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Wikipedia: 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 (speaker)
Steny Hoyer (majority leader)
Founded 1824 (modern)
1792 (historical)
Headquarters 430 South Capitol Street SE
Washington, D.C.
20003
Political ideology Liberalism
American liberalism
American progressivism
Social liberalism[1]
Political position Fiscal: center – center-left
Social: center-left
International affiliation None
Color(s) Blue (unofficial)
Website www.democrats.org
United States

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

The Democratic Party is one of two major political parties in the United States, the other being the Republican Party. It is the oldest political party in the United States and arguably the oldest in the world.[2][3]

Since the 2006 midterm elections, the Democratic Party is the majority party for the 110th Congress; the party holds an outright majority in the House of Representatives and the Democratic caucus (including two independents) constitutes a majority in the United States Senate. Democrats also hold a majority of state governorships and control a plurality of state legislatures. In 2004, it was the largest political party, with 42.6 percent of 169 million registered voters claiming affiliation.[4]

The Democratic Party traces its origins to the Democratic-Republican Party, founded by Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and other influential opponents of the Federalists in 1792. Since the division of the Republican Party in the election of 1912, it has consistently positioned itself to the left of the Republican Party in economic as well as social matters. The economically left-leaning activist philosophy of Franklin D. Roosevelt, which has strongly influenced American liberalism, has shaped much of the party’s economic agenda since 1932. Roosevelt’s New Deal coalition usually controlled the national government until the 1970s.

Contents

Current structure and composition

Registered Democrats, Republicans and Independents in 2004 in millions

Registered Democrats, Republicans and Independents in 2004 in millions[4]

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 Democratic National Convention. The national convention is subject to the charter of the party, the ultimate authority within the Democratic Party when it is in session, with the DNC running the party’s organization at other times. The DNC is currently chaired by former Vermont Governor Howard Dean.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) assists party candidates in House races; its current chairman (selected by the party caucus) is Rep. Chris Van Hollen of Maryland. Similarly the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC) raises large sums for Senate races. It is currently headed by Senator Charles E. Schumer of New York. The Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee (DLCC), currently chaired by Mike Gronstal of Iowa, is a smaller organization with much less funding that focuses on state legislative races. The DNC sponsors the College Democrats of America (CDA), a student-outreach organization with the goal of training and engaging a new generation of Democratic activists. Democrats Abroad is the organization for Americans living outside the United States; they work to advance the goals of the party and encourage Americans living abroad to support the Democrats. The Young Democrats of America (YDA) is a youth-led organization that attempts to draw in and mobilize young people for Democratic candidates, but operates outside of the DNC. In addition, the recently created branch of the Young Democrats, the Young Democrats High School Caucus, attempts to raise awareness and activism amongst teenagers to not only vote and volunteer, but participate in the future as well.The Democratic Governors Association (DGA) is an organization supporting the candidacies of Democratic gubernatorial nominees and incumbents; it is currently chaired by Governor Joe Manchin of West Virginia. Similarly the mayors of the largest cities and urban centres convene as the National Conference of Democratic Mayors.

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 composed 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 DNC Chairman Dean began a program (called the “50 State Strategy”) of using DNC national funds to assist all state parties and paying for full time professional staffers.[5]

Ideology and voter base

Further information: Factions in the Democratic Party (United States)
Composition of the Democratic base according to a 2005 Pew Research Center study.

Composition of the Democratic base according to a 2005 Pew Research Center study.

Since the 1890s, the Democratic Party has favored “liberal” positions (the term “liberal” in this sense describes social liberalism, not classical liberalism). In recent exit polls, the Democratic Party has had broad appeal across all socio-ethno-economic demographics.[6][7][8] The Democratic base currently consists of a large number of well-educated and relatively affluent liberals as well as those in the socially more conservative working class.[9] The Democratic Party is currently the nation’s largest party. In 2004, roughly 72 million (42.6 percent) Americans were registered Democrats, compared to 55 million (32.5 percent) Republicans and 42 million (24.8 percent) independents.[4]

Historically, 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, and a Southern conservative wing that shrank after President Lyndon B. Johnson supported the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The major influences for liberalism were labor unions (which peaked in the 1936-1952 era), and the African American wing, which has steadily grown since the 1960s. Since the 1970s, environmentalism has been a major new component.

