History of the United States Democratic Party

History of the United States Democratic Party

The History of the United States Democratic Party is an account of the oldest political party in the United States and arguably the oldest democratic party in the world. [citation | last=Witcover | first=Jules | year=2003 | chapter=1 | page=3. "The Democratic Party of the United States, the oldest existing in the world, was in a sense an illegitimate child, unwanted by the founders fathers of the American Republic."] [cite book | first=John | last=Micklethwait | authorlink=John Micklethwait| coauthors=Wooldridge, Adrian | title=The Right Nation: Conservative Power in America | year=2004 | page=15 "The country possesses the world's oldest written constitution (1787); the Democratic Party has a good claim to being the world's oldest political party."] [Citation | title = Democratic Party | publisher = Encyclopedia Britannica Online | url = http://www.britannica.com/eb/article-9029899/Democratic-Party#233981.toc ]


The Democratic Party evolved from political factions that opposed Alexander Hamilton's fiscal policies in the early 1790s; these factions are known variously as the Anti-Administration “Party” and the Anti-Federalists. In the mid-1790s, Thomas Jefferson and James Madison organized these factions into the Republican Party [ [http://memory.loc.gov/cgi-bin/ampage?collId=mjm&fileName=05/mjm05.db&recNum=591 James Madison to Thomas Jeffersonian andMarch 2 1794.] ) "I see by a paper of last evening that even in New York a meeting of the people has taken place, at the instance of the Republican Party, and that a committee is appointed for the like purpose."
* [http://memory.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/r?ammem/mtj:@field%28DOCID+@lit%28tj060237%29%29 Thomas Jefferson to President Washington, May 23 1792] "The republican party, who wish to preserve the government in its present form, are fewer in number. They are fewer even when joined by the two, three, or half dozen anti-federalists,..."
* [http://memory.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/r?ammem/mtj:@field%28DOCID+@lit%28tj060237%29%29 Thomas Jefferson to John Melish, January 13 1813.] "The party called republican is steadily for the support of the present constitution"
] , later re-named Democratic-Republican. [Citation | last=Rutland | first=Robert Allen | page=10 | year=1995. "The fight over the [Jay] treaty in Congress proved that a deep-rooted philosophical difference existed between the two factions, and out of their bitter struggle for power the Democratic Republican party was born."] [Taylor (2006), p. 6. "Party members were commonly referred to as 'Jeffersonians,' 'Democrats,' and 'Republicans,' thus the 'Democratic-Republican' label used by historians."] It favored yeoman farmers, strict construction of the Constitution, and a weaker federal government. These policies fell under the umbrella term Jeffersonian democracy. The party arose from opposition to the policies of the ruling Federalist Party, which was dominated by Hamilton and advocated a strong central government, a loose interpretation of the Constitution, and a republic governed by a well-educated professional class.

The party was effective in building a network of newspapers in major cities to broadcast its policies and editorialize in its favor. In 1796, the party made its first bid for the Presidency with Jefferson as its presidential candidate and Aaron Burr as its vice presidential candidate. Jefferson came in second in the electoral college and became vice president. He strongly opposed the policies of the John Adams administration. Jefferson and Madison, through the Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions, announced the “Principles of 1798,” which made states' rights a keystone of the party's beliefs. The party saw itself as the true champion of republicanism, and its opponents as aristocrats. Party members idealized the independent ("yeoman") farmer as the exemplar of virtue, and distrusted cities, banks, and other moneyed interests. The party was strongest in the south and west, and weakest in New England. The party won control of the presidency and congress in 1800, and later elected Henry Clay as the Speaker of the House in the 1810s.

Before 1801, the Democratic-Republicans favored France in the wars between Britain and France, and opposed the Jay Treaty (which restored peace with Britain) because, they believed, it might help monarchist elements inside the United States. Until 1816, the party generally opposed such Federalist policies as high tariffs, a navy, military spending, a national debt, and a national bank. After the near defeat of the United States in the War of 1812, however, the party split on these issues. Many younger party leaders, notably Henry Clay, John Quincy Adams, and John C. Calhoun, wanted to build a strong national defense. Meanwhile, the faction led by John Randolph of Roanoke, William H. Crawford, and Nathaniel Macon, fearful that a strong military would oppress the people, continued to oppose policies that centralized the government and empowered the military. The opposition Federalist Party, suffering from a lack of leadership after the death of Alexander Hamilton and the retirement of John Adams, quickly declined; although it revived briefly in opposition to the War of 1812, the extremism of its Hartford Convention in 1815 utterly destroyed it as a political force. President James Monroe pursued a policy of harmony with their past political opponents; a New England Federalist coined the term Era of Good Feelings to describe the new era. Despite the Panic of 1819 and the sectional intrigue preceding the Missouri Compromise, Monroe was nearly unanimously elected to a second term without serious competition. The political atmosphere became vituperative again as would-be successors to Monroe emerged.

