Democratic Party

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It is quite certain that a moderate Republican will be nominated to stand as his party's candidate for the presidency. His name is Barack Obama.
—Some damn Canucks[1]
Remember back when Democrats used to vote with us?
—Leo McGarry, The West Wing

The Democrat Party Democratic Party is a centrist political party in the United States, widely perceived to be left-wing in the American political spectrum, largely because of their left-wing rhetoric. That's the great irony of the modern GOP: as it moves further right, it has become less conservative in the Dictionary definition/non-partisan sense. It's a real question now whether the GOP or the Democrats are the more conservative party.

A short history[edit]

The electoral college from the 1860 presidential election, only months before the American Civil War. Compare to today.

The successor to the Democratic-Republican Party, the Democrats historically acted as the more populist party, as opposed to the mercantilist Whigs and (later) the industrial Republicans. At the same time, however, it was rooted in many socially and economically right-wing views, notably being anti-Second Bank (Andrew Jackson), anti-tariff (ie. the Bourbons) and supporting and upholding slavery (later segregation).

The party began to move to the left in two major shifts, starting with Woodrow Wilson in the 1910s and Franklin D. Roosevelt during the Great Depression. The latter was buffered by the "New Deal Coalition," a combination of urban constituents, immigrants, intellectuals, organized labour, farmers, whites from the Solid South and (for the first time) African Americans, all of whom agreed on more government intervention in the economy but not much else.[2]

The schism widened in the 1960s, the hot-button issues being the Vietnam War and desegregation. Nixon took advantage of this with his "Southern strategy," which flipped the American political sphere on its backside: almost every southern seat defected to the GOP. The remaining liberal Republicans (or the "Ike Republicans," vital in passing the Civil Rights Act) fled to the Democrats.

Unable to keep the fire alive into the 80's, the DNC embraced the snail's pace of incrementalism. The McGovern-Fraser pivot (1968) towards the primary system ushered in the age of Third Way politics. Couple it with the presence of superdelegates and the reliance of more primaries, and the result was less populism and more appeal to urban areas. While it was successful in the short-term by widening the upper/middle class, Democrats are so parochial in relation to the culture of their city-regions that they've lost the ability to network with other regions.

Future[edit]

Ironically, by winning the culture war the Democrats have ceded the electoral war: hard-up whites behaved like a minority bloc and came out for Trump in the same way that African-Americans did for Obama. The strength of the Dems used to be that they had broad ideological flexibility. They are the party of non-whites, which is a huge and diverse group. Now that diversity hurts their messaging in presidential elections, and as America's power twilights and those folks see their lifestyle changing dramatically, social conservatism will only get stronger. It makes perfect sense for the GOP to cultivate that base rather than try and shove them into the cellar as they have been doing. That approach is what made Romney lose. Playing to the alt-right is what made Trump win. The dynamics are different in Canada, the UK, et. al, but it's playing out in other countries, too.

On a more superficial level, with stuff like DNC hacks, the party is forced to remain squeaky clean. The RNC does not have this problem. Trump and his subordinates know this and will couple it with swiftboating/voter suppression tactics. Over 30 states have Republican majorities in both chambers (which equals more gerrymandering, since the governors approve the redistricting bills), and they are just one or two states away from a constitutional majority, when they can change the constitution to enshrine their extremism into law.[3]

Internal factions[edit]

While the Democrats have a substantial liberal wing among the public at large, the party's inability to coordinate itself properly results in a political platform that consists of rolling over to Republican schemes and failing to provide effective leadership. The sectarian violence appears below.

Progressives[edit]

A loose alliance between European-style social democrats, longtime democratic socialists, and anti-establishment greens (there is a difference, however minor). If liberals prefer systemic reform, progressives push for systemic revolution, with many advocating for policies that are less from the New Deal and more like the War on Poverty and beyond, which includes support for single payer, employee ownership, workplace democracy, and nationalization, all hallmarks of the left wing. Once disenchanted by the right wing, they grew increasingly popular throughout the 2010s, fueled chiefly by the diverse and increasingly leftist millennial generation, who felt disillusioned by Obama's fiscally conservative economic policy and latched onto Sanders' brand of social democracy. Many are organized in the Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC), the largest of its kind in the House of Representatives. Some are descendants of the New Left:

