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United States Democratic Party
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United States Democratic Party

The Democratic Party is one of the two major United States political parties. The party is currently in opposition, and has minorities in both the Senate and the House.

Its origins lie in the Democratic-Republican Party founded by Thomas Jefferson in 1793. From 1833 to 1856, it was opposed chiefly by the Whig Party. From 1856 onward its main opposition has come from the Republican Party.

, depicts a stylized donkey in red, white, and blue.]]

Table of contents
1 Symbols
2 Organization
3 History
4 Prominent Democratic-Party figures
5 State affiliates
6 See also
7 External links


On January 15, 1870 a political cartoon appearing in Harper's Weekly titled "A Live Jackass Kicking a Dead Lion" by Thomas Nast, for the first time symbolized the Democratic Party as a donkey. Since then, the donkey has been widely used a symbol of the party, though unlike the Republican elephant, the donkey has never been officially adopted as the party's logo.


The Democratic National Committee (DNC) of the United States provides national leadership for the United States Democratic Party. It is responsible for developing and promoting the Democratic political platform, as well as coordinating fundraising and election strategy. There are similar committees in every U.S. state and most U.S. Counties (though in some states, party organization lower than state-level is arranged by legislative districts). It can be considered the counterpart of the Republican National Committee. Its current chair is Terry McAuliffe..


Democratic Party itself was formed from a faction of the Democratic-Republicans, led by Andrew Jackson. Following his defeat in the election of 1824 despite having a majority of the popular vote, Andrew Jackson set about building a political coalition strong enough to defeat John Quincy Adams in the election of 1828. The coalition that he built was the foundation of the subsequent Democratic party.

In the 1850s, following the disintegration of the Whig Party, the southern wing of the Democratic Party became increasingly associated with the continuation and expansion of slavery, in opposition of the newly formed Republican Party. Democrats in the northern states opposed this new trend, and at the 1860 nominating convention the party split and nominated two candidates (see U.S. presidential election, 1860). As a result, the Democrats went down in defeat - part of the chain of events leading up to the Civil War. After the war, the Democrats were a shattered party, but eventually gathered enough support to elect reform candidate Grover Cleveland to two (non-consecutive) terms in the presidency.

In 1896 the Democrats chose William Jennings Bryan over Cleveland as their candidate, who then lost to William McKinley. The Democrats did not regain the presidency until Taft and Roosevelt split the Republican vote and Woodrow Wilson won with a modest plurality in 1912. The Republicans again took the lead in 1920 by championing laissez-faire regulatory policies. The stock market crash in 1929 and the ensuing Great Depression set the stage for a more interventionist government and Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR) won a landslide election in 1932, campaigning on a platform of "relief, recovery, and reform".

FDR's New Deal programs focused on job-creation through public works projects as well as on social welfare programs such as Social Security. The political coalition of labor unions, minorities (most significantly, Catholics and Jews), liberals, and southern whites (the New Deal Coalition) allowed the Democrats to control the government for much of the next 30 years, until the issue of civil rights divided conservative southern whites from the rest of the party (see Dixiecrat). From the time of the founding of the Republican party, African-Americans gave strong support to the anti-slavery party. However, with the civil rights struggle of the 1960s, and President Lyndon Johnson's support, blacks made an almost complete shift to the Democratic party. Another consequence of this was the start of the flight of southern whites to the Republican party.

The political pendulum swung away from the Democrats with the election of Republican president Ronald Reagan in 1980. The country seemed ready for political change after a decade of high inflation, soaring energy costs and social disillusionment concerning the Watergate scandal, the Vietnam War and the Iranian hostage crisis in the last year of the Carter administration. Riding Reagan's coattails, the Republican Party successfully positioned itself as the party of national strength, gaining 34 seats in the House and gaining control of the Senate for the first time since 1955. Many conservative Democrats whom would eventually retire or leave the party in the 1990s, supported many of Reagan's policies, drawing the label "Reagan Democrats".

The Democratic Leadership Council organized by elected, centrist, Democratic, leaders has in recent years worked to position the Party towards a centrist position. It still retains a powerful base of left-of-center supporters however, as like the Republicans, the Democrats are generally a catch all party with widespread appeal to most opponents of the Republicans. This includes organized labor, educators, environmentalists, gays, pro-choicers, supporters of gun control, and other opponents of the social conservatism practiced by many Republicans.

In the 1990s the Democratic Party re-invigorated itself by providing a successful roadmap to economic growth. Led by Bill Clinton, the Democrats championed a balanced federal budget, welfare-to-work reforms and job growth. Labor unions, which had been steadily losing membership since the 1960s, found they had also lost political clout inside the Democratic Party: Clinton enacted the NAFTA free trade agreement with Canada and Mexico over the strong objection of the unions.

In the 2000 Presidential election, some progressives, unhappy with the centrist shift of the party, bolted it to support the Green Party candidate Ralph Nader, which likely took votes away from Democratic presidential nominee Albert A. Gore, Jr in many traditionally liberal states. This "spoiler effect" was a factor some observers cite as the cause for his defeat, though others blame Gore for failing to ride Clinton's coattails to a resounding victory, and failing to even win his homestate. Furthermore, some point out that while Nader probably did influence the contested Florida election, Reform Party candidate Pat Buchanan won more votes in some states (Wisconsin, Iowa and Oregon) than Bush lost by. WHAT'S THE DEAL WITH THESE ERRORS? It is also likely that even if Nader had not run many Green voters might not have come to the polls at all. Many Greens also criticize the Democrats for calling them "spoilers," and simultaneously not supporting electoral reform such as Instant Runoff Voting.

In the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 attacks, the Democrats were faced with a new political puzzle as the nation's focus changed to issues of national security and homeland security, with the Democrats positioning themselves against war in Iraq and advocating a less aggressive policy. By 2004, after losing ground in the 2002 mid-term elections, Democrats felt their prospects had begun to rebound with the failure to find weapons of mass destruction and mounting combat casualties in Iraq. John Kerry, a decorated Vietnam War veteran and U.S. Senator from Massachusetts, won his party's nomination by upsetting anti-war candidate, former Vermont Governor, Howard Dean, in the Iowa Caucas and winning the majority of state primary races that followed.

Prominent Democratic-Party figures


  1. Andrew Jackson (1829-1837)
  2. Martin Van Buren (1837-1841)
  3. James Knox Polk (1845-1849)
  4. Franklin Pierce (1853-1857)
  5. James Buchanan (1857-1861)
  6. Grover Cleveland (1885-1889)
  7. Grover Cleveland (1893-1897)
  8. Woodrow Wilson (1913-1921)
  9. Franklin Delano Roosevelt (1933-1945)
  10. Harry S. Truman (1945-1953)
  11. John F. Kennedy (1961-1963)
  12. Lyndon Johnson (1963-1969)
  13. Jimmy Carter (1977-1981)
  14. Bill Clinton (1993-2001)

Presidential nominees

Other currently notable Democrats

(Years of birth are indicated.)

Historically notable Democrats

(Years of birth and death are indicated.)

State affiliates

In most states The Democratic Party is simply known as the "Democratic Party." However, two of its state party organizations have slightly different names, namely the
Minnesota Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party and the North Dakota Democratic-NPL Party. See List of state Democratic Parties in the US.

See also

External links