Democratic Party (United States)

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Democratic Party
Democratic Party logo
Party Chairman Howard Dean
Senate Leader Harry Reid
House Leader Nancy Pelosi
Founded 1792
Headquarters 430 South Capitol Street SE
Washington, D.C.
Political ideology Liberalism1, Third way
International affiliation None2
Color(s) Blue3
1Liberalism in the United States.
2The National Democratic Institute, an organization with ties to the party, is registered as a cooperating organization with the Liberal International.
3Blue is commonly used, but remains unofficial.

The Democratic Party, founed in 1792, is the second-oldest political party in the world (after the Tories of the United Kingdom). Along with the Republican Party, it is one of two major parties in the United States. The party is currently the minority party in the U.S. Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives. In state legislatures, the Democrats control 19 legislatures while the Republicans control 21. Ten states have different parties in control of the upper and lower chambers. Of the two major U.S. parties, the Democratic Party is to the left of the Republican Party, though its politics are not as consistently leftist as the traditional social democratic and labor parties in much of the world.

The Democratic Party is more notably factional than many major parties in the industrialized world, partially because American political parties in general do not have as much official power to control members as political parties in many other countries.



Main article: History of the United States Democratic Party


Andrew Jackson, the first Democratic President (1829-1837).
Andrew Jackson, the first Democratic President (1829-1837).

The Democratic Party's origins lie in the original Republican Party founded by Thomas Jefferson in 1792. Today, that party is usually referred to as the "Democratic-Republican Party" to avoid confusion. After the disintegration of the Federalist Party, the Democratic-Republicans were the only major party in American politics. For 20 years, different factions of the party contended for the presidency, whose candidates were nominated by congressional caucuses. In 1824, a particularly bitter election was thrown to the House of Representatives, and John Quincy Adams. Andrew Jackson, recovering from his defeat, gathered together prominent leaders, including Martin Van Buren of New York and even Vice President John C. Calhoun to support his next bid for the presidency.

By the election of 1828, the unified party broke into two. One became the National Republican Party, and backed the incumbent President, and the other, which became known as the Democratic Party, after their insistence that the President hold a national mandate from the people, backed Andrew Jackson. The National Republican faction became the Whig Party (after their opposition to "King Andrew"), which would disintegrate in the 1850s when dissident Whigs and Northern Democrats formed the Republican Party.


Initially the Democratic Party was a coalition between Western pioneers in the Ohio River valley and Illinois - the "North West" of the U.S. at that time - and Southern planters and agrarians from the Jeffersonian coalition. This coalition was very similar to the one that Jefferson and Madison had worked to create, and lead to the belief that Jackson, and not John Quincy Adams, represented a continuous "Jeffersonian" tradition. This was in opposition to the Federalist and Hamiltonian conception of government which Adams was said to represent. The key issues were election access and the Bank of the United States. The Jeffersonians had opposed the first bank, but had allowed it to continue for 20 years of their time in power. The issue of the Bank, and tariffs would be the central domestic policy issue from 1828 to 1850, even though it was increasingly overshadowed by expansion and nativism in the run up to the Civil War.

The Democratic Party would lose the presidency to William Henry Harrison, only to gain it back when his Vice President took office, and proceeded to enact many policies the party favored. James Polk would solidify the party's hold on power with a coalition that was increasingly based on holding a solid South and taking enough states in the North to win national power. The party also became increasingly associated with continuation of slavery, including pressing for more and more aggressive laws to enforce the recapture of enslaved individuals who had escaped, and for more of the Great Plains to be opened to slavery. This ran into the Missouri Compromise, which had set a free line, north of which slavery would be prohibited, in return for keeping a balance of power in the Senate. With the disintegration of the Whig Party in 1856 into two factions, the American Party of Millard Fillmore and the Republican Party whose first candidate was John Fremont, it seemed as if the Democratic Party would have a permanent dominance of political power.