Jacksonian Democracy: 1828-1854

After 1830, the Democratic Party became a coalition of farmers, city-dwelling laborers, and Irish Catholics. With the decline of the Federalists, the Whig Party became the Democrats' main opponent. Democrats were weakest in New England, the old Federalist stronghold; nevertheless, they continued to win national elections thanks to strength in New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and the frontier. Democrats opposed elites and aristocrats, the Bank of the United States, and modernizing programs that would build up industry at the expense of the taxpayer. These policies fell under the umbrella term Jacksonian Democracy.

From 1828 to 1848, banking and tariffs were the central domestic policy issues. Democrats strongly favored expansion to new farm lands, as typified by their expulsion of eastern American Indians and acquisition of vast amounts of new land in the West after 1846. The party favored the War with Mexico and opposed anti-immigrant nativism. Both Democrats and Whigs were divided on the issue of slavery. In the 1830s, the Locofocos in New York City were radically democratic, anti-monopoly, and were proponents of hard money and free trade. [Earle (2004), p. 19] [Taylor (2006), p. 54] Their chief spokesman was William Leggett. At this time labor unions were few; some were loosely affiliated with the party.

Jackson's vice-president, Martin Van Buren, won the presidency in 1836, but the Panic of 1837 caused his defeat in the 1840 presidential election at the hands of General William Henry Harrison and John Tyler; the Democrats got it back in 1844 with James K. Polk. Polk lowered tariffs, set up a sub-treasury system, and began and directed the Mexican-American War, in which the United States acquired much of the modern-day American Southwest. (The declaration of war was notably opposed by one-term Congressman Abraham Lincoln.)

The Democratic National Committee (DNC) was created in 1848 at the convention that nominated General Lewis Cass, who lost to General Zachary Taylor of the Whigs. A major cause of the defeat was that the new Free Soil Party, which opposed slavery expansion, split the Democratic Party, particularly in New York, where the electoral votes went to Taylor. Democrats in Congress passed the hugely controversial Compromise of 1850. In state after state, however, the Democrats gained small but permanent advantages over the Whig Party, which finally collapsed in 1852, fatally weakened by division on slavery and nativism. The next two presidents would be Democrats: General Franklin Pierce in 1852 and James Buchanan in 1856.

Civil War, Reconstruction, and the Gilded Age: 1854-1896

The main Democratic leader in the Senate, Stephen A. Douglas of Illinois, pushed through the pro-slavery Kansas-Nebraska Act in 1854 despite strong protest. Against the backdrop of the slavery issue, a major re-alignment took place among voters and politicians, with new issues, new parties, and new rules. The Whig Party dissolved entirely. While the Democrats survived, many northern Democrats (especially Free Soilers from 1848) joined the newly established Republican Party. Buchanan split the party on the issue of slavery in Kansas; most Democrats in the North rallied to Stephen Douglas.

The Democratic Party was unable to compete with the Republican Party, which controlled nearly all northern states by 1860, bringing a solid majority in the electoral college. The Republicans claimed that the northern Democrats, including Doughfaces such as Pierce and Buchanan, and advocates of popular sovereignty such as Stephen A. Douglas and Lewis Cass, were accomplices to Slave Power. The Republicans argued that slaveholders had seized control of the federal government and were blocking the progress of liberty.

In 1860 the Democrats were unable to stop the election of Republican Abraham Lincoln, even as they feared his election would lead to the Civil War. The party split in two, with the northern wing nominating Douglas and the southern wing nominating Vice President John C. Breckinridge. Douglas campaigned across the country and came in second in the popular vote, but carried only Missouri. Breckinridge carried 11 slave states.

During the Civil War, Northern Democrats divided into two factions, the War Democrats, who supported the military policies of President Lincoln, and the Copperheads, who strongly opposed them. During the Civil War, no party politics were allowed in the Confederacy, but partisanship flourished in the North. After the attack on Ft. Sumter, Douglas rallied northern Democrats behind the Union, but when Douglas died, the party lacked an outstanding national figure.