In recent decades, the party has adopted a centrist economic and more socially progressive agenda, with the voter base having shifted considerably. Once dominated by unionized labor and the working class, the Democratic base now consists of social liberals who tend to be well-educated with above-average incomes as well as the socially more conservative working class. Today, Democrats advocate more social freedoms, affirmative action, balanced budget, and a free enterprise system tempered by government intervention (mixed economy). The economic policy adopted by the modern Democratic Party, including the former Clinton administration, may also be referred to as the “Third Way”.[10] The party believes that government should play a role in alleviating poverty and social injustice, even if such requires a larger role for government and progressive taxation.

The Democratic Party, once dominant in the Southeastern United States, is now strongest in the Northeast (Mid-Atlantic and New England), Great Lakes region, as well as along the Pacific Coast (especially Coastal California), including Hawaii. The Democrats are also strongest in major cities.

Ideologies

Further information: Political ideologies in the United States

With over 72 million registered members, the Democratic Party is home to an ideologically diverse base. Progressives form by far the largest and most influential ideological demographic within the party.

Progressives

Main articles: Modern liberalism in the United States, Liberalism in the United States, and Progressivism in the United States
Opinions of liberals in a 2005 Pew Research Center study.

Opinions of liberals in a 2005 Pew Research Center study.

Social liberals, also referred to as progressives or modern liberals, constitute a large part, about 45.6 percent, of the Democratic voter base. Liberals thereby form the largest united typological demographic within the Democratic base. According to the Pew Research Center liberals constitute roughly 19 percent of the electorate with 92 percent of American liberals favoring the Democratic Party.[9] While college-educated professionals were mostly Republican until the 1950s, they now comprise perhaps the most vital component of the Democratic Party.[11] A majority of liberals favor diplomacy over military action, stem-cell research, the legalization of same-sex marriage, secular government, stricter gun control, and environmental protection laws as well as the preservation of abortion rights. Immigration and cultural diversity is deemed positive; liberals favor cultural pluralism, a system in which immigrants retain their native culture in addition to adopting their new culture. They tend to be divided on free trade agreements and organizations such as NAFTA. Most liberals oppose increased military standing and the display of the Ten Commandments in public buildings.[9]

This ideological group differs from the traditional organized labor base. According to the Pew Research Center, a plurality of 41 percent resided in mass affluent households and 49 percent were college graduates, the highest figure of any typographical group. It was also the fastest growing typological group between the late 1990s and early 2000s.[9] Liberals include most of academia[12] and large portion of the professional class.[6][7][8]

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. Representative Dennis Kucinich of Ohio; still others are disaffected former members of the Green Party. The Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC) is a caucus of progressive Democrats, and is the single largest Democratic caucus in the House of Representatives. Its members have included Dennis Kucinich of Ohio, John Conyers of Michigan, Jim McDermott of Washington, John Lewis of Georgia, Barbara Lee of California, the late Senator Paul Wellstone of Minnesota, and Sherrod Brown of Ohio, now a Senator.

Civil libertarians

Civil libertarians also often support the Democratic Party because Democratic 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 Democratic 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.

Conservatives

In the House of Representatives, the Blue Dog Democrats, a caucus of fiscal and social conservatives and moderates, primarily southerners, forms part of the Democratic Party’s current faction of conservative Democrats. They have acted as a unified voting bloc in the past, giving its forty plus members some ability to change legislation and broker compromises with the Republican Party’s leadership. Pro-life Democrats are sometimes classified as conservatives on the basis of social conservatism.

Centrists

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. One of the most influential factions is the Democratic Leadership Council (DLC), a nonprofit organization that advocates centrist positions for the party. The DLC hails President Bill Clinton as proof of the viability of third way politicians and a DLC success story. Former Representative Harold Ford, Jr. of Tennessee is its current chairman.

Professionals

Professionals, those who have a college education and whose work revolves around the conceptualization of ideas, have supported the Democratic Party by a slight majority since 2000. Between 1988 and 2000, professionals favored Democrats by a 12 percentage point margin. While the professional class was once a stronghold of the Republican Party it has become increasingly split between the two parties, leaning in favor of the Democratic Party. The increasing support for Democratic candidates among professionals may be traced to the prevalence of social liberal values among this group.[13]

Professionals, who are, roughly speaking, college-educated producers of services and ideas, used to be the most staunchly Republican of all occupational groups… now chiefly working for large corporations and bureaucracies rather than on their own, and heavily influenced by the environmental, civil-rights, and feminist movements — began to vote Democratic. In the four elections from 1988 to 2000, they backed Democrats by an average of 52 percent to 40 percent.