Civil War and Reconstruction

In the 1850s, following the disintegration of the Whig Party, the Democratic Party became increasingly divided, with its Southern wing staunchly advocating the expansion of slavery into new territories, in opposition to the newly founded Republican Party, which sought to prohibit such expansion. Democrats in the Northern states joined the Republicans in opposing the expansion of slavery, and at the 1860 nominating convention the Party split and nominated two candidates (see U.S. presidential election, 1860). As a result, the Democrats went down to defeat with the election of Republican Abraham Lincoln, a link in the chain of events leading up to the Civil War. During the war, Northern Democrats divided into two factions, War Democrats, who supported the military policies of President Abraham Lincoln, and Copperheads, who strongly opposed them. After 1864, the Democratic Party's main opposition has come from the modern Republican Party.

The Democrats were shattered by the war but nevertheless benefited from white Southerners' resentment of Reconstruction and consequent hostility to the Republican Party. Once Reconstruction ended, and the disenfranchisement of blacks was re-established, the region was known as the "Solid South" for nearly a century because it reliably voted Democratic and there was, in many places, effectively only one party, there being no significant Republican presence. Though Republicans continued to control the White House until 1885, the Democrats remained competitive, especially in the mid-Atlantic and lower Midwest, and 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, a feat he repeated in 1892, having lost (but won the popular vote) in the election of 1888 (as had Samuel J. Tilden in the election of 1876.

Populism and Republican dominance

In the presidential election of 1896, widely regarded as a political realignment, Democrats favoring Free Silver defeated their conservative counterparts and succeeded in nominating William Jennings Bryan for the presidency (as did the agrarian Populist Party). Bryan, perhaps best known for his "Cross of Gold" speech delivered at the 1896 convention, waged a vigorous campaign attacking Eastern monied interests, but 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. That reign was interrupted in the election of 1912 when Theodore Roosevelt's independent Bull Moose candidacy split the Republican vote, giving Woodrow Wilson a popular plurality and victory in the electoral college, but Republican Warren G. Harding assumed the presidency in the election of 1920.

The New Deal

Franklin Delano Roosevelt
Franklin Delano Roosevelt

The stock market crash of 1929 and the ensuing Great Depression set the stage for a more progressive government and Franklin D. Roosevelt won a landslide victory in the election of 1932, campaigning on a platform of "Relief, Recovery, and Reform". This came to be termed "The New Deal" after a phrase in his acceptance speech. The Democrats also swept to large majorities in both houses of Congress, and among state Governors. Roosevelt altered the nature of the Party, away from laissez-faire capitalism, and towards an ideology of economic regulation and insurance against hardship.

After winning re-election in 1936, Roosevelt embarked on an ambitious legislative program that came to be called "The Second New Deal." He was stymied, however, by an alliance of Republicans and conservative Democrats, as well as by the Supreme Court. Frustrated by the conservative wing of his own party, Roosevelt made an attempt to rid himself of it; in 1938, he actively campaigned against five incumbent conservative Democratic senators, and to appoint more justices to the Court. However, Roosevelt's attempt to chastise the conservatives failed when all five senators won re-election despite Roosevelt's efforts, and his attempts to add justices to the Court became derisively known as "Court Packing".

Roosevelt's New Deal programs focused on job creation through public works projects as well as on social welfare programs such as Social Security. It also included sweeping reforms to the banking system, work regulation, transportation, communications, stock markets and attempts to regulate prices. His policies soon paid off by uniting a diverse coalition of Democratic voters called the New Deal Coalition, which included labor unions, minorities (most significantly, Catholics and Jews), and liberals. This united voter base allowed Democrats to be elected to Congress and the presidency for much of the next 30 years.

Under FDR, the Democratic Party became identified more closely with modern liberalism, which included the promotion of social welfare, civil rights, and regulation of the economy.

Civil Rights Movement

In 1924 at the Democratic National Convention, a resolution denouncing the white-supremacist Ku Klux Klan was introduced. After much debate, the resolution failed by just a single vote. This resolution later passed during the 1948 Democratic National Convention as part of a larger resolution endorsing civil rights.

Lyndon Johnson foresaw the end of the Solid South when he signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Lyndon Johnson foresaw the end of the Solid South when he signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

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. After Harry Truman's platform showed support for civil rights and anti-segregation laws during the 1948 Democratic National Convention, many Southern Democratic delegates decided to split from the Party and formed the "Dixiecrats", led by South Carolina governor Strom Thurmond (who, as a Senator, would later join the Republican Party). Over the next few years, many conservative Democrats in the "Solid South" drifted away from the party. On the other hand, African Americans, who had traditionally given strong support to the Republican Party since its inception as the "anti-slavery party", shifted to the Democratic Party due to its New Deal economic opportunities and support for civil rights.