The Democratic Party did well in the 1862 congressional elections, but in 1864 it nominated General George McClellan, a War Democrat, on a peace platform, and lost badly because many War Democrats bolted to National Union candidate Abraham Lincoln. In the 1866 elections, the Radical Republicans won two-thirds majorities in Congress and took control of national affairs. Ulysses S. Grant led the Republicans to landslides in 1868 and 1872.

The Democrats lost consecutive presidential elections from 1860 through 1880 (1876 was in dispute) and did not win the presidency until 1884. The party was weakened by its record of opposition to the war but nevertheless benefited from white Southerners' resentment of Reconstruction and consequent hostility to the Republican Party. The nationwide depression of 1873 allowed the Democrats to retake control of the House in the 1874 Democratic landslide. The Redeemers gave the Democrats control of every Southern state (by the Compromise of 1877); the disenfranchisement of blacks took place 1890-1900. From 1880 to 1960 the "Solid South" voted Democratic in presidential elections (except 1928). After 1900, a victory in a Democratic primary was "tantamount to election" because the Republican Party was so weak in the South.

Although Republicans continued to control the White House until 1884, the Democrats remained competitive, especially in the mid-Atlantic and lower Midwest, and controlled the House of Representatives for most of that period. In the election of 1884, Grover Cleveland, the reforming Democratic Governor of New York, won the Presidency, a feat he repeated in 1892, having lost in the election of 1888.

Cleveland was the leader of the Bourbon Democrats. They represented business interests, supported banking and railroad goals, promoted laissez-faire capitalism, opposed imperialism and U.S. overseas expansion, opposed the annexation of Hawaii, fought for the gold standard, and opposed Bimetallism. They strongly supported reform movements such as Civil Service Reform and opposed corruption of city bosses, leading the fight against the Tweed Ring. The leading Bourbons included Samuel J. Tilden, David Bennett Hill and William C. Whitney of New York, Arthur Pue Gorman of Maryland, Thomas F. Bayard of Delaware, William L. Wilson of West Virginia, John Griffin Carlisle of Kentucky, William F. Vilas of Wisconsin, J. Sterling Morton of Nebraska, John M. Palmer of Illinois, Horace Boies of Iowa, Lucius Quintus Cincinnatus Lamar of Mississippi, and railroad builder James J. Hill of Minnesota. A prominent intellectual was Woodrow Wilson. The Bourbons were in power when the Panic of 1893 hit, and they took the blame. A fierce struggle inside the party ensued, with catastrophic losses for both the Bourbon and agrarian factions in 1894, leading to the showdown in 1896.

Ethnocultural Politics: pietistic Republicans versus liturgical Democrats

Religious divisions were sharply drawn. [Kleppner (1979)] Methodists, Congregationalists, Presbyterians, Scandinavian Lutherans and other pietists in the North were closely linked to the Republican Party. In sharp contrast, liturgical groups, especially the Catholics, Episcopalians, and German Lutherans, looked to the Democratic Party for protection from pietistic moralism, especially prohibition. Both parties cut across the class structure, with the Democrats gaining more support from the lower classes and Republicans more support from the upper classes.

Cultural issues, especially prohibition and foreign language schools, became matters of contention because of the sharp religious divisions in the electorate. In the North, about 50 percent of voters were pietistic Protestants (Methodists, Scandinavian Lutherans, Presbyterians, Congregationalists, Disciples of Christ) who believed the government should be used to reduce social sins, such as drinking. Liturgical churches (Roman Catholics, German Lutherans, Episcopalians) comprised over a quarter of the vote and wanted the government to stay out of the morality business. Prohibition debates and referendums heated up politics in most states over a period of decade, as national prohibition was finally passed in 1918 (and repealed in 1932), serving as a major issue between the wet Democrats and the dry GOP. [Kleppner (1979)]

The Bryan Movement

Grover Cleveland led the party faction of conservative, pro-business Bourbon Democrats, but as the depression of 1893 deepened, his enemies multiplied. At the 1896 convention the silverite-agrarian faction repudiated the president, and nominated the crusading orator William Jennings Bryan on a platform of free coinage of silver. The idea was that minting silver coins would flood the economy with cash and end the depression. Cleveland supporters formed the National Democratic Party (Gold Democrats), which attracted politicians and intellectuals (including Woodrow Wilson and Frederick Jackson Turner) who refused to vote Republican.

