|God, guns, and freedom
|Starting arguments over Thanksgiving dinner
|Persons of interest
“”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
“”Remember back when Democrats used to vote with us?
|—Leo McGarry, The West Wing
Democrat Party Democratic Party is a centrist[note 1] social liberal political party in the United States, widely perceived to be left-wing in the American political spectrum, largely because of their progressive rhetoric and because their opposition is the Republican Party (read: fascists).
The Democratic Party is more conservative than the social democratic parties in Europe, Canada, and Latin America,[note 2] but their 'modern liberalism' tends to be more progressive than liberal parties in Northeast Asia.
As of 2023, the Democratic Party has control of the executive branch and part of the legislative branch of the federal government, controlling the White House and Senate. They also control 18[note 3] of 50 states and have partial control of another 5.[note 4] Only ~24-29% of the country aligns themself with the Democratic Party party when asked in Gallup polls, compared to the same percentage who identify as Republican, and ~43-47% who identify as independent.
A short history
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 (i.e. the Bourbons), and supporting and upholding slavery (later segregation). The party began to move to the left in two significant shifts, the first shift beginning around the 1890s.
Thanks to the party's populist roots, the so-called Gilded Age saw a backlash against widespread corporate greed and corruption; it was especially strong among Democrats in the rural Midwest and South. This even led to the rise of a splinter party among Midwestern and Southern farmers, the Populist Party, which was fairly leftist[note 5] and, feeling left out in the cold by both parties' conservatism, sought to shift the national narrative a little more leftward. This leftward swing and an economic downturn led to the unexpected rejection of Cleveland's conservative wing of the party (which had dominated the party since the 1870s) and William Jennings Bryan's nomination as the Democratic[note 6] candidate for president in 1896 - but Bryan was defeated in the election by the pro-business Republican William McKinley. The Populist Party imploded[note 7] and Bryan's faction, now bolstered by newly arrived ex-Populists, would dominate the Democratic Party[note 8] until later in the Wilson administration, when there was a backlash against leftists in the aftermath of World War I and the Bolshevik revolution, ultimately leading to the laissez-faire 1920s.
The second shift came with Franklin D. Roosevelt during the Great Depression. This shift was buffered by the "New Deal Coalition", a combination of urban constituents, immigrants, intellectuals, organized labor, farmers, whites from the Solid South, and (for the first time) Northern African Americans, all of whom agreed on more government intervention in the economy but not much else. This coalition began to fracture in the late 1940s when members of the Liberal faction of the party such as Harry Truman and Hubert Humphrey began pushing the Party left on Civil Rights, angering the pro-segregation "Dixiecrats" of the South.
The schism widened in the 1960s, the hot-button issues being the Vietnam War and desegregation. On the latter in particular, LBJ signing the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was the last straw for the Southern Conservatives that had once been the Party's backbone; several of them, most notably Strom Thurmond, began to defect to the GOP, and 1964 Republican Presidential Nominee Barry Goldwater won several Deep South states that hadn't gone Republican since Reconstruction by explicitly campaigning against the Civil Rights Act (Goldwater at least claimed to support desegregation in principle, but he was also a staunch Federalist and viewed the act as written to be an overreach of the Federal Government). The 1960s also saw the rise of the New Left, a disorganized, loose collection of Marxists, feminists, hippies, college students, and various other social activists who were united in their opposition to the Vietnam War as well as LBJ's liberalism. The rise of the New Left caused chaos within the party which ultimately led to the disastrous 1968 Democratic National Convention.
Having taken notice of Goldwater's success in the South, Richard Nixon took advantage of this discontent in 1968 with his "Southern Strategy", which ultimately flipped the American political sphere on its backside; as the South became increasingly Republican, dragging the GOP as a whole to the Right with it, the remaining liberal Republicans (or the "Ike Republicans", vital in passing the Civil Rights Act) fled to the Democrats. This series of defections, in turn, had the natural effect of dragging both parties, and the American political spectrum as a whole, to the right. Despite conservative Southern voters abandoning the party, old Democrats who were already elected largely stayed in the party — so Southern conservatives like Zell Miller,[note 9] Robert Byrd,[note 10] and even George Wallace[note 11] remained Democrats long after the Southern Strategy realignment. Democrats from the South after the realignment, notably Jimmy Carter,[note 12] still tended to be rather conservative. This is why between about 1970 and 2010, you'll see a lot of Southern Democrats in Congress, yet in every presidential election after 1968, the South has almost always gone for the Republican candidate.[note 13]
The last gasp of 60s-era progressivism in the Democratic Party was snuffed out by George McGovern's record-smashing loss to Nixon in 1972. With the New Left starting to fizzle out[note 14] and progressivism demolished by Nixon, the party shifted more to the center, and the DNC embraced the snail's pace of incrementalism. Between 1968 and 1980, the party changed how it nominated presidential candidates, placing more emphasis on the primaries, and inserting party
hacks officials as "superdelegates". The New Deal Coalition's final victory came under Carter in 1976;[note 15] Reagan's landslide victories in 1980 and 1984 as well as Bush's in 1988 effectively ended the coalition, and centrist New Democrats under Bill Clinton took control of the party, championing Third Way economic liberalism and largely abandoning any pretense of progressivism. Coinciding with Clinton's ascension was the collapse of the Soviet Union and end of the Cold War. The 1990s wound up being a time of general economic prosperity and relative peace (from an American perspective, at least), but long-simmering resentment, unsustainable economic conditions, and heavy deregulation would soon come back to haunt America.