The party's dramatic reversal on civil rights issues culminated when Democratic President Lyndon B. Johnson signed into law the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Meanwhile, the Republicans were beginning their infamous Southern strategy, which aimed to solidify the Republican Party's electoral hold over conservative white Southerners. Southern Democrats took notice of the fact that 1964 Republican Presidential candidate Barry Goldwater had voted against the Civil Rights Act, and in the presidential election of 1964, Goldwater's only electoral victories outside his home state of Arizona were in the states of the Deep South.

The degree to which the Southern Democrats had abandoned the party became evident in the 1968 Presidential election when every former Confederate state except Texas voted for either Republican Richard Nixon or independent George Wallace, the latter a former Southern Democrat. Defeated Democrat Hubert Humphrey's electoral votes came mainly from the Northern states, marking a dramatic shift from the 1948 election 20 years earlier, when the losing Republican candidate's electoral votes were mainly concentrated in the Northern states.


In 1972, the Democrats nominated South Dakota Senator George McGovern as the Party's presidential candidate on a platform which advocated, among other things, U.S. withdrawal from Vietnam and a guaranteed minimum income for all Americans. McGovern was defeated in a landslide by incumbent Republican President Richard Nixon, the former winning only Massachusetts and Washington, D.C.

By 1976, however, things had changed dramatically. Nixon, under criticism during the Watergate scandal, resigned from the presidency in 1974. Prior to that, his Vice President, Spiro Agnew had been forced out by a separate scandal. After Agnew resigned, Nixon appointed Gerald Ford, a Republican Representative from Michigan as Agnew's replacement. Thus, when Nixon resigned, Ford became the first President in the nation's history to have been neither elected President nor Vice President. Ford soon pardoned Nixon. Mistrust of the administration, complicated by a combination of economic recession and inflation, sometimes called "stagflation," led to Ford's defeat in 1976 to Jimmy Carter, a former Governor of Georgia. In 1980, Carter lost to Ronald Reagan after serving one term in office.


After the election of Republican President Ronald Reagan in 1980, Democrats who supported many conservative policies were called "Reagan Democrats". Many in the so-called "Reagan Democrats" faction of the party eventually joined the Republican Party.

The 1980s are often seen as the era in which the old New Deal coalition finally collapsed as Reagan handily defeated former Vice President and Minnesota Senator Walter Mondale, a New Deal stalwart, in 1984. Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis also lost in 1988 to former Vice President under Reagan George H. W. Bush.

In response to these electoral defeats, the Democratic Leadership Council was created. It worked to move the Party rightwards 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 became generally a catch all party with widespread appeal to most opponents of the Republicans.


During Bill Clinton's presidency the Democratic Party moved ideologically toward the center.
During Bill Clinton's presidency the Democratic Party moved ideologically toward the center.

In the 1990s the Democratic Party revived itself, in part by moving to the right on economic and social policy. President Bill Clinton, who defeated the incumbent George H. W. Bush in U.S. presidential election, 1992, implemented a balanced federal budget and welfare reform, traditionally conservative causes. 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 NAFTA free trade agreement with Canada and Mexico over the strong objection of these labor unions, much to the disappointment of those on the left of the Party.

When the DLC 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. Some Democrats challenged the validity of such critiques, citing the Democratic role in pushing for progressive reforms.

21st century

During the 2000 Presidential election, the Democrats chose Vice President Al Gore to be the Party's candidate for the presidency. Although Gore and George W. Bush, the Republican candidate, clearly disagreed on issues such as abortion, gun control, environmentalism, foreign policy, public education, trade unionism, alternative fuel research, global warming, judicial appointments, and affirmative action, some critics -- Green Party presidential candidate Ralph Nader in particular -- asserted that Bush and Gore were too similar because they held the same views on free trade and reductions in government-funded social welfare.