Bryan, an overnight sensation because of his "Cross of Gold" speech, waged a new-style crusade against the supporters of the gold standard. Criss-crossing the Midwest and East by special train-—he was the first candidate ever to go on the road-—he gave over 500 speeches to audiences in the millions. In St. Louis he gave 36 speeches to workingmen's audiences all over the city, all in one day. Most Democratic newspapers were hostile toward Bryan, but he seized control of the media by making the news every day, as he hurled thunderbolts against Eastern monied interests. The rural folk in the South and Midwest were ecstatic, showing an enthusiasm never before seen. Ethnic Democrats, especially Germans and Irish, however, were alarmed and frightened by Bryan. The middle classes, businessmen, newspaper editors, factory workers, railroad workers, and prosperous farmers generally rejected Bryan's crusade. McKinley promised a return to prosperity based on the gold standard, support for industry, railroads and banks, and pluralism that would enable every group to move ahead. Although Bryan lost the election in a landslide, he did win the hearts and minds of a majority of Democrats. The victory of the Republican Party in the election of 1896 marked the start of the "Progressive Era," from 1896 to 1932, in which the Republican Party usually was dominant.

Bryan, Wilson, and the Progressive Era: 1896-1932

The 1896 election marked a political realignment in which the Republican Party controlled the presidency for 28 of 36 years. The Republicans dominated most of the Northeast and Midwest, and half the West. Bryan, with a base in the South and Plains states, was strong enough to get the nomination in 1900 (losing to McKinley) and 1908 (losing to Taft). Theodore Roosevelt dominated the first decade of the century, and to the annoyance of Democrats "stole" the trust issue by crusading against trusts.

Anti-Bryan conservatives controlled the convention in 1904, but faced a Theodore Roosevelt landslide. Bryan dropped his free silver and anti-imperialism rhetoric and supported mainstream progressive issues, such as the income tax, anti-trust, and direct election of Senators. He backed Woodrow Wilson in 1912, was rewarded with the State Department, then resigned in protest against Wilson's non-pacifistic policies in 1916. Northern Democrats were progressive on most issues, but generally opposed prohibition, were lukewarm regarding women's suffrage, and were reluctant to undercut the "boss system" in the big cities.

Taking advantage of a deep split in the Republican Party, the Democrats took control of the House in 1910, and elected the intellectual reformer Woodrow Wilson in 1912 and 1916. Wilson successfully led Congress to a series of progressive laws, including a reduced tariff, stronger antitrust laws, new programs for farmers, hours-and-pay benefits for railroad workers, and the outlawing of child labor (which was reversed by the Supreme Court). Wilson ordered the segregation of the federal Civil Service. Furthermore, bipartisan constitutional amendments for prohibition and women's suffrage were passed in his second term. In effect, Wilson laid to rest the issues of tariffs, money and antitrust that had dominated politics for 40 years. Wilson oversaw the U.S. role in the First World War, and helped write the Versailles Treaty, which included the League of Nations. But in 1919 Wilson's political skills faltered, and suddenly everything turned sour. The Senate rejected Versailles and the League, a nationwide wave of strikes and violence caused unrest, and Wilson's health collapsed.

At the 1924 Democratic National Convention, a resolution denouncing the white-supremacist Ku Klux Klan was introduced by forces allied with Al Smith and Oscar W. Underwood in order to embarrass the front-runner, William Gibbs McAdoo. After much debate, the resolution failed by a single vote. The KKK faded away soon after, but the deep split in the party over cultural issues, especially Prohibition, facilitated Republican landslides in 1920, 1924, and 1928. However, Al Smith did build a strong Catholic base in the big cities in 1928, and Franklin D. Roosevelt's election as Governor of New York that year brought a new leader to center stage.