—John B. Judis and Ruy Teixeira, The American Prospect, June 19, 2007

A study on the political attitudes of medical students, for example, found that “U.S. medical students are considerably more likely to be liberal than conservative and are more likely to be liberal than are other young U.S. adults. Future U.S. physicians may be more receptive to liberal messages than conservative ones, and their political orientation may profoundly affect their health system attitudes.”[14] Similar results are found for professors and economists, who are more strongly inclined towards liberalism and the Democratic Party than other occupational groups.[12]

Economists

American economists strongly support the Democratic Party, with their views on policy being largely in accordance with the Democratic platform. The vast majority, 63%, identify as progressive and less than 20% as conservative or libertarian.[15] In a 2004 survey of 1,000 American economists, registered Democrats outnumbered registered Republicans by a 2.5 to 1 ratio. The majority of economists favored “safety regulations, gun control, redistribution, public schooling, and anti-discrimination laws,” while opposing “tighter immigration controls, government ownership of enterprise and tariffs.”[16] Other surveys have found Democrats to outnumber Republicans 2.8 to 1 among members of the profession. A study in the Southern Economic Journal found that “71 percent of American economists believe the distribution of income in the US should be more equal, and 81 percent feel that the redistribution of income is a legitimate role for government.”[17]

Academia

Percent of faculty members identifying as liberal and conservative by discipline.

Percent of faculty members identifying as liberal and conservative by discipline.

Academics, intellectuals and the highly educated overall constitute an important part of the Democratic voter base. Academia in particular tends to be progressive. In a 2005 survey, nearly 72% of full-time faculty members identified as liberal, while 15% identified as conservative. The social sciences and humanities were the most liberal disciplines while business was the most conservative. Male professors at more advanced stages of their careers as well as those at elite institutions tend be the most liberal.[12] Another survey by UCLA conducted in 2001/02, found 47.6% of professors identifying as liberal, 34.3% as moderate, and 18% as conservative.[18] Percentages of professors who identified as liberal ranged from 49% in business to over 80% in political science and the humanities.[12] The liberal inclination of American professors is attributed by some to the liberal outlook of the highly educated.[19] Among those with graduate degrees, the majority voted Democratic in the 1996,[20] 2000,[6] 2004,[7] and 2006 elections.[8] Social scientists, such as Brett O’Bannon of DePauw University, have claimed that the “liberal” opinions of professors seem to have little, if any, effect on the political orientation of students.[19][21]

Youth

Studies have shown that younger voters tend to vote mostly for Democratic candidates in recent years. Despite supporting Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush, the young have voted in favor the Democratic presidential candidate in every election since 1992, and are more likely to identify as liberals than the general population.[22] In the 2004 U.S. Presidential Election, Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry received 54% of the vote from voters of the age group 18-29, while Republican George W. Bush received 45% of the vote from the same age group. In the 2006 midterm elections, the Democrats received 60% of the vote from the same age group, while the Republicans only received 38%.[7][8] Polls suggest that younger voters tend to be more liberal than the general population, and have more liberal views than the general public on same-sex marriage and universal healthcare, with 58% planning to vote Democratic in 2008.[22]

Labor

Since the 1930s, a critical component of the Democratic Party coalition has been organized labor. Labor unions supply a great deal of the money, grass roots political organization, and voting base of support for the party. The historic decline in union membership over the past half century has been accompanied by a growing disparity between public sector and private sector union membership percentages. The three most significant labor groupings in the Democratic coalition today are the AFL-CIO and Change to Win labor federations, as well as the National Education Association, a large, unaffiliated teachers’ union. Both the AFL-CIO and Change to Win have identified their top legislative priority for 2007 as passage of the Employee Free Choice Act. Other important issues for labor unions include supporting industrial policy (including protectionism) that sustains unionized manufacturing jobs, raising the minimum wage and promoting broad social programs such as social security and universal health care.

Working class

Further information: Social class in the United States
American social class model according to Dennis Gilbert.

