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Democratic Party

Ideologically, the Democratic Party is liberal, left-of-center, in the United States. And generally, the Democrats are for larger government, a larger role of government in regulating society, providing benefits and services to people within the society, mainly of lower class. The Democratic Party took that stance some 75 years ago, when Franklin Delano Roosevelt became president at the height of the Great Depression. FDR launched a massive program called the "New Deal" with economic and social reforms meant to uplift average Americans. FDR's Democratic coalition of large cities, blue-collar voters, and the southern states held until the 1960s, when the Republicans began to attract working class whites, especially in the south.

By 2020 the Democratic Party reflected a convergence of interests and ideology between what Thomas Piketty called the highly educated “Brahmin Left” and the “Merchant Right.” “The Clinton and Obama administrations basically validated and perpetuated the basic thrust of policy under Reagan. This may be because both Democratic presidents… were partly convinced by the Reagan narrative. But it may also be that acceptance of the new fiscal and social agenda was partly due the transformation of the Democratic electorate and to a political and strategic choice to rely more heavily on the party’s new and highly educated supporters, who may have found the turn toward less redistributive policies personally advantageous.” The Brahmin Left, which the Democratic Party had become 1990-2020, shared common interests with the Merchant Right, which had ruled via the Republican Party from Reagan to George W. Bush.

The Democratic Party began in late 1780s as a the "Anti-Federalists," a faction which opposed the strong central government provisions of the Constitution and which (successfully) lobbied for adoption of the Bill of Rights. By the early 1790s, the Anti-Federalists organized behind Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson, calling themselves "Republicans." By the 1820s, the Republican party, now commonly called "DemocraticRepublican," itself developed factions: a coalition led by one of these, led by Andrew Jackson, won the 1828 presidential election and became known as simply the Democratic Party after 1830. Many democrats, especially in the southern states, supported the extension of slavery into the western territories (as proposed by the Kansas-Nebraska Act, 1854).

Notable Democrats include Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, James Monroe, John C. Calhoun, Andrew Jackson, Grover Cleveland, William Jennings Bryan, Woodrow Wilson, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Harry Truman, John F. Kennedy,Robert Byrd and William J. Clinton.

In 1828, his detractors labeled President Andrew Jackson a "jackass". The unflattering characterization was co-opted by Jackson, who turned the donkey's stubbornness, strength and unpolished manners strength into political virtues. In 1870 Thomas Nast, the best-known political cartoonist of his time, used the donkey to embody the Democratic Party in an illustration for Harper's Weekly. Nast used the Democratic donkey motif in subsequent cartoons and by 1880 it was widely recognized as the unofficial mascot of the Democracy.

By the late 1850s the pro-slavery Democrat Party had an organization in every State of the Union, but was really ascendant only in the slave States. It had been the main instrument of the Slave Power. Its one policy was to yield to its exactions, and to enforce popular acquiescence in them. It repealed the Missouri Compromise, for the purpose of nationalizing Slavery, and it insisted upon acquiescence in this repeal.

Southern politics in the post-Reconstruction years witnessed the rapid collapse of the states’ Radical Republican governments, which had drawn from the ranks of newly freed African-American men. Over time, a cadre of local, state, and national politicians—composed of many former Confederates and Democrats—replaced the Republican regimes and they were determined to end the experiment in multiracialism. In the “redeemed” South, the Democratic Party eventually became synonymous with the codification and formalization of racial segregation. During the New Deal of the 1930s, progressive Republicans who supported some or all of President Franklin Roosevelt's relief, recovery and reform measures were dubbed "sons of the wild jackass" by conservative Republican senator George Moses.

Civil rights contributed to Lyndon Johnson's support from one group: the black community. Johnson calculated that an appeal to Southern gentility would take the sting off of opposition to black progress. Far from soft-pedaling civil rights, Johnson traveled to the Deep South in 1964 to deliver the message that the days of Democratic racism were numbered. The victory of Lyndon Johnson was one of the great landslides of the twentieth century. Johnson won a stunning majority in the electoral college, and his popular vote margin was nearly a postwar record.

Despite tracing its roots to Thomas Jefferson — who advocated a less - powerful, more - decentralized federal government — the modern Democratic Party generally supports a strong federal government with powers to regulate business and industry in the public interest; federally financed social services and benefits for the poor, the unemployed, the aged, and other groups; and the protection of civil rights. Most Democrats also endorse a strong separation of church and state, and they generally oppose government regulation of the private, non-economic lives of citizens.

In 1992, when Bill Clinton accepted the Democratic presidential nomination, he spoke about what government should and should not do. He promised a “government that is leaner, not meaner; a government that expands opportunity, not bureaucracy; a government that understands that jobs must come from growth” under a free enterprise system.

Clinton was a popular and successful president who was re-elected in 1996. But he also became only the second president in American history ever to be put on trial in Congress. The President acknowledged conduct with Monica Lewinsky that was improper. The President denied that he engaged in, encouraged, or supported any scheme to conceal evidence from discovery in the Paula Jones case. In 1998 the 228-206 House vote for impeachment was followed by the 1999 Senate vote 55 to 45 against conviction.

During Obama's eight years in office, the Democrats lost more House, Senate, state legislative and governors seats than under any other president. When Obama took office, there were 60 Democratic senators; in 2016 there were 46. The number of House seats held by Democrats shrank from 257 to 188. By 2016 there are now nine fewer Democratic governors than in 2009. Democrats held fewer elected offices nationwide than at any time since the 1920s.

By 2015 Republicans controlled about 56 percent of the country’s 7,383 state legislative seats, up 12 percentage points since 2009. Thirty-five states posted double-digit seat losses for the Democrats in state legislatures, including more than 50 seats each in Arkansas, New Hampshire and West Virginia. Democrats during Obama’s presidency lost 11 governorships, 13 U.S. Senate seats, 69 House seats, and 913 state legislative seats and 30 state legislative chambers.

The Democratic Party was being forced to come to grips with the fallout from the divisive 2016 primary battle. Tensions between the Clinton and Sanders campaigns were high, raising fears among some Democrats that the party will have a difficult time unifying to face Trump. Sanders said the Democratic Party needs to be more welcoming to his supporters who "are prepared to fight for real economic and social change." And he warned that it would be "a very sad and tragic option" for the party to maintain the status quo. Sanders' ability to draw large crowds of intense supporters and win primaries acted as a brake on Clinton's efforts to move past the divisive primary campaign and shift her focus to Trump.

These Democratic fissures paled in comparison with the 1968 campaign when the Democratic Party came apart at the seams. With many of his supporters angry about leaked emails from Democratic Party leaders that seemed to show a bias in favor of Hillary Clinton, Sanders sought to heal the party rift. He urged his loyalists to support nominee-in-waiting Hillary Clinton. “I served with her in the United States Senate and know her as a fierce advocate for the rights of children, women and the disabled. Hillary Clinton will make an outstanding president, and I am proud to stand with her here tonight,” said Sanders.

The Democratic Party that nominated Hillary Clinton for president is not the same party that twice nominated her husband, Bill Clinton, for president. The 2016 platform was more liberal than the positions Bill Clinton campaigned on and supported during his two terms as president from 1993 to 2001. The party’s 2016 platform -- or statement of positions on major issues -- is the most progressive in the party’s history, according to Senator Bernie Sanders. Hillary Clinton, who defeated Sanders for the Democratic nomination, backed key parts of the platform.

Clinton slightly under-performed with minority and millennial voters who were the backbone for two Obama presidential victories. Given the continuing growth in the non-white population, forecast for the years ahead, Democrats remain reasonably well positioned for the future.

What ought to deeply worry Democrats moving forward was the massive swing of white working-class voters from Obama in 2012 to Trump in 2016 and the depressed turnout of black and Latino voters for Clinton relative to 2012 Obama. There was a 16-point swing across all races (though this is overwhelmingly due to whites) for those making less than $30,000 from the D to R column and a six-point swing for those making between $30,000 and $50,000. Turnout among African Americans and Latinos was also far lower than many expected, which represented an ominous trend for the party moving forward.