On election day, Gore won the popular vote by just over 500,000 votes, but lost in the electoral college by four votes. Some election observers blamed Nader's third-party candidacy 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 Governor Bush's margin of victory. In Florida, Nader received 97,000 votes; Bush defeated Gore by a mere 538. Winning either Florida or New Hampshire would have given Gore enough electoral votes to win the presidency.

Vice President Al Gore, lost his 2000 Presidential bid by 538 votes in Florida, although he narrowly won the national popular vote.
Vice President Al Gore, lost his 2000 Presidential bid by 538 votes in Florida, although he narrowly won the national popular vote.

Democratic Senators went from the majority in the 106th Congress to a split minority in the 107th Congress. However, that changed when Sen. Jim Jeffords (Vermont) changed party affiliation from Republican to Independent, which effectively returned majority party status back to the Democrats.

In the aftermath of the September 11th 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. Daschle pushed for his party to approve the USA PATRIOT Act and the invasion of Iraq. The Democrats were split over the 2003 invasion of Iraq and increasingly expressed concerns about both the justification and progress of the War on Terrorism and the domestic effects including threats to civil liberties and civil liberties from the USA PATRIOT Act.

In the wake of the financial fraud scandal of Enron and other corporations, Congressional Democrats were integral in pushing for and developing a legal overhaul of business accounting with the intention of preventing further accounting fraud. With job losses and bankruptcies across regions and industries increasing in 2001 and 2002, the Democrats generally campaigned on the issue of economic recovery.

The Democrats began fielding Presidential candidates as early as December 2002, when Gore announced he would not run again in 2004. Ex-Governor Howard Dean of Vermont, an opponent of the war and a critic of the Democratic establishment, was the frontrunner leading into the Democratic primaries. Dean had immense grassroots support, especially from the left wing of the Party. John Kerry, a much more centrist figure, was nominated because he was seen as more "electable" than Dean.

In the time from 2003 to 2004, layoffs of American workers occurring in various industries due to outsourcing, some Democrats (including Howard Dean and Senatorial candidate Erskine Bowles of North Carolina) began to refine their positions on free trade and some even questioned their past support for it. By 2004, the failure of George W. Bush's administration to find weapons of mass destruction, mounting combat casualties and fatalities in Iraq, 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, exiting Iraq, and counterterrorism.

Senator John Kerry was the Democratic Party's 2004 candidate for President.
Senator John Kerry was the Democratic Party's 2004 candidate for President.

Despite strong campaigning and the faltering image of George W. Bush and the Republican Party, the Democrats were not victorious nationally. Kerry narrowly lost both the popular and electoral vote. Republicans gained four seats in the Senate and three seats in the House of Representatives. Also, for the first time since Barry Goldwater of Arizona won his first election to the Senate, the Democratic leader of the Senate lost re-election. In the end there were 3,660 Democratic state legislators across the nation to the Republicans' 3,557, and Democrats had gained governorships in Louisiana, New Hampshire and Montana. However, the Democrats lost the governorship of Missouri and a legislative majority in Georgia - which had once been a Democratic stronghold since Reconstruction.

Many Democrats believed that the Republicans ran in opposition to gay rights and used state ballot initiatives against same-sex marriage to attract more so-called "values voters" to the polls. [ref8] Some voters, especially in Ohio, have alleged that votes in Ohio and other states were illegally suppressed and miscalculated in favor of Bush, resulting in substantial uncertainty about the actual outcome. In Florida, Bev Harris discovered garbage bags full of ballots on which votes had been switched. (see 2004 U.S. presidential election controversy and irregularities) These controversies led Sen. Barbara Boxer of California and several Democratic U.S. Representatives including John Conyers of Michigan to force a Congressional debate on the issue when the 109th Congress first convened and in such propose working together to fix problems within the election system.

Since then, many Democrats have voiced serious concern about the future of their party. Prominent Democrats began to rethink the party's direction, and a variety of strategies for moving forward were voiced. Some have suggested moving towards the right to regain seats in the House and Senate and possibly win the presidency in 2008. Others suggested 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 and local chapters.