The year 2000 onward, or, "and here's where things start to get really crazy..."
Clinton's chosen successor, Al Gore, famously "lost" the 2000 election to George W. Bush. Then 9/11 happened and "changed everything". For the next eight years, you could not go 24 hours without seeing something which made you want to swallow knives. Ten days after 9/11, Bush declared that "you're with us, or you're with the terrorists"; and the Democrats, not wanting to be seen as pro-terrorist, generally went along with whatever Bush wanted. The Democrats just went along with OIF[note 16] even though the premise of the war, as well as the hilariously short timetable, was bogus. The few journalists willing to challenge the White House gave brief sanctuary, but the fact that all Bush had to do was sound credulous proved that Democrats are not equipped to deal with an administration that's openly breaking the law.
By 2008, Americans had gotten sick of Republicans screwing up everything, resulting in a Democratic sweep in that year's elections, with Democrats expanding their majorities in Congress and Barack Obama being elected the nation's first African-American president. This was a cause for celebration for millions of Americans, who saw Obama's election as the start of a new era of American politics. The Democrats utterly failed to meet people's expectations, with Obama largely sticking to Clinton-era and Bush-era[note 17] policies. Republicans took back the House in 2010 and the Senate in 2014, effectively killing any remaining hopes for Obama bringing about the change he had promised. As the Republicans embraced a rightward shift and an increase in extremists (such as the Tea Party, Oath Keepers, birthers, Evangelical Right, etc), the Democrats tended to do... nothing, or worse, shifted further to the right themselves in an effort to meet the Republicans in the new middle.[note 18]
In 2016, Hillary Clinton emerged as Obama's standard bearer for the Democratic nomination, but was defeated in an extraordinary upset by Donald Trump, who rode a wave of anti-establishment (and racist) sentiment to capture the Republican nomination and eventually the White House. Trump's victory and subsequent far-right policy record horrified most Democrats, and inspired a resurgence of left-wing grassroots activism not seen in decades, helping the Democrats retake the House in 2018. The 2020 Democratic Party presidential nomination shaped up to be a bitterly fought battle, with dozens of candidates facing off against each other. The primary eventually came to a rather sudden end in March 2020, when the centrist wing of the party united behind former Vice President Joe Biden, who easily defeated his closest rival, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, after most of the candidates dropped out and rallied behind him. With the primary over, Democrats turned their attention to defeating Trump, which appeared at first to be an easy task due to his catastrophic handling of the COVID-19 pandemic and a variety of other crises that year. However, Trump dramatically outperformed expectations once again, though this wasn't enough to save his re-election. Despite considerably underperforming expectations, Democrats still ousted Trump, retained control of the House (despite losing seats, which does not bode well for the future), and managed to take back the Senate by the slimmest margin possible, despite an extremely unfriendly map. As a result, Democrats now have control of the federal government for the first time in a decade. As the argument over Biden backing down from 2000-dollar stimulus checks shows, the old debate "do the Democrats go far enough" is still going to haunt Biden just like it did to his former boss.
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.
But really, the first moment people realized the media had the power to singlehandedly derail a "problematic" candidate was Howard Dean. Sure, Dean, in recent years, has morphed into a pharmaceutical lobbyist and voracious anti-Bernie mouthpiece. Still, back in the '04 primaries, he was a completely different candidate who funneled a wave of righteous anger towards the Bush administration. And then one day, at the end of a rally speech, he exclaimed "BYAHHHH!" and the entire media decided his candidacy was dead in the water in favor of Xanax in human form. The 2004 primaries/election were always in the back of voters' minds when the media blacked out Bernard and pretended like HRC was the next coming of Jesus in '16. They tried using the Dean playbook to delegitimize Trump, but each time it failed, the pedes would be empowered further.
