties (and many minor ones) use the traditional American red, white, and blue colors in their marketing and representations, since election night 2000 the color blue has become the identified color of the Democratic Party, while the color red has become the identified color of the opposition Republican Party. It was on election night 2000 that, for the first time ever, all major broadcast television networks used the same color scheme for the electoral map: red for Republicans and blue for Democrats. Since then, the color blue has been widely used by the media to represent the party. It has also been used by party supporters for promotional efforts (e.g BuyBlue, BlueFund) and by the party itself, which in 2006 unveiled the "Red to Blue Program" to support Democratic candidates running against Republican incumbents in the 2006 midterm election.

It is appropriate to refer to candidates and the party using the adjective "Democratic" as opposed to the noun "Democrat," (i.e. "Democratic" Party, the "Democratic" candidate). Some Democrats consider the use of the term "Democrat Party" as a political epithet.

See also





  • Finkelman, Paul and Peter Wallenstein, eds. Encyclopedia of American Political History (2001)
  • Jensen, Richard. Grass Roots Politics: Parties, Issues, and Voters, 1854-1983 (1983)
  • Kleppner, Paul et al. The Evolution of American Electoral Systems (1983), advanced scholarly essays.
  • Rutland, Robert Allen. The Democrats: From Jefferson to Clinton (1995). short popular history
  • Schlesinger, Arthur Meier, Jr. ed. History of American Presidential Elections, 1789-2000 (various multivolume editions, latest is 2001). For each election includes good scholarly history and selection of primary document. Essays on the most important election are reprinted in Schlesinger, The Coming to Power: Critical Presidential Elections in American History (1972)
  • Schlisinger, Galbraith. Of the People: The 200 Year History of the Democratic Party (1992) popular essays by scholars.
  • Taylor, Jeff. Where Did the Party Go?: William Jennings Bryan, Hubert Humphrey, and the Jeffersonian Legacy (2006), for history and ideology of the party.
  • Witcover, Jules. Party of the People: A History of the Democrats (2003), 900 page popular history

Since 1992

  • Barone, Michael, and Grant Ujifusa, The Almanac of American Politics 2006: The Senators, the Representatives and the Governors: Their Records and Election Results, Their States and Districts (2005) covers all the live politicians with amazing detail.
  • Dark, Taylor, The Unions and the Democrats: An Enduring Alliance (2001)
  • Judis, John B. and Ruy Teixeira. The Emerging Democratic Majority (2004) demography is destiny
  • Patterson, James T. Restless Giant: The United States from Watergate to Bush vs. Gore (2005) well balanced scholarly synthesis.
  • Sabato, Larry J. Divided States of America: The Slash and Burn Politics of the 2004 Presidential Election (2005), scholarly study.
  • Sabato, Larry J. and Bruce Larson. The Party's Just Begun: Shaping Political Parties for America's Future (2001) scholarly textbook.

Before 1992

  • Blum, John Morton. The Progressive Presidents: Roosevelt, Wilson, Roosevelt, Johnson (1980)
  • Fraser, Steve and Gary Gerstle, eds. The Rise and Fall of the New Deal Order, 1930-1980 (1990)
  • Kleppner, Paul. The Third Electoral System 1853-1892: Parties, Voters, and Political Cultures (1979), major study of voting patterns in every state
  • Ladd Jr., Everett Carll with Charles D. Hadley. Transformations of the American Party System: Political Coalitions from the New Deal to the 1970s 2nd ed. (1978).
  • Lawrence, David G. The Collapse of the Democratic Presidential Majority: Realignment, Dealignment, and Electoral Change from Franklin Roosevelt to Bill Clinton (1996)
  • Milkis, Sidney M. and Jerome M. Mileur, eds. The New Deal and the Triumph of Liberalism (2002)
  • Milkis, Sidney M. The President and the Parties: The Transformation of the American Party System Since the New Deal (1993)
  • Nichols, Roy Franklin. The Democratic Machine, 1850-1854 (1923)
  • Patterson, James T. Grand Expectations: The United States, 1945-1974 (1997) well balanced scholarly synthesis.
  • Rae, Nicol C. Southern Democrats Oxford University Press. 1994. focus on 1964 to 1992.
  • Remini, Robert V. Martin Van Buren and the Making of the Democratic Party (1959)
  • Silbey, Joel H. The American Political Nation, 1838-1893 (1991)
  • Sundquist, James L. Dynamics of the Party System: Alignment and Realignment of Political Parties in the United States (1983)

External links



Political Parties of the United States
Major Parties  Democratic    Republican
Third Parties  Constitution     Green     Libertarian
Smaller Parties  Peace and Freedom    Reform    Socialist    Socialist Workers    VT Progressive
Historical Parties  Anti-Masonic  Democratic-Republican  Federalist  National Republican  Populist (People's) Party  Progressive  Whig
See List of political parties in the United States for a complete list.

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Democratic Party (United States)

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