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 convinced the Democratic Senators to vote more as a bloc on important issues, something which forced the Republicans to abandon their push for privatization of Social Security and instatement of the "nuclear option" to end judicial filibuster. The Senate did not vote on either proposal. [ref5]



Centrist Democrats identify with centrism and compromise. 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're mostly more supportive of the use of military force, and are more willing to end or reduce government sponsored initiatives, as indicated by their support for welfare reform and tax cuts.

Prominent centrist Democrats in recent times have included U.S. Pres. Bill Clinton (Arkansas), First Lady/U.S. Sen. Hillary Clinton (New York), U.S. Vice Pres. Al Gore (Tennessee), Gov. Tom Vilsack (Iowa), Gov. Mark Warner (Virginia), U.S. Sens. Joe Biden (Delaware), Joe Lieberman (Connecticut), Harry Reid (Nevada), U.S. Sen. John Kerry (Massachusetts), and U.S. Sen. John Edwards (North Carolina).


Many progressives are descendants of the New Left of Democratic Presidential candidate/Senator George McGovern of South Dakota; others were involved in the presidential candidacies of Howard Dean and U.S. Rep. Dennis Kucinich of Ohio. Progressive Democratic candidates for public office have had popular support as candidates in urban areas, the Northeast, the Midwest, and among African-Americans nationwide, though they have also been supported by other groups. Unifying issues among progressive Democrats have been opposition to the invasion and occupation of Iraq, opposition to economic and social conservatism, support for universal healthcare 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.

Progressive Democrats have included Kucinich, Congressman John Conyers (Michigan), Congressman/civil rights activist John Lewis (Georgia), and late U.S. Sen. Paul Wellstone (Minnesota).


One of the most important parts of the Democratic Party coalition is the labor vote. They supply a great deal of the money, grass roots political organization and base of support for the party. While Union membership has fallen over the last four decades, the labor union component of the party is still very important. The Union vote tends to be more protectionist than centrists in the party. The labor wing is concerned with issues such as the minimum wage, as well as protection of pensions, collective bargaining and access to health insurance. Prominent members of this wing include Andy Stern of SEIU. Other important union organizations in the Democratic coalition include AFSCME, UAW, WWP, and the AFL-CIO. Most of the members in this faction tend to identify more with the progressive faction of the party.


Liberal Democrats are to the left of centrist Democrats. The liberal faction was dominant in the party for several decades, until centrist forces asserted primary control. 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. Sens. Russ Feingold (Wisconsin), Ted Kennedy (Massachusetts) and Tom Harkin (Iowa).


The Democratic Party was once a very conservative party, with a very influential Southern wing, though this changed as conservatives started to join the Republican Party. Many on the conservative wing of the party were referred to by terms such as "yellow dog Democrats", "boll weevils", "Dixiecrats", and "Reagan Democrats". Conservatives who left the party were known to make candidacies against Democrats who desired ethnic integration; some went as far as to establish third parties in order to run against other Democrats in general elections. Eventually, most of the once large conservative faction switched to the Republican Party as it became more conservative in the late 60s and 70s.

There remains, however, a viable conservative wing of the Democratic Party, one which was mostly southern. These Democrats have consisted typically of moderate conservatives who feel the Republican Party does not share the values they hold most important; these mostly include conservatives who disagree with the Republican Party's conservative views on trade, taxes and civil rights, who are critical of the policies and actions of the administration of George W. Bush, and who identify with the populism of past Democratic icons.

(Similarly, Zell Miller was known for centrist views while Governor of Georgia, but as a Senator he became a neoconservative and Religious Rightist, switched from the Democratic quorum in the Senate to the Republican one, and endorsed Bush for President)

Prominent conservative Democrats of recent time include U.S. Senators John Breaux, Ben Nelson (Nebraska) and Mary Landrieu (Louisiana) and Congressmen Ike Skelton (Missouri), Gene Taylor (Mississippi) and Jim Traficant (Ohio). Sen. Joe Lieberman (Connecticut) is commonly included as a conservative Democrat, though some may dispute this.

Notable groups

There are several ideological groups within the modern-day Democratic Party. As the party is made up of several groups with different ideologies, several sub-groups within the party have been set up to promote the ideologies each respective group holds. Although some of these factions do not have official organizations representing them, they are often well-represented within the party.

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 radically liberal than other factions.