Ta-Nehisi Coates noted that "The collective verdict holds that the Democratic Party lost its way when it abandoned everyday economic issues like job creation for the softer fare of social justice. The indictment continues: To their neoliberal economics, Democrats and liberals have married a condescending elitist affect that sneers at blue-collar culture and mocks the white man as history’s greatest monster and prime-time television’s biggest doofus."

Conservative social scientist Charles Murray, who co-wrote The Bell Curve, told The New Yorker, speaking of the white working class. “The only slur you can use at a dinner party and get away with is to call somebody a redneck — that won’t give you any problems in Manhattan.”

“The utter contempt with which privileged Eastern liberals such as myself discuss red-state, gun-country, working-class America as ridiculous and morons and rubes,” charged celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain, “is largely responsible for the upswell of rage and contempt and desire to pull down the temple that we’re seeing now.”

Some in the party - from the New Democrat Bill Clinton to the socialist Bernie Sanders - would much rather have a discussion about class struggles, which they hope might entice the white working masses. This has been the consistent posture of the Left for more than a century.

In the Manifesto of the Communist Party, written in late 1847, Marx and Engels explained that prior to capitalism, nations did not exist. Socialists are internationalists. Whereas nationalists believe that the world is divided primarily into different nationalities, socialists consider social class to be the primary divide. For socialists, class struggle--not national identity--is the motor of history. Lenin and the Bolsheviks developed the modern, scientific Marxist theory of the national question. Lenin believed that, in practice, cultural-national autonomy could only intensify the isolation and impoverishment of national minorities.

J.V. Stalin in "Maxism and the National Question" [Prosveshcheniye, Nos. 3-5, March-May 1913] concluded "When the workers are organized according to nationality they isolate themselves within their national shells, fenced off from each other by organizational barriers. The stress is laid not on what is common to the workers but on what distinguishes them from each other.... we are confronted by two fundamentally different types of organization: the type based on international solidarity and the type based on the organizational "demarcation" of the workers according to nationalities."

Mark Lilla’s New York Times essay “The End of Identity Liberalism,” published 18 November 2016, days after the election, is perhaps the most profound example of this genre. Lilla denounces the perversion of liberalism into “a kind of moral panic about racial, gender and sexual identity,” which distorted liberalism’s message “and prevented it from becoming a unifying force capable of governing.... If you are going to mention groups in America, you had better mention all of them. If you don’t, those left out will notice and feel excluded. Which, as the data show, was exactly what happened with the white working class and those with strong religious convictions.... Identity politics, by contrast, is largely expressive, not persuasive. Which is why it never wins elections — but can lose them.”

Sanders rejected the idea that the nomination was “rigged” but has repeatedly criticized things like superdelegates and closed primaries, in which Independent and unaffiliated voters can’t participate. By May 2016, counting only caucuses, Sanders had won 63 percent of the vote, 64 percent of the delegates and 11 of the 16 contests. In doing so, he earned 341 elected delegates, compared with Clinton’s 195 delegates. Counting just primaries, Sanders won only 42 percent of the vote, 42 percent of delegates and 10 of the 34 statewide contests.4 Clinton earned 1,576 elected delegates, compared with Sanders’s 1,158.

WikiLeaks' relationship with the election began in July 2016 when the organization published the first batch of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) leaks. The leaks revealed a sometimes hostile attitude towards the campaign of Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders from members of the DNC, leading to suggestions the committee was betraying its neutrality and actively supporting Hillary Clinton. The leaks led to the resignation of DNC chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz before the party's convention, while CEO Amy Dacey, CFO Brad Marshall, and Communications Director Luis Miranda also resigned in the wake of the drama, with Wasserman Schultz apologizing to the Sanders campaign.

Donna Brazile, the chair of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) from July 2016 to February 2017, alleged massive corruption within the supposedly impartial DNC during the 2016 election as the party was under the financial control of then-candidate Hillary Clinton. Leaked emails provided by WikiLeaks had shown CNN employee Dona Brazile leaking questions as well as answers for the presidential debates to Clinton.

In an excerpt of her upcoming book published as an article on Politico titled, "Inside Hillary Clinton's Secret Takeover of the DNC," Brazile offers yet more evidence that the pervasive sense that the DNC had rigged the Democratic primary contest against Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) in favor of Clinton was, in fact, correct. While the primaries were ongoing, Brazile alleged, the Clinton campaign was paying to keep the lights on at the DNC, which was $24 million in debt. The DNC, which is supposed to be neutral and not support any one candidate during the primary, was under Clinton's control the entire time as a result, she said. The Democratic Party was, according to Brazile, "fully under the control of Hillary's campaign, which seemed to confirm the suspicions of the Bernie camp."

But the former interim chair of the DNC said she found "no evidence" the Democratic primary was rigged. "I found no evidence, none whatsoever," she told ABC's "This Week on 05 November 2017.

Yellow Dog Democrat

A true, southern, Yellow Dog Democrat would vote Democratic even if the only candidate on the ballot were a yellow dog. In the period from Reconstruction through the 1960s many Southerners came to identify so strongly with the Democratic Party that they could not imagine voting for a candidate from another party. They refused to vote for Republican, who were still associated with Reconstruction and were identified as a non-southern party. Even as the national party moved in directions markedly different from the traditional southern Democrats (such as civil rights), Yellow Dogs remained loyal to the party even though they did not like the Democratic candidate.

The term, Yellow Dog Democrat emerged during the 1928 elections, when Al Smith ran for President against Herbert Hoover. Senator Tom Heflin, of Alabama, declined to back his fellow Democrat, Al Smith the Governor of NY. Instead, Senator Heflin backed Herbert Hoover. Many Alabamans vehemently disagreed with Heflin's decision to cross his Party Lines. Thus was born the popular saying, "I'd vote for a yellow dog if he ran on the Democratic ticket".

The Democratic Party that dominated Southern politics was considerably diferent from what came after. For almost a century, a Democratic Party largely dominated by white conservatives prevailed in almost all Southern elections. Some of the headline issues that later defined the modern Democratic Party in national politics - civil rights, opposition to US military intervention in the third world, and support for social programs -- were the province of a small minority within the southern Democratic Party until the mid-1970s.

Blue Dog Democrat

After the Republican Party won the majority in the U.S. House of Representatives in 1994, a group of thirty-three conservative Democrats formed the Blue Dog Coalition. The Blue Dogs represent a stronger break from the national (more liberal) Democratic Party, and could be traced back to Democrats who crossed party lines to support some of Ronald Reagan's policies in the 1980s. In the 108th Congress (2002-2004), there were thirty-six Blue Dog Democrats, twelve from former Confederate states, counting three from Texas. Another six Blue Dogs represented Virginia, Missouri, Florida, and Kentucky.

New Democrat

Bill Clinton’s position as a “New Democrat” had the potential to be more harmious with the conservative brand of politics. Some of the policies Bill Clinton championed in the 1990s came from a group called the Democratic Leadership Council, or DLC. The DLC called for new “centrist” policies after the party lost three straight presidential elections from 1980-1988 with candidates considered too liberal.

The Democratic Leadership Council, a leading centrist organization, was formed in the 1980s to promote “New Democrat” messages of national security, economic growth and personal responsibility. The DLC is focused on keeping America safe, promoting economic growth, promoting core Democratic values like family and community responsibility, and reclaiming the mantle of reform. Since its inception, the DLC championed policies focusing on economic growth, fiscal discipline, expanded international trade, and national service. The DLC was founded in 1985. Past chairs include former President Bill Clinton, Sen. Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut, former Rep. Dave McCurdy of Oklahoma, Sen. John Breaux of Louisiana, former Sen. Sam Nunn of Georgia, former Sen. Charles Robb of Virginia and House Democratic Leader Richard Gephardt of Missouri.

Clinton vowed to “end welfare as we know it,” and signed a 1996 bill that put time limits and work requirements on welfare recipients. He signed the “Defense of Marriage Act, which defined marriage as a union of one man and one woman. The Supreme Court in effect ended the law when it ruled last year that same sex couples can marry. Bill Clinton also negotiated the North American Free Trade Agreement, which Hillary Clinton latter said did not do what many had hoped” in creating jobs for Americans.

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Page last modified: 08-01-2021 21:50:55 ZULU