The New Deal and World War II: 1933-1945

The stock market crash of 1929 and the ensuing Great Depression set the stage for a more progressive government and Franklin D. Roosevelt won a landslide victory in the election of 1932, campaigning on a platform of "Relief, Recovery, and Reform"; that is, relief of unemployment and rural distress, recovery of the economy back to normal, and long-term structural reforms to prevent a repetition of the Depression. This came to be termed "The New Deal" after a phrase in Roosevelt's acceptance speech. The Democrats also swept to large majorities in both houses of Congress, and among state governors. Roosevelt altered the nature of the party, away from laissez-faire capitalism, and towards an ideology of economic regulation and insurance against hardship. Two old words took on new meanings: "Liberal" now meant a supporter of the New Deal; "conservative" meant an opponent. Conservative Democrats were outraged; led by Al Smith, they formed the American Liberty League in 1934 and counterattacked. They failed, and either retired from politics or joined the Republican Party. A few of them, such as Dean Acheson, found their way back to the Democratic Party.

The 1933 programs, called "the First New Deal" by historians, represented a broad consensus; Roosevelt tried to reach out to business and labor, farmers and consumers, cities and countryside. By 1934, however, he was moving toward a more confrontational policy. After making gains in state governorships and in Congress, in 1934 Roosevelt embarked on an ambitious legislative program that came to be called "The Second New Deal." It was characterized by building up labor unions, nationalizing welfare by the WPA, setting up Social Security, imposing more regulations on business (especially transportation and communications), and raising taxes on business profits. Roosevelt's New Deal programs focused on job creation through public works projects as well as on social welfare programs such as Social Security. It also included sweeping reforms to the banking system, work regulation, transportation, communications, and stock markets, as well as attempts to regulate prices. His policies soon paid off by uniting a diverse coalition of Democratic voters called the New Deal Coalition, which included labor unions, southerners, minorities (most significantly, Catholics and Jews), and liberals. This united voter base allowed Democrats to be elected to Congress and the presidency for much of the next 30 years.

After a triumphant re-election in 1936, he announced plans to enlarge the Supreme Court, which tended to oppose his New Deal, by five new members. A firestorm of opposition erupted, led by his own vice president John Nance Garner. Roosevelt was defeated by an alliance of Republicans and conservative Democrats, who formed a Conservative coalition that managed to block nearly all liberal legislation (only a minimum wage law got through). Annoyed by the conservative wing of his own party, Roosevelt made an attempt to rid himself of it; in 1938, he actively campaigned against five incumbent conservative Democratic senators; all five senators won re-election.

Under FDR, the Democratic Party became identified more closely with modern liberalism, which included the promotion of social welfare, labor unions, civil rights, and the regulation of business. The opponents, who stressed long-term growth and support for entrepreneurship and low taxes, now started calling themselves "conservatives."

Truman to Kennedy: 1945-1963

Harry Truman took over in 1945, and the rifts inside the party that Roosevelt had papered over began to emerge. Former Vice President Henry A. Wallace denounced Truman as a war-monger for his anti-Soviet programs, the Truman Doctrine, Marshall Plan, and NATO. By cooperating with internationalist Republicans, Truman succeeded in defeating isolationists on the right and pro-Soviets on the left to establish a Cold War program that lasted until the fall of Communism in 1991. Wallace supporters and fellow travelers of the far left were pushed out of the party and the CIO in 1946-48 by young anti-Communists like Hubert Humphrey, Walter Reuther, and Arthur Schlesinger, Jr.. Hollywood emerged in the 1940s as an important new base in the party, led by movie-star politicians such as Ronald Reagan, who strongly supported Roosevelt and Truman at this time.

On the right the Republicans blasted Truman’s domestic policies. “Had Enough?” was the winning slogan as Republicans recaptured Congress in 1946 for the first time since 1928. Many party leaders were ready to dump Truman, but they lacked an alternative. Truman counterattacked, pushing J. Strom Thurmond and his Dixiecrats out, and taking advantage of the splits inside the Republican Party. He was reelected in a stunning surprise. However all of Truman’s Fair Deal proposals, such as universal health care were defeated by the Conservative Coalition in Congress. His seizure of the steel industry was reversed by the Supreme Court. In foreign policy, Europe was safe but troubles mounted in Asia. China fell to the Communists in 1949. Truman entered the Korean War without formal Congressional approval—the last time a president would ever do so. When the war turned to a stalemate and he fired General Douglas MacArthur in 1951, Republicans blasted his policies in Asia. A series of petty scandals among friends and buddies of Truman further tarnished his image, allowing the Republicans in 1952 to crusade against “Korea, Communism and Corruption.” Truman dropped out of the presidential race early in 1952, leaving no obvious successor. The convention nominated Adlai Stevenson in 1952 and 1956, only to see him overwhelmed by two Eisenhower landslides.