African Americans have voted consistently for Democratic Party candidates in the 85 to 90% range, and as such can be considered a faction in the party. Democratic African American leadership coalesces around the Congressional Black Caucus and civil rights activists and is generally considered liberal in outlook. Senator Barack Obama, the Reverend Jesse Jackson, and Congressman John Conyers are prominent leaders of this faction.

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. The DFA fights against the influence of the far-right on American politics and works to rebuild the Democratic Party "from the bottom up".

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 word "New Democrat". Centrist party leaders founded the DLC in response to the landslide victory of Republican candidate Ronald Reagan over Democratic candidate Walter Mondale during the 1984 presidential election, believing the Democratic Party needed to reform their political philosophy if they were to ever retake the White House, a goal which had eluded them since the 1976 election of Jimmy Carter.

The DLC hails President Bill Clinton as proof of the viability of third way politicians and a DLC success story. However, critics contend that the DLC is effectively a powerful, corporate-financed mouthpiece within the Democratic Party that acts to keep Democratic Party candidates and platforms sympathetic to corporate interests and the interests of the wealthy. The group was founded and continues to be led by Al From. Governor Tom Vilsack of Iowa is the current chairman.

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-TX), 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 strike actions and collective bargaining, the abolition 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 the war in Iraq, a crackdown on corporate crime and what they see as corporate welfare, an increase in income tax on the wealthy, tax cuts for the poor, and an increase in welfare spending by the federal government. [1] [2]

As a key source of political contributions, volunteers, and field organizing expertise, Organized Labor holds significant sway in the Democratic Party. Former House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt was a leading supporter of labor in Congress. Trade unions have often been a considerable source of support for the party, and several elections were lost when the Democratic candidates were viewed as less than sufficiently supportive of their interests.

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 the "War on Drugs," protectionism, corporate welfare, immigration restrictions, governmental borrowing, and an interventionist foreign policy. The Democratic Freedom Caucus is an organised group of this faction.

The Blue Dog Democrats are a congressional 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 thirty members some ability to change legislation. The name appears to be both a reference to several well-known Louisiana paintings featuring blue dogs, as well as a reference to the old "yellow dog" Democrats having been "choked blue." Traditionally, the color blue has been associated with conservative ideals, contributing to the caucus' name.


The principles and values of any political party are difficult to define and apply generally to all members of the party. Some members may disagree with one or more plank of their party's platform.

On the budget, the Democrats in the 2004 platform swore to halve the yearly federal budget deficit by 2009. They stated that they seek "a Constitutional version of the line-item veto to make it easier to root out pork-barrel spending."

On a major issue affecting civil liberties, the USA PATRIOT Act, the Democratic agenda is to "change the portions of the Patriot Act that threaten individual rights, such as the library provisions." They further explained in their platform, "Our government should never round up innocent people only because of their religion or ethnicity, and we should never stifle free expression." The party is against racial profiling in the war against terror.

On crime, Democrats place more focus on methods of prevention of crime rather than on what penalties are applied to crimes. They emphasize improved community policing and more on-duty police officers in order to help accomplish that. Their platforms for 2000 and 2004 also cite crackdowns on gangs and drug trafficking as preventive methods. The 2004 platform also calls for rehabilitation for prisoners, in order to "reintegrate former prisoners into our communities as productive citizens." Their platforms have also particularly addressed the issue of domestic violence, calling for strict penalties for offenders and protections for victims.

On equality and nondiscrimination, citing that "a day's work is worth a day's pay," and that on average a woman continues to earn 77% of what a man does, the Democrats call for laws for equal pay. The Democrats wish to uphold the Americans with Disabilities Act to prohibit discrimination against people on the basis of physical or mental disability. The Democrats cite affirmative action as a method with which to redress past discrimination and to ensure equitable employment regardless of ethnicity or gender.

On gay marriage, many Democrats have publicly supported civil unions or same sex marriage, but it is not yet an official position of the party as a whole, or any of the members of the party leadership in Congress. The legal standing of gay marriage is a subject of debate within the Democratic Party. In the campaigns for the Party candidacy for the 2004 presidential election, candidates were divided, with John Kerry supporting civil unions while Howard Dean supported same-sex marriage. Most Democrats support the continued legalization of same-sex marriage and/or unions and progress in their nationwide acceptance. Many Democrats consider gay marriage to be a civil right of Americans.