The sectarian violence appears below.
An alliance between social democrats, democratic socialists, and greens (there is a difference, however minor). People who are too far left for Swedish Social Democrats. If liberals prefer systemic reform, progressives push for systemic overhaul, 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, a top marginal income tax rate of 50%, union membership, a $15 minimum wage, bilingual education in English and Spanish, busting monopolies, collective bargaining, public broadband for internet service, and (sometimes) nationalization, all hallmarks of the left-wing. Some even explicitly support employee ownership and endorse workplace democracy, even sponsoring bills to that effect. 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. The Justice Democrats are a faction of progressives who explicitly don't take Super PAC money and prefer small donors, and has worked to primary so-called "corporate Democrats". They currently have ten sitting members: Jamal Bowman, Cori Bush, Raul Grijalva, Ro Khanna, Pramila Jayapal, Marie Newman, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, Ayanna Pressley, and Rashida Tlaib. Many progressives are organized in the Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC), the largest of its kind in the House of Representatives, and more recently, the slightly smaller Medicare For All Caucus, which contains many of the same members. Some are descendants of the New Left.
The Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) is a reformist Democratic Party lobbying/electoral organization with due-paying membership and one of 3 splinters of the prior and now defunct Socialist Party of America (SPA). The DSA is similar to another SPA splinter called SDUSA, but radically different than the revolutionary SPA splinter called the SPUSA. Unlike the prior SPA and the current SPUSA, the DSA has a history of virtually exclusively endorsing Democrats and helping to run socialist candidacies within the Democratic Party, the most notable being Independent Bernie Sanders' twice-failed run for the Democratic Party presidential nomination. All 4 United States Congressmen who align themselves with the DSA are Democrats and are also all members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, including its whip Greg Cesar.
41 out of 43 DSA members who are elected representatives in state legislatures are members of the Democratic Party with the exception of two from the Vermont Progressive Party.
"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, which was 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 system's excesses without fundamentally changing it. Many state-level Democrats are of this tendency, as seen in New York state senators Alexandra Biaggi, a former Clinton supporter, and Andrea Stewart-Cousins, who almost was a running mate for Cuomo, both of whom are seen as a natural ally to organized labor, the Justice Democrats, the Working Families Party, even the Democratic Socialists of America, all of whom have outstanding influence in New York. California, Nevada, Colorado, Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Minnesota, Oregon, even Texas, Ohio, Florida, and Georgia have many state-level Democrats who also follow this tendency of preferring reform over revolution, but are nonetheless open to systemic change when more radical progressives and leftwingers are elected.
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. They describe themselves as pro-fiscal responsibility, pro-growth, socially liberal, and liberal internationalists on foreign affairs. The first wave of the New Democrats has since become more like Blue Dog Democrats as represented by Joe Biden-Bill Clinton-Hillary Clinton, with the political center of the Democratic Party being more represented by Barack Obama-Cory Booker-Pete Buttigieg. The Third Way is represented by the New Democrat Coalition (an affiliate of the now-defunct Democratic Leadership Council).
The Blue Dog Coalition are often accused of being DINOs, most commonly on social issues and deficit hawkery. 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 center-right. They were largely wiped out in 2010 and 2014, but an ever smaller amount of their holdouts and similar non-Blue Dog center to center-right Democrats remain.
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, or a centrist Democrat will go haywire, and swing far to the right.[note 19]
So who's ticking them on their ballot?
“”All over the country Democrats are running on their singular strength – the fact that they are not as batshit crazy as their Republican opponents.
Today, the Democratic Party attracts academia, white-collar professionals, scientists, medical students, the youth vote, increasingly less so the (white) working class, increasingly more so the middle class, consumer advocates, copyright reformers, women, LGBT, and ethnic minorities. However, many progressives feel left[note 20] out of the Party, especially those whose focus is on income inequality. These are alarmed by positions taken by, e.g., Jon Cowan, president of the centrist think tank Third Way, who claims populism is dead in the Party, arguing:
“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 critical 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." 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.
- I'm not a member of any organized political party, I'm a Democrat! - Will Rogers
- Democrats think every day is April 15 - Ronald Reagan
- Democrats! Democrats! Get them off me! - Rush Limbaugh
- If Democrats Had Any Brains, They’d Be Republicans - Ann Coulter
- 2016 Democratic Party presidential nomination
- 2020 Democratic Party presidential nomination
- The party is dominated by self-identified moderates, with liberals making up a smaller faction. However, since the Democratic Party is a "big tent" party, there are center-right fiscal conservatives and left-wing democratic socialists.