American social class model according to Dennis Gilbert.[23]

While the American working class has lost much of its political strength with the decline of labor unions,[24] it remains a stronghold of the Democratic Party and continues as an essential part of the Democratic base. Today roughly a third of the American public is estimated to be working class with around 52 percent being either members of the working or lower classes.[23][25] Yet, as those with lower socioeconomic status are less likely to vote, the working and lower classes are underrepresented in the electorate. The working class is largely distinguished by highly routinized and closely supervised work. It consists mainly of clerical and blue collar workers.[23] Even though most in the working class are able afford an adequate standard of living, high economic insecurity and possible personal benefit from an extended social safety net, make the majority of working class person left-of-center on economic issues. Most working class Democrats differ from most liberals, however, in their more socially conservative views. Working class Democrats tend to be more religious and likely to belong to an ethnic minority. Socially conservative and disadvantaged Democrats are among the least educated and lowest earning ideological demographics. In 2005, only 15% had a college degree, compared to 27% at the national average and 49% of liberals, respectively. Together socially conservative and the financially disadvantaged comprised roughly 54% of the Democratic base.[9] The continued importance of the working class votes manifests itself in recent CNN exit polls, which show the Democratic Party garner the majority of votes from those with low incomes and little education.[6][7][8]

Ethnic minorities

A large portion of the Democratic voting base are ethnic minorities. The Democrats’ positions on affirmative action, welfare for the lower class and unemployed, labor unions, and immigration have a strong appeal to many ethnic minorities.

African Americans

From the end of the Civil War, African Americans favored the Republican Party. However, they began drifting to the Democratic Party in the 1930s, as Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal programs gave economic relief to all minorities, including African Americans and Hispanics. Support for the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s by Democratic presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson helped give the Democrats even larger support among the African American community, although their position also alienated the Southern white population. In addition recent Caribbean and African immigrants have voted solidly Democratic.

Hispanics

The Hispanic population, particularly the large Mexican American population in the Southwest and the large Puerto Rican and Dominican populations in the Northeast, have been strong supporters of the Democratic Party. They commonly favor liberal views on immigration. In the 1996 U.S. Presidential Election, Democratic President Bill Clinton received 72 percent of the Hispanic vote. Since then, however, the Republican Party has gained increasing support from the Hispanic community, especially among Hispanic Protestants and pentecostals. Along with Bush’s much more liberal views on immigration, President Bush was the first Republican president to gain 40 percent of the Hispanic vote (he did so in the 2004 U.S. Presidential Election). Yet, the Republican Party’s support among Hispanics eroded in the 2006 mid-term elections, dropping from 44 to 30 percent, with the Democrats gaining in the Hispanic vote from 55 percent in 2004 to 69 percent in 2006.[7][8] The shift in the Hispanic population’s support back to the Democratic party was largely dued to the Immigration Debate which was sparked by H.R. 4437, a Republican supported enforcement only bill concerning illegal immigration. Cuban-Americans still heavily vote Republican but Mexican-Americans, Puerto Rican Americans, Dominican Americans, and Central American and South American immigrants have all voted dependably for Democrats.

Asian Americans

The Democratic Party also has considerable support in the small but growing Asian American population. The Asian population had been a stronghold of the Republican Party until the 1992 presidential election in which George H. W. Bush won 55% of the Asian vote, compared to Bill Clinton winning 31%, and Ross Perot winning 15% of the Asian vote. The Democratic party made gains among the Asian American population starting with 1996 and in 2006, won 62% of the Asian vote. This is due to demographic shifts in the Asian American community, with growing numbers of well-educated Chinese and Asian Indian immigrants that are typically economic centrists and social progressives. Vietnamese Americans and Filipino Americans still vote mostly Republican (though this has lessened recently), while Chinese Americans, South Asian Americans, Korean Americans, Japanese Americans, Southeast Asian Americans other than Vietnamese (especially Hmong Americans, Cambodian Americans, and Laotian Americans,) and Pacific Islander Americans have voted mostly Democratic.

Others

The Democratic Party also has strong support among the Native American population, particularly in Arizona, New Mexico, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Washington, Alaska, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and North Carolina.

Jewish communities tend to be a stronghold for the Democratic Party, with more than 70 percent of Jewish voters having cast their ballots for the Democrats in the 2004 and 2006 elections.[7][8]

Arab Americans and Muslims, though having historically voted Republican, have voted overwhelmingly Democratic since the War in Iraq.

Recent issue stances

Economic issues

Minimum wage

Democrats favor a higher minimum wage, and more regular increases, in order to assist the working poor. The Fair Minimum Wage Act of 2007 was an early component of the Democrats’ agenda during the 110th Congress. In 2006, the Democrats supported six state ballot initiatives to increase the minimum wage; all six initiatives passed.

Renewable energy and oil

Democrats have opposed tax cuts and incentives to oil companies, favoring a policy of developing domestic renewable energy, such as Montana’s state-supported wind farm and “clean coal” programs as well as setting in place a cap and trade policy in hopes of reducing carbon emissions.

Fiscal policy

Democrats generally support a more progressive tax structure to provide more services and reduce injustice.[26] Currently they have proposed reversing those tax cuts the Bush administration gave to top earners while wishing to keep in place those given to the middle-class.[27][28][29] Democrats generally support more government spending on social services while spending less on the military.[30][31] They oppose the cutting of social services, such as social security, medicare, medicaid, and various welfare programs[32], believing it to be harmful to efficiency and social justice. Democrats believe the benefits of social services, in monetary and non-monetary terms, are a more productive labor force and cultured population, and believe that the benefits of this are greater than any benfits that could be derived from lower taxes, especially on top earners, or cuts to social services. Furthermore, Democrats see social services as essential towards providing positive freedom, i.e. freedom derived from economic opporunity. The Democratic-led House of Representatives reinstated the PAYGO (pay-as-you-go) budget rule at the start of the 110th Congress.[33] 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 or universal health care in a variety of forms to address the rising costs of modern health insurance. Some Democrats, such as Represenative John Dingell and Senator Edward Kennedy, have called for a program of “Medicare for All.”[34]

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.

Environment

Democratic belief is that the health of families and the strength of the economy depend on stewardship of the environment. Democrats have promised to fight to strengthen the laws that ensure people have clean air to breathe and clean water to drink. They also promise to make sure these laws are enforced. They feel that a sensible energy policy is key to a strong economy, national security, and a clean environment.[35]

The Democratic Party rejects the idea that a healthy economy and a healthy environment is mutually exclusive, because they believe that a cleaner environment means a stronger economy. They protect hunting and fishing heritage by expanding conservation lands. They encourage open space and rail travel to relieve highway and airport congestion and improve air quality and economy, and “believe that communities, environmental interests, and government should work together to protect resources while ensuring the vitality of local economies. Once Americans were led to believe they had to make a choice between the economy and the environment. They now know this is a false choice.”[36]

The biggest environmental concern of the Democratic party is global warming. Democrats, most notably former Vice President Al Gore, have pressed for stern regulation of greenhouse gases. On October 15, 2007 he won the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts to build greater knowledge about man-made climate change, and laying the foundations for the measures needed to counteract these changes. asserting that “the climate crisis is not a political issue, it is a moral and spiritual challenge to all of humanity.”[37]

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 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.[38][39]

Trade agreements

The Democratic Party has a mixed record on international trade agreements that reflects a diversity of viewpoints in the party. The liberal and cosmopolitan wing of the party, including the intelligentsia and college-educated professionals overall tend to favor globalization, while the organized labor wing of the party opposes it.[40] In the 1990s, the Clinton administration and a number of prominent Democrats pushed through a number of agreements such as the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Since then, the party’s shift away from free trade became evident in the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) vote, with 15 House Democrats voting for the agreement and 187 voting against.[41][42]

In his 1997 Achieving Our Country, philosopher Richard Rorty, professor at Stanford University states that economic globalization “invites two responses from the Left. The first is to insist that the inequalities between nations need to be mitigated… The second is to insist that the primary responsibility of each democratic nation-state is to its own least advantaged citizens… the first response suggests that the old democracies should open their borders, whereas the second suggests that they should close them. The first response comes naturally to academic leftists, who have always been internationally minded. The second comes naturally to members of trade unions, and to marginally employed people who can most easily be recruited into right-wing populist movements.” (p. 88)[43]

Alternate Minimum Tax

While the Democratic Party is in support of a progressive tax structure, it has vowed to adjust the alternate Minimum Tax (AMT). The tax was originally designed to tax the rich but now may affect many mass affluent households, especially those with incomes between $75,000 to $100,000. The party proposed to re-adjust the tax in such manner as to restore its initial intention. According to a 2007 Reuters News Report, “House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Charles Rangel has said he will push for permanent AMT relief for those taxpayers who were never meant to pay it.”[44]

Social issues

LGBT rights

The Democratic Party is divided on the subject of same-sex marriage. Some members favor civil unions for same-sex couples, liberals commonly favor legalized marriage, and others are opposed to same-sex marriage on religious grounds. The 2004 Democratic National Platform stated that marriage should be defined at the state level and it repudiated the Federal Marriage Amendment. Almost all agree, however, that discrimination against persons because of their sexual orientation is wrong, support adoption rights for same sex couples, and also oppose the military’s “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy.