  • Cecil Bothwell
  • Sherrod Brown
  • Donna Edwards
  • Keith Ellison
  • Russ Feingold (the only Senator to vote against the original manifestation of the PATRIOT Act)
  • Barney Frank
  • Kirsten Gillibrand (a stark contrast from her time in the House, where she bragged that her voting record was “one of the most conservative in the state”[4]; she's now openly called for the party to follow Bernie and Warren's lead, and she has largely followed through herself, even cosponsoring employee ownership with Bernie in early 2017)
  • Alan Grayson
  • Justice Democrats, a faction of progressives who explicitly don't take Super PAC money and prefer small donors; Ro Khanna and Raul Grijalva are their first two sitting members.
  • Dennis Kucinich
  • Barbara Lee
  • John Lewis
  • Jim McDermott
  • Beto O'Rourke
  • Jamie Raskin
  • Bernie Sanders, the man many credit with giving voice to the left wing as he ran for president in 2016. A self-described and indeed admitted "Democratic" socialist, for many years he wasn't even an actual Democrat, but caucused with them. Several people involved or related to his campaign have branched out and created organizations meant to continue the "political revolution," as he calls it. Many of his pet policies, like a 15 dollar minimum wage and Medicare-For-All, became mainstream, as pressure from public activists have increasingly forced the party brass to respond in kind.
  • Pete Stark (the first openly atheist member of Congress[5])
  • Elizabeth Warren, the brains behind the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau before becoming Senator. With Sanders as an independent, she was the furthest-left Democrat in the party for the longest time, adopting rhetoric from Occupy Wall Street when she railed against the big banks and income inequality. One of her main policies, anti-trust laws, was formally adopted by Chuck Schumer's "Better Deal" proposals in 2017.

Modern Liberals[edit]

"A little left of center," in FDR's words, with an emphasis on social democracy and its various flavors. Old-school, New Deal-era moderates who wish to "save capitalism from itself," also in FDR's words. Their power base was traditionally the labor movement, who were far stronger through the New Deal era until the 1970s. Characterized by their willingness to listen to public pressure and bend to activist movement, they're the type to rein in the excesses of the system without fundamentally changing it. Many listed below started out as New Democrats:

  • Joe Biden, former Vice President.
  • Barbara Boxer
  • Howard Dean
  • Dick Durbin
  • Kamala Harris (another former Blue Dog before becoming a Senator, who is now moving to the left and closer to social democracy)
  • The Kennedys
  • John Kerry, former State Secretary.
  • Amy Klobuchar
  • Jay Rockefeller
  • Chris Van Hollen
  • Anthony Weiner

New Democrats[edit]

The third way moderates. Birthed from the Democratic Leadership Council in the 80s, they turned the party increasingly neoliberal following Clinton's ascendance to the presidency, much like New Labour under Tony Blair. They dominated the party throughout the 90s, leading to a proliferation of Blue Dogs (see below) who gave cover to the right wing. Since the 2010s, they've lost much of their former clout to the left wing, as the Blue Dogs were eradicated and the progressives filled that void. Several of their most ardently centrist members have since been forced to shift left because of an increasingly restless public demanding change. Represented by the New Democrat Coalition (an affiliate of the now-defunct Democratic Leadership Council):

  • Cory Booker, who receives the most Wall Street donations of any Democrat in the Senate.
  • Bill Clinton, who led the New Democrat coalition. Clinton took a bipartisan track with regards to NAFTA (conservative) and Hillarycare (progressive), but had mixed results in doing so.
  • Hillary Clinton, who heads the Clinton Foundation and leads the centrist Democrats who dominate much of the DNC to this day. To her credit, she moved solidly to the left compared to her husband, and was more comparable to Obama by 2016.
  • Andrew Cuomo, Governor of New York who supports the Republican-allied Independent Democratic Caucus in the state senate.
  • John Edwards
  • Dianne Feinstein
  • Al Gore
  • Joe Lieberman (independent since 2006)
  • Martin O'Malley
  • Barack Obama, who nonetheless (accidentally) facilitated a revival of the left wing. Many were dissatisfied with his conservative leanings, and public activism forced him to evolve into a more traditional liberal by the end of his presidency. [6]
  • Nancy Pelosi, who generally refuses to give the left wing any time, in spite of her Senate counterparts Reid and Schumer being more conciliatory to the left.
  • Harry Reid
  • Chuck Schumer
  • Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, the incompetent former head of the DNC who often votes with Republicans.

Blue Dogs[edit]

The Blue Dog Coalition are often accused of being DINOs, most commonly on social issues and deficit hawkery.[7] These guys are the same concern-trolling fucks that FDR crushed on his way to enacting the New Deal. Officially they are a coalition in the House but a few ideologically aligned Senators are listed as well. They're typically elected in Jesusland, and are considered flaming lefties there, despite being firmly centre-right. They were largely wiped out in 2010 and 2014, but some of their holdouts remain:

  • Charlie Crist, Representative from Florida and former Republican Governor.
  • Claire McCaskill, Senator from Missouri.
  • Joe Donnelly, Senator from Indiana.
  • Rahm Emanuel, former White House Chief of Staff and current Mayor of Chicago.
  • Tulsi Gabbard, Representative from Hawaii, who – despite her conservative political beliefs – endorsed Bernie Sanders in the Democratic primary.
  • Gabrielle Giffords, Representative from Arizona.
  • Heidi Heitkamp, Senator from North Dakota.
  • Mary Landrieu
  • Joe Manchin, Senator from West Virginia.
  • Ben Nelson
  • Collin Peterson, Representative from Minnesota.
  • Tim Ryan, Representative from Ohio.
  • Heath Shuler

Dixiecrat leftovers and boll weevils[edit]

To the right of the Blue Dogs. Not a significant feature in the party anymore, although occasionally one will turn up here and there as a failed Senate candidate,Wikipedia's W.svg or a centrist Democrat will go haywire and swing far to the right.[8]