- At least on economic issues — they are much more socially progressive than some of Latin America's leftist parties
- They control Vermont via supermajorities in both houses despite the governor being Republican
- Republicans have control in Kentucky, Kansas, Louisiana and North Carolina despite Democratic governors via supermajorities
- Where the Populist Party was largely rural farmers, it came with quirks… like anti-immigration and antisemitic leanings. They also had a tendency to be conspiracy theorists, and never really connected with the burgeoning urban labor movement.
- And Populist, even though he wasn't a member.
- The party limped on until about 1912 or so, but was largely irrelevant after 1896.
- Except briefly in 1904 when conservative Democrats were able to nominate Alton Parker as the party's candidate for president; he would lose in a landslide to Theodore Roosevelt.
- Originally a pro-segregation Democrat in the 1960s, Miller was considered a moderate when he was Georgia's governor in the 1990s; but by 2000 when he became a US Senator, he was very conservative and even endorsed George W. Bush and his policies. He also once famously said he wanted to challenge Chris Matthews to a duel.
- While Byrd is well-known for having once been a high-ranking KKK member until the early 1970s and subsequently became a supporter of civil rights, he otherwise remained staunchly conservative on most other issues.
- Wallace famously left the party during the 1968 presidential election and ran on a third party ticket, but he returned to the Democratic Party and ran for president again in 1972 and 1976, losing in the primaries each time.
- Back in the mid-1970s when Carter was running for president, left-leaning Democrats like Jerry Brown felt Carter was too conservative, preferring "ABC" — "anyone but Carter". Brown himself wound up running against Carter in the primaries and even won some victories, but he entered the race too late to defeat Carter. See 1976 Democratic Primaries on Wikipedia.
- Except, as noted, in 1976 when Carter ran. Occasionally a few states might flip — barely — when a Southerner like Clinton runs, or like in 2020 when noted asshole Trump lost Georgia.
- Many of them interestingly becoming prominent leaders of the newly arising neoconservative movement…
- Which was essentially a backlash against Nixon and the Watergate scandal; it was still a close race, won with help from Gerald Ford's ineptitude and Carter's image as an "outsider".
- About 40% of Dems (and nearly all Republicans) in Congress voted in favor of the resolution authorizing the invasion, including "radicals" like Biden, Clinton, Kerry, Schumer, and Reid. See Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq Resolution of 2002 on Wikipedia.
- Especially with regards to the "War on Terror": Obama largely kept Bush's timelines, continued drone strikes, and only made one feeble attempt at closing the Guantanamo Bay prison.
- Take the ACA as a prime example. Obama campaigned on fixing the U.S.'s healthcare system. Progressives wanted Universal health care. New Democrats and centrists wanted a public option (essentially setting up a not-for-profit, government-run insurance company to try to use competitive forces to lower costs). Moderate Republicans (what few there are) preferred a market-based idea, such as Romneycare. And the right… well, the right refused to do anything, in order to deny Obama any sort of victory. Obama initially favored the public option, but once Republicans declared unwavering opposition, he backed down and chose a market-based concept similar to Romneycare to try to gain their support — which he still didn't get.
- 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.
- No pun intended.
- Hey, we didn't say it.
- Have Democrats become a party of the left?, William A. Galston and Elaine Kamarck, Brookings Institute 23 July 2021
- Franklin Delano Roosevelt: The American Franchise, University of Virginia
- Bush: 'You Are Either With Us, Or With the Terrorists' - 2001-09-21, Voice of America
- Linton Weeks and Peter Barker, "Bush Spars With Critics Of the War Exchanges With Democrats Take Campaign-Style Tone", WaPo 12 November 2005; Page A01.
- Robert Parry, Sam Parry, and Nat Parry, "Journalists 'humbled' but unrepentant", FAIR November 2007.
- A Brief History of Blue Dog Democrats, Time
- What Kansas says about our political future, Houston Chronicle (The GOP did keep the state in 2014, but holy hell, Sam Brownback.)
- The Emerging Democratic Majority Turns 10, The Atlantic
- 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.
- Millennials in Adulthood, Pew Research
- The Effects of Union Membership on Democratic Voting, The New York Times
- Is a Democratic realignment afoot in the middle class?, Washington Post
- Gender Gap in 2012 Vote Is Largest in Gallup's History, Gallup