Reproductive rights

Most members of the Democratic Party believe that all women should have access to birth control, and supports public funding of contraception for poor women. The Democratic Party, in its national platforms since 1992, has 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. When Congress voted on the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act in 2003, Congressional Democrats were split, with a minority—including current Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid—supporting the ban, and the majority of Democrats opposing the legislation.

The Democratic Party opposes attempts to reverse the 1973 Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade, which declared abortion to be a constitutionally protected right, and Planned Parenthood v. Casey which lays out the legal framework in which government action alleged to violate that right is assessed by courts. As a matter of the right to privacy and of gender equality, many Democrats believe all women should have the ability to choose to abort 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.

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,” saying, “We will not walk away from the chance to save lives and reduce human suffering.”[45]

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. Most elected Democrats continue in their support of the Afghanistan conflict, and some have voiced concerns that the Iraq War is shifting too many resources away from the presence in Afghanistan.

Iraq War

In 2002, Democrats were divided as a majority (29 for, 21 against) in the Senate voted for the authorization of the use of force against Iraq while a minority of Democrats in the House (81 for, 126 against) voted against it. Since then, many prominent Democrats have expressed regret about this decision, such as former Senator John Edwards, and have called it a mistake, while others, such as Senator Hillary Clinton have criticized the conduct of the war but not repudiated their initial vote for it. Amongst lawmakers, Democrats are the most vocal critics of the Iraq War and the President’s management of the war. Democrats in the House of Representatives near-unanimously supported a non-binding resolution disapproving of President Bush’s decision to send additional troops into Iraq in 2007. Congressional Democrats overwhelmingly supported military funding legislation which included a provision that set “a timeline for the withdrawal of all US combat troops from Iraq” by March 31, 2008, but also would leave combat forces in Iraq for purposes such as targeted counter-terrorism operations.[46][47] After a veto from the president, and a failed attempt in Congress to override the veto,[48] the U.S. Troop Readiness, Veterans’ Care, Katrina Recovery, and Iraq Accountability Appropriations Act, 2007 was passed by Congress and signed by the president after the timetable was dropped.

Unilateralism

Democrats usually 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; his platform attributed rifts with international allies to unilateralism.

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

Puerto Rico

The Democratic Party have expressed their support for Puerto Ricans to exercise their right to decolonization. The following are the appropriate section from the 2000 and 2004 party platforms:

Democratic Party 2004 Platform

We believe that four million disenfranchised American citizens residing in Puerto Rico have the right to the permanent and fully democratic status of their choice. The White House and Congress will clarify the realistic status options for Puerto Rico and enable Puerto Ricans to choose among them.[49]

Democratic Party 2000 Platform

Puerto Rico has been under U.S. sovereignty for over a century and Puerto Ricans have been U.S. citizens since 1917, but the island’s ultimate status still has not been determined and its 3.9 million residents still do not have voting representation in their national government. These disenfranchised citizens – who have contributed greatly to our country in war and peace – are entitled to the permanent and fully democratic status of their choice. Democrats will continue to work in the White House and Congress to clarify the options and enable them to chose and to obtain such a status from among all realistic options.[50]

Legal issues

Torture

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.

USA PATRIOT Act

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. Renewal was allowed after many of the most invasive clauses in the Act were removed or curbed.

Personal Privacy

The Democratic Party believes that individuals should have more personal privacy when it comes to law enforcement and national security, 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 noncommercial sexual conduct (among adults), as a matter of personal privacy.

Crime

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.

Gun control

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.[51] 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.

History

Main article: History of the United States Democratic Party

The Democratic Party evolved from Anti-federalist factions that opposed the fiscal policies of Alexander Hamilton in the early 1790s. Thomas Jefferson and James Madison organized these factions into the Democratic-Republican Party. The party favored states’ rights and strict adherence to the Constitution; it opposed a national bank and wealthy, moneyed interests. The Democratic-Republican Party ascended to power in the election of 1800. After the War of 1812, the party’s chief rival, the Federalist Party disbanded. Democratic-Republicans split over the choice of a successor to President James Monroe, and the party faction that supported many of the old Jeffersonian principles, led by Andrew Jackson and Martin Van Buren, became the Democratic Party. Along with the Whig Party, the Democratic Party was the chief party in the United States until the Civil War. The Whigs were a commercial party, and usually less popular, if better financed. The Whigs divided over the slavery issue after the Mexican-American War and faded away. In the 1850s, under the stress of the Fugitive Slave Law and the Kansas-Nebraska Act, anti-slavery Democrats left the party. Joining with former members of existing or dwindling parties, the Republican Party emerged.

The Democrats split over the choice of a successor to President James Buchanan along Northern and Southern lines, while the Republican Party gained an ascendancy in the election of 1860. As the American Civil War broke out, Northern Democrats were divided into War Democrats and Peace Democrats. Most War Democrats rallied to Republican President Abraham Lincoln and the Republicans’ National Union Party. The Democrats benefited from white Southerners’ resentment of Reconstruction after the war and consequent hostility to the Republican Party. After Redeemers ended Reconstruction in the 1870s, and the extremely violent disenfranchisement of African Americans took place in the 1890s, the South, voting Democratic, became known as the “Solid South.” Though Republicans continued to control the White House until 1884, the Democrats remained competitive. The party was dominated by pro-business Bourbon Democrats led by Samuel J. Tilden and Grover Cleveland, who represented mercantile, banking and railroad interests, opposed imperialism and overseas expansion, fought for the gold standard, opposed bimetallism, and crusaded against corruption, high taxes, and tariffs. Cleveland was elected to non-consecutive presidential terms in 1884 and 1892.

Agrarian Democrats demanding free silver overthrew the Bourbon Democrats in 1896 and nominated William Jennings Bryan for the presidency (a nomination repeated by Democrats in 1900 and 1908). Bryan waged a vigorous campaign attacking Eastern moneyed interests, but he lost to Republican William McKinley. The Democrats took control of the House in 1910 and elected Woodrow Wilson as president in 1912 and 1916. Wilson led Congress to, in effect, put to rest the issues of tariffs, money, and antitrust that had dominated politics for 40 years with new progressive laws. The Great Depression in 1929 that occurred under Republican President Herbert Hoover and the Republican Congress set the stage for a more liberal government; the Democrats controlled the House of Representatives nearly uninterrupted from 1931 until 1995 and won most presidential elections until 1968. Franklin Delano Roosevelt, elected to presidency in 1932, came forth with government programs called the New Deal. 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 business, and low taxes, started calling themselves “conservatives.”

Issues facing parties and the United States after the Second World War included the Cold War and the Civil Rights Movement. Republicans attracted conservatives and white Southerners from the Democratic coalition with their resistance to New Deal and Great Society liberalism and the Republicans’ use of the Southern Strategy. African Americans, who traditionally supported the Republican Party, began supporting Democrats following the ascent of the Franklin Roosevelt administration, the New Deal, and the Civil Rights movement. The Democratic Party’s main base of support shifted to the Northeast, marking a dramatic reversal of history. Bill Clinton was elected to the presidency in 1992 and 1996 and governed as a New Democrat while the Democratic Party lost control of Congress in the election of 1994 to the Republican Party; the Democratic Party regained majority control of Congress in 2006. Some of the party’s key issues in the early 21st century in their last national platform have included the methods of how to combat terrorism, homeland security, expanding access to healthcare, labor rights, environmentalism, and the preservation of liberal government programs.

Name and symbols

“A Live Jackass Kicking a Dead Lion” by Thomas Nast. Harper’s Weekly, January 19, 1870.

Initially calling itself the “Republican Party,” Jeffersonians were labeled “Democratic” by the opposition Federalists, with the hope of stigmatizing them as purveyors of democracy or mob rule.[52] By the Jacksonian era, the term “The Democracy” was in use by the party; the name “Democratic Party” was eventually settled upon.[53] In the 20th and 21st centuries, “Democrat Party” is a political epithet that is sometimes used by opponents to refer to the party. The current official name of the party is the “Democratic Party.”