On health care, Democrats typically call for "affordable health care," and many advocate an expansion of government funding in this area. In their 2004 platform, the Democrats affirmed the pursuit of federally funded zygotic stem-cell "research under the strictest ethical guidelines, but we will not walk away from the chance to save lives and reduce human suffering."

On abortion, the Democrats believe that privacy is a constitutional right. Thus as a matter of privacy and gender equality, women should be allowed to control their fertility and pregnancy, including access to abortion, legalized under Roe v. Wade. Often supporters refer to a "right to choose," without a direct reference to abortion. Many Democratic politicians include in this right practical access to abortion through government subsidies.

The party's proposal (in 2000 and 2004) for public policy on termination of pregnancy is for abortion to be "safe, legal and rare" - namely, keeping it legal by rejecting laws that include governmental interference in any individual matter, and reducing the number performed by promoting both knowledge of reproduction and incentives for adoption.

On gun control, the Democratic Party has introduced various gun control measures over the last 100 years. Most notable of these is the National Firearms Act of 1934 (signed into law by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt), the 1939 Gun Control Act (also signed into law by FDR), the 1968 Gun Control Act (introduced by Senator Dodd and heavily endorsed by Senator Edward Kennedy), the Brady law of 1993 (signed by President Bill Clinton), and the Crime Control Act of 1994 (also signed by Bill Clinton). However, many Democrats, particularly rural Democrats and especially southern and western Democrats, have dissented and favored more freedom to possess firearms. In the national platform for 2004, the only statement explicitly favoring gun control was a plank calling for renewal of the 1994 Assault Weapons Ban .


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

On January 19, 1870, a political cartoon by Thomas Nast appearing in Harper's Weekly titled "A Live Jackass Kicking a Dead Lion" for the first time symbolized the Democratic Party as a donkey. Since then, the donkey has been widely used as a symbol of the Party, though unlike the Republican elephant, the donkey has never been officially adopted as the Party's logo. The DNC's official logo, pictured above, depicts a stylized kicking donkey. In the media, Democrats (and states which consistently vote Democratic) have relatively recently been depicted as blue, while Republicans, and the states in which they dominate, as red.

In the early 20th century, the traditional symbol of the Democratic Party in Midwestern states such as Indiana, Kentucky, Oklahoma and Ohio was the rooster, as opposed to the Republican eagle. This symbol still appears on Kentucky and Indiana ballots. For the majority of the 20th Century, Missouri Democrats used the Statue of Liberty as their ballot emblem. This meant that when Libertarian candidates received ballot access in Missouri in 1976, they could not use the Statue of Liberty, their national symbol, as the ballot emblem. Missouri Libertarians instead used the Liberty Bell until 1995, when the mule became Missouri's state animal. From 1995 to 2004, there was some confusion among voters, as the Democratic ticket was marked with the Statue of Liberty, and it seemed that the Libertarians were using a donkey.

The Democratic Party draws on its history of politicians (Franklin D. Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy, Bill Clinton), programs (Social Security, minimum wage, Medicare) and goals (expanded health insurance, greater incomes for average U.S. citizens, progressive taxation, and an internationalist foreign policy).


The Democratic National Committee (DNC) is the official organization of the Democratic Party. It is responsible for developing and promoting the Democratic platform, as well as coordinating fundraising and election strategies. There are similar committees in every U.S. state and most U.S. counties (though in some states, Party organization lower than the state level is arranged by legislative districts). This structure can be considered the counterpart of the Republican National Committee and Republican state and local organizations. The current chair of the DNC is Howard Dean.