In Congress the powerful duo of House Speaker Sam Rayburn and Senate Majority leader Lyndon B. Johnson held the party together, often by compromising with Eisenhower. In 1958 the party made dramatic gains in the midterms and seemed to have a permanent lock on Congress, thanks largely to organized labor. Indeed, Democrats had majorities in the House every election from 1930 to 1992 (except 1946 and 1952). Most southern Congressmen were conservative Democrats, however, and they usually worked with conservative Republicans. The result was a Conservative Coalition that blocked practically all liberal domestic legislation from 1937 to the 1970s, except for a brief spell 1964-65, when Johnson neutralized its power. The counterbalance to the Conservative Coalition was the Democratic Study Group, which led the charge to liberalize the institutions of Congress and eventually pass a great deal of the Kennedy-Johnson program.

The election of John F. Kennedy in 1960 over then Vice President Richard Nixon re-energized the party. His youth, vigor and intelligence caught the popular imagination. New programs like the Peace Corps harnessed idealism. In terms of legislation, Kennedy was stalemated by the Conservative Coalition. Though Kennedy's term in office lasted only about a thousand days, he tried to hold back Communist gains after the failed Bay of Pigs invasion in Cuba and the construction of the Berlin Wall, and sent 16,000 soldiers to Vietnam to advise the hard-pressed South Vietnamese army. He challenged America in the Space Race to land an American man on the moon by 1969. After the Cuban Missile Crisis he moved to de-escalate tensions with the Soviet Union. Kennedy also pushed for civil rights and racial integration, one example being Kennedy assigning federal marshals to protect the Freedom Riders in the south. His election did mark the coming of age of the Catholic component of the New Deal Coalition. After 1964 middle class Catholics started voting Republicans in the same proportion as their Protestant neighbors. Except for the Chicago of Richard J. Daley, the last of the Democratic machines faded away. President Kennedy was assassinated on November 22, 1963, in Dallas, Texas. Soon after then-Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson was sworn in as the new president. Johnson, heir to the New Deal broke the Conservative Coalition in Congress and passed a remarkable number of liberal laws, known as the Great Society. Johnson succeeded in passing major civil rights laws that started the racial integration in the south. At the same time, Johnson escalated the Vietnam War, leading to an inner conflict inside the Democratic Party that shattered the party in the elections of 1968. Kennedy's involvement in Vietnam proved momentous, for his successor Lyndon Johnson decided to stay, and double the investment, and double the bet again and again until over 500,000 Americans were fighting in that small country.

The Civil Rights Movement: 1963-1968

The New Deal Coalition began to fracture as more Democratic leaders voiced support for civil rights, upsetting the party's traditional base of conservative Southern Democrats and Catholics in Northern cities. After Harry Truman's platform gave strong support to civil rights and anti-segregation laws during the 1948 Democratic National Convention, many Southern Democratic delegates decided to split from the Party and formed the "Dixiecrats," led by South Carolina governor Strom Thurmond (who, as a Senator, would later join the Republican Party). Over the next few years, many conservative Democrats in the "Solid South" drifted away from the party. On the other hand, African Americans, who had traditionally given strong support to the Republican Party since its inception as the "anti-slavery party," continued to shift to the Democratic Party due to its New Deal economic opportunities and support for civil rights—largely due to New Deal relief programs, patronage offers, and the advocacy of civil rights by First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt. Although Republican Dwight D. Eisenhower carried half the South in 1952 and 1956, and Senator Barry Goldwater also carried five Southern states in 1964, Democrat Jimmy Carter carried all of the South except Virginia, and there was no long-term realignment until Ronald Reagan's sweeping victories in the South in 1980 and 1984.

The party's dramatic reversal on civil rights issues culminated when Democratic President Lyndon B. Johnson signed into law the Civil Rights Act of 1964. On doing so he commented, "We [the Democrats] have lost the South for a generation." Meanwhile, the Republicans, led again by Richard Nixon, were beginning to implement their Southern strategy, which aimed to resist federal encroachment on the states, while appealing to conservative and moderate white Southerners in the rapidly growing cities and suburbs of the South. Southern Democrats took notice of the fact that 1964 Republican Presidential candidate Barry Goldwater had voted against the Civil Rights Act, and in the presidential election of 1964, Goldwater's only electoral victories outside his home state of Arizona were in the states of the Deep South.