The most common mascot symbol for the party is the donkey. According to the Democratic National Committee, the party itself never officially adopted this symbol but has made use of it.[54] They say Andrew Jackson had been labeled a jackass by his opponents during the intense mudslinging that occurred during the presidential race of 1828. A political cartoon depicting Jackson riding and directing a donkey (representing the Democratic Party) was published in 1837. A political cartoon by Thomas Nast in an 1870 edition of Harper’s Weekly revived the donkey as a symbol for the Democratic Party. Cartoonists followed Nast and used the donkey to represent the Democrats, and the elephant to represent the Republicans.

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 Oklahoma, 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.

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 Republican Party. That night, for the first time, all major broadcast television networks used the same color scheme for the electoral map: blue states for Al Gore (Democratic nominee) and red states for George W. Bush (Republican nominee). Since then, the color blue has been widely used by the media to represent the party, much to the confusion of non-American observers, as blue is the traditional color of the right and red the color of the left outside of the United States (c.f. red for the Liberals and blue for the Conservatives in Canada, or red for Labour and blue for Conservative in the United Kingdom). Blue 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 elections.

Jefferson-Jackson Day is the annual fundraising event (dinner) held by Democratic Party organizations across the United States.[55] It is named after Presidents Thomas Jefferson and Andrew Jackson, whom the party regards as its distinguished early leaders.

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. More recently, the emotionally similar song “Beautiful Day” by the band U2 has become a favorite theme song for Democratic candidates. John Kerry used the song during his 2004 presidential campaign, and it was used as a celebratory tune by several Democratic Congressional candidates in 2006.[56][57]

State and territorial parties

  • Alabama Democratic Party ( Site )
  • Alaska Democratic Party ( Site )
  • Arizona Democratic Party ( Site )
  • Democratic Party of Arkansas ( Site )
  • California Democratic Party ( Site )
  • Colorado Democratic Party ( Site )
  • Democratic State Central Committee of Connecticut ( Site )
  • Delaware Democratic Party ( Site )
  • Florida Democratic Party ( Site )
  • Democratic Party of Georgia ( Site )
  • Democratic Party of Hawaii ( Site )
  • Idaho Democratic Party ( Site )
  • Democratic Party of Illinois ( Site )
  • Indiana Democratic Party ( Site )
  • Iowa Democratic Party ( Site )
  • Kansas Democratic Party ( Site )
  • Kentucky Democratic Party ( Site )
  • Louisiana Democratic Party ( Site )
  • Maine Democratic Party ( Site )
  • Maryland Democratic Party ( Site )
  • Massachusetts Democratic Party ( Site )
  • Michigan Democratic Party ( Site )
  • Minnesota Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party ( Site )
  • Democratic Party of the State of Mississippi ( Site )
  • Missouri Democratic Party ( Site )
  • Montana Democratic Party ( Site )
  • Nebraska Democratic Party ( Site )
  • Nevada Democratic Party ( Site )
  • New Hampshire Democratic Party ( Site )
  • New Jersey Democratic State Committee ( Site )
  • Democratic Party of New Mexico ( Site )
  • New York State Democratic Committee ( Site )
  • North Carolina Democratic Party ( Site )
  • North Dakota Democratic-NPL Party ( Site )
  • Ohio Democratic Party ( Site )
  • Oklahoma Democratic Party ( Site )
  • Democratic Party of Oregon ( Site )
  • Pennsylvania Democratic Party ( Site )
  • Puerto Rico Democratic Party ( Site )
  • Rhode Island Democratic Committee ( Site )
  • South Carolina Democratic Party ( Site )
  • South Dakota Democratic Party ( Site )
  • Tennessee Democratic Party ( Site )
  • Texas Democratic Party ( Site )
  • Utah Democratic Party ( Site )
  • Vermont Democratic Party ( Site )
  • Democratic Party of Virginia ( Site )
  • Washington State Democratic Party ( Site )
  • West Virginia Democratic Party ( Site )
  • Democratic Party of Wisconsin ( Site )
  • Wyoming Democratic Party ( Site )

See also

  • List of United States Democratic Party presidential tickets
  • Democratic Party (United States) presidential primaries, 2008
  • Democratic organizations
  • Political party strength in U.S. states
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