The Democratic Party also has fundraising and strategy committees for U.S. House races (Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee), U.S. Senate races (Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee), gubernatorial races (Democratic Governors Association), and state legislative races (Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee). The Democratic Party has a Youth oriented organization called the Young Democrats Of America (YDA), which is the official youth 'arm' of the DNC

Presidential tickets

[1] Resigned.
[2] Died while in office and was not replaced.
[3] Johnson succeeded Republican President Abraham Lincoln with whom he had been elected on a Union ticket in 1864.
[4] The Greeley/Brown ticket was nominated by both the Democrats and the Liberal Republican Party. Greeley died shortly after the election.
[5] Died while in office.
Election year Result Nominees and office-holders President
President Vice President # Term
1828 Won Andrew Jackson John Caldwell Calhoun[1] 7th 1829 to 1837
1832 Won Martin Van Buren
1836 Won Martin Van Buren Richard Mentor Johnson 8th 1837 to 1841
1840 Lost
1844 Won James K. Polk George Mifflin Dallas 11th 1845 to 1849
1848 Lost Lewis Cass William O. Butler
1852 Won Franklin Pierce William R. King[2] 14th 1853 to 1857
1856 Won James Buchanan John C. Breckinridge 15th 1857 to 1861
1860 Lost Stephen A. Douglas (Northern) Herschel Vespasian Johnson
Lost John C. Breckinridge (Southern) Joseph Lane
1864 Lost George McClellan George H. Pendleton
Andrew Johnson[3] none 17th 1865 to 1869
1868 Lost Horatio Seymour (New York) Francis Preston Blair, Jr.
1872 Lost Horace Greeley[4] B. Gratz Brown
1876 Lost[7] Samuel J. Tilden Thomas A. Hendricks
1880 Lost Winfield Scott Hancock William H. English
1884 Won Grover Cleveland Thomas A. Hendricks[2] 22nd 1885 to 1889
1888 Lost[7] Allen G. Thurman
1892 Won Adlai E. Stevenson 24th 1893 to 1897
1896 Lost William Jennings Bryan Arthur Sewall
1900 Lost Adlai E. Stevenson
1904 Lost Alton B. Parker Henry G. Davis
1908 Lost William Jennings Bryan John W. Kern
1912 Won Woodrow Wilson Thomas R. Marshall 28th 1913 to 1921
1916 Won
1920 Lost James M. Cox Franklin Delano Roosevelt
1924 Lost John W. Davis Charles W. Bryan
1928 Lost Al Smith Joseph Taylor Robinson
1932 Won Franklin Delano Roosevelt[5] John Nance Garner 32nd 1933 to 1945
1936 Won
1940 Won Henry A. Wallace
1944 Won Harry S. Truman
Harry S. Truman none 33rd 1945 to 1953
1948 Won Alben W. Barkley
1952 Lost Adlai Stevenson John Sparkman
1956 Lost Estes Kefauver
1960 Won John F. Kennedy[5] Lyndon Johnson 35th 1961 to 1963
Lyndon Johnson none 36th 1963 to 1969
1964 Won Hubert H. Humphrey
1968 Lost Hubert H. Humphrey Edmund Muskie
1972 Lost George McGovern Thomas Eagleton / R. Sargent Shriver
1976 Won Jimmy Carter Walter F. Mondale 39th 1977 to 1981
1980 Lost
1984 Lost Walter F. Mondale Geraldine A. Ferraro
1988 Lost Michael Dukakis Lloyd Bentsen
1992 Won Bill Clinton Al Gore 42nd 1993 to 2001
1996 Won
2000 Lost Al Gore Joe Lieberman
2004 Lost John Kerry John Edwards
2008 Potential nominees

See also

Democratic Politics

Democratic organizations



  1. ^  Michael Moore, Stupid White Men (And Other Sorry Excuses for the State of the Nation), Chapter Ten, Regan Books. ISBN 0-06-039245-2
  2. ^  Ari Melber, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 26 March 2005, "Where's the Party At?". The Nation, 2 August 2004, "A People's Democratic Platform."
  3. ^  Al Franken and Tom Wolffe, Rolling Stone, 17 November 2004, "The Aftermath". Thomas Frank, New York Review of Books vol. 52 #8, May 12, 2005, "What's the Matter with Liberals?"
  4. ^  Jann S. Wenner, Rolling Stone, 17 November 2004, "Why Bush Won."
  5. ^  Sasha Abramsky, The Nation 18 April 2005, "Democrat Killer?".
  6. ^ This Week with George Stephanopoulos, Interview with Howard Dean, 23 January 2005, ABC-TV.

External links



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