The year 1968 was a trying one for the party as well as the United States. In January, even though it was a military defeat for the Viet Cong, the Tet Offensive began to turn American public opinion against the Vietnam War. Senator Eugene McCarthy rallied anti-war forces on college campuses and came within a few percentage points of defeating Johnson in the New Hampshire primary. Four days later Senator Robert Kennedy, brother of the former president, entered the race. Johnson stunned the nation on March 31 when he withdrew from the race; four weeks later his vice-president, Hubert H. Humphrey, entered. Kennedy and McCarthy traded primary victories while Humphrey stayed out the primaries and gathered the support of labor unions and the big-city bosses. Kennedy won the California primary on June 4 and may have been able to wrest the nomination from Humphrey, but he was assassinated in Los Angeles. (Even as Kennedy won California, Humphrey had already amassed 1000 of the 1312 delegate votes needed for the nomination, while Kennedy had about 700. [Palermo (2001)] ) During the 1968 Democratic National Convention, while police and the National Guard violently confronted anti-war protesters on the streets and parks of Chicago, the Democrats nominated Humphrey. Meanwhile Alabama's Democratic governor George C. Wallace launched a third-party campaign and at one point was running second to the Republican candidate Richard M. Nixon. Nixon barely won, with the Democrats retaining control of Congress.

The degree to which the Southern Democrats had abandoned the party became evident in the 1968 presidential election when the electoral votes of every former Confederate state except Texas went to either Republican Richard Nixon or independent George Wallace, the latter a former Southern Democrat. Defeated Democrat Hubert Humphrey's electoral votes came mainly from the Northern states, marking a dramatic shift from the 1948 election 20 years earlier, when the losing Republican candidate's electoral votes were mainly concentrated in the Northern states.

Transformation years: 1969-1992

In 1972, the Democrats nominated Sen. George McGovern (SD) as the presidential candidate on a platform which advocated, among other things, immediate U.S. withdrawal from Vietnam (with his anti-war slogan "Come Home, America!") and a guaranteed minimum income for all Americans. McGovern's forces at the national convention ousted Mayor Richard J. Daley and the entire Chicago delegation, replacing them with insurgents led by Jesse Jackson. After it became known that McGovern's running mate, Thomas Eagleton, had received electric shock therapy, McGovern said he supported Eagleton "1000%" but he was soon forced to drop him and find a new running mate. With his campaign stalled for several weeks McGovern finally selected Sargent Shriver, a Kennedy-in-law who was close to Mayor Daley. On July 14, 1972, McGovern appointed his campaign manager, Jean Westwood as the first woman chair of the Democratic National Committee. McGovern was defeated in a landslide by incumbent Richard Nixon, winning only Massachusetts and Washington, D.C.

The sordid Watergate scandal soon destroyed the Nixon presidency, giving the Democrats a flicker of hope. With Gerald Ford's pardon of Nixon soon after his resignation in 1974, the Democrats used the "corruption" issue to make major gains in the off-year elections. In 1976, mistrust of the administration, complicated by a combination of economic recession and inflation, sometimes called "stagflation", led to Ford's defeat by Jimmy Carter, a former Governor of Georgia. Carter won as a little-known outsider by promising honesty in Washington, a message that played well to voters as he won narrowly.

Carter represented the total outsider, who promised honesty in government. He had served as a naval officer, a farmer, a state senator, and a one-term governor. His only experience with federal politics was when he chaired the Democratic National Committee's congressional and gubernatorial elections in 1974. Some of Carter's major accomplishments consisted of the creation of a national energy policy and the consolidation of governmental agencies, resulting in two new cabinet departments, the United States Department of Energy and the United States Department of Education. Carter also successfully deregulated the trucking, airline, rail, finance, communications, and oil industries (thus eliminating the New Deal approach to regulation of the economy), bolstered the social security system, and appointed record numbers of women and minorities to significant government and judicial posts. He also enacted strong legislation on environmental protection, through the expansion of the National Park Service in Alaska, creating 103 million acres (417,000 km²) of land. In foreign affairs, Carter's accomplishments consisted of the Camp David Accords, the Panama Canal Treaties, the creation of full diplomatic relations with the People's Republic of China, and the negotiation of the SALT II Treaty. In addition, he championed human rights throughout the world and used human rights as the center of his administration's foreign policy.