  • Virgil Goode (left the Democrats in 2000, was the Constitution Party presidential nominee in 2012)
  • Zell Miller[9]

These folks[edit]

These often vote with the progressive and liberal wings of the party, but have their conservative quirky bits. Not easily categorized elsewhere:

Libertarians[edit]

Yes, they exist too, probably upset about Dubya's stance on civil liberties and the Republicans' constant juggling between pro-business interests and the Religious Right:

  • Mike Gravel
  • There is also an erstwhile "Democratic Freedom Caucus" influenced by Georgism whose actual influence in the party is negligible

So who's ticking them on their ballot?[edit]

All over the country Democrats are running on their singular strength – the fact that they are not as batshit crazy as their Republican opponents.
Chris Ladd[10]

Today, the Democratic Party attracts academia, white-collar professionals,[11] scientists,[12] medical students,[13] the youth vote,[14] the working class,[15] increasingly the middle class,[16] consumer advocates, copyright reformers, women,[17] LGBT, and ethnic minorities. However, many progressives feel left[18] out of the Party, especially those whose focus in on income inequality. These are alarmed by positions taken by, e.g., Jon Cowan, president of the centrist think tank Third Way, claims populism is dead in the Party, who argues:

“There is a very large faction within the Democratic Party that wants to go back in time,” Cowan told me. “They want to take what we did in the 20th century and do more of it. They want to re-unionize the entire country, unwind the trade deals of the last couple of decades, and not just preserve but expand entitlements. Even if we could afford that, it wouldn’t solve most of the problems of the middle class.”

That is, many top dog Democrats don't want to deal with income inequality; they want to appeal to the middle-class voters who have been moving in the Democratic direction.

Self-identified Democratic centrist and two-term Delaware governor, Jack Markell, agrees that the middle class is key, and claims: : '“If it’s about inequality, it’s a conversation that has the potential of dividing us.” ...Markell says that middle-class voters hear in the crusade against “inequality” a desire to equalize people rather than make everyone better off."[19] In all this, progressives hear no Party support for unionizing the working poor in the service sector, or for supporting any new programs to assist with the cost of child care or sky-rocketing college tuition.

But mainstream Democrats are beginning to see that to win they are, indeed, going to have to "go back in time" and return to issues like income inequity. Senator Chuck Schumer published an op-ed in The New York Times denouncing " vulture capitalists" and declaring his party would offer a "Better Deal" for Americans:

Americans are clamoring for bold changes to our politics and our economy. They feel, rightfully, that both systems are rigged against them, and they made that clear in last year’s election. American families deserve a better deal so that this country works for everyone again, not just the elites and special interests. Today, Democrats will start presenting that better deal to the American people.....In the last two elections, Democrats, including in the Senate, failed to articulate a strong, bold economic program for the middle class and those working hard to get there. We also failed to communicate our values to show that we were on the side of working people, not the special interests. We will not repeat the same mistake. This is the start of a new vision for the party, one strongly supported by House and Senate Democrats.

Quotes[edit]

See also[edit]

External links[edit]

References[edit]

  1. Hey, we didn't say it.
  2. Franklin Delano Roosevelt: The American Franchise, University of Virginia
  3. http://www.cbpp.org/research/states-likely-could-not-control-constitutional-convention-on-balanced-budget-amendment-or
  4. https://www.jacobinmag.com/2017/05/kirsten-gillibrand-trump-clinton-cabinet
  5. "Representative Pete Stark Named 2008 Humanist of the Year"
  6. His election effectively shut down the DLC, but his first term was largely Clintonian. However, things changed dramatically in his second term, as the country, mostly fueled by the left wing millennial generation, increasingly became more left wing. With the death of the Blue Dogs, Obama himself was pressured to govern more like a liberal by dissatisfied progressives, and helped ensure social democracy was here to stay as the baseline for the party, largely in spite of himself.
  7. A Brief History of Blue Dog Democrats, Time
  8. In states that are effectively one-party blue states, it's not uncommon to find wingnut Democrats who are only Democrats because they can't get elected otherwise. They're almost the same as Dixiecrats.
  9. aka. The Duel Guy. Watch Zell Miller vs. Chris Matthews
  10. What Kansas says about our political future, Houston Chronicle (The GOP did keep the state in 2014, but holy hell, Sam Brownback.)
  11. The Emerging Democratic Majority Turns 10, The Atlantic
  12. Inconceivable!
  13. E. Frank, J. Carrera, and S. Dharamsi. Political Self-characterization of U.S. Medical Students, Journal of General Internal Medicine. Apr 2007; 22(4): 514–517.
  14. Millennials in Adulthood, Pew Research
  15. The Effects of Union Membership on Democratic Voting, The New York Times
  16. Is a Democratic realignment afoot in the middle class?, Washington Post
  17. Gender Gap in 2012 Vote Is Largest in Gallup's History, Gallup
  18. No pun intended.
  19. http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2013/12/the-battle-within-the-democratic-party/282235/
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