Even with all of these successes, Carter failed to implement a national health plan or to reform the tax system, as he had promised in his campaign. Inflation was also on the rise. Abroad, the Iranians held 52 Americans hostage for 444 days, and Carter's diplomatic and military rescue attempts failed. The Soviet invasion of Afghanistan later that year weakened the perception Americans had of Carter. Even though he had already been defeated for re-election, Carter fortunately was able to negotiate the release of every American hostage. They were lifted out of Iran minutes after Reagan was inaugurated and Carter served as Reagan's emissary to greet them when they arrived in Germany. In 1980, Carter defeated Edward Kennedy to gain renomination, but lost to Ronald Reagan in November. The Democrats lost 12 Senate seats, and for the first time since 1954, the Republicans controlled the Senate. The House, however, remained in Democratic hands.

1980s: Battling Reaganism

Democrats who supported many conservative policies were instrumental in the election of Republican President Ronald Reagan in 1980. The "Reagan Democrats" were Democrats before the Reagan years, and afterward, but they voted for Ronald Reagan in 1980 and 1984 (and for George H. W. Bush in 1988), producing their landslide victories. Reagan Democrats were mostly white ethnics in the Northeast and Midwest who were attracted to Reagan's social conservatism on issues such as abortion, and to his strong foreign policy. They did not continue to vote Republican in 1992 or 1996, so the term fell into disuse except as a reference to the 1980s. The term is not used to describe southern whites who became permanent Republicans in presidential elections. Stanley Greenberg, a Democratic pollster analyzed white ethnic voters, largely unionized auto workers, in suburban Macomb County, Michigan, just north of Detroit. The county voted 63 percent for Kennedy in 1960 and 66 percent for Reagan in 1984. He concluded that Reagan Democrats no longer saw Democrats as champions of their middle class aspirations, but instead saw it as being a party working primarily for the benefit of others, especially African Americans, special interest groups of the political left, and the very poor. But after Reagan's appointment of Donald Dotson as the chairman of the National Labor Relations Board and his notoriously pro-employer stance, Bill Clinton would reclaim the Reagan Democrats with considerable success in 1992 and 1996.

The failure to hold the Reagan Democrats and the white South led to the final collapse of the New Deal coalition. Reagan carried 49 states against former Vice President and Minnesota Senator Walter Mondale, a New Deal stalwart, in 1984. In response to these landslide defeats, the Democratic Leadership Council (DLC) was created in 1985. It worked to move the party rightwards to the ideological center in order to recover some of the fundraising that had been lost to the Republicans due to corporate donors supporting Reagan. With the party retaining left-of-center supporters as well as supporters holding moderate or conservative views on some issues, the Democrats became generally a catch all party with widespread appeal to most opponents of the Republicans. Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis, running not as a New Dealer but as an efficiency expert in public administration, lost by a landslide in 1988 to Vice President George H. W. Bush.

The South becomes Republican

For nearly a century after Reconstruction, the white South identified with the Democratic Party. The Democrats' lock on power was so strong, the region was called the Solid South, although the Republicans controlled parts of the Appalachian mountains and they competed for statewide office in the border states. Before 1948, southern Democrats believed that their party, with its respect for states' rights and appreciation of traditional southern values, was the defender of the southern way of life. Southern Democrats warned against aggressive designs on the part of Northern liberals and Republicans and civil rights activists whom they denounced as "outside agitators."

The adoption of the strong civil rights plank by the 1948 convention and the integration of the armed forces by President Harry S. Truman's Executive Order 9981, which provided for equal treatment and opportunity for African-American servicemen, drove a wedge between the northern and southern branches of the party.

With the presidency of John F. Kennedy the Democratic Party began to embrace the civil rights movement, and its lock on the South was irretrievably broken. Upon signing the Civil Rights Act of 1964, President Lyndon B. Johnson prophesied, "We have lost the South for a generation." [cite news |last=Risen |first=Clay |title=How the South was won |publisher=The Boston Globe |date=2006-03-05 |url=http://www.boston.com/news/globe/ideas/articles/2006/03/05/how_the_south_was_won/|accessdate=2006-11-24]

Modernization had brought factories, national businesses, and larger, more cosmopolitan cities such as Atlanta, Dallas, Charlotte, and Houston to the South, as well as millions of migrants from the North and more opportunities for higher education. Meanwhile, the cotton and tobacco economy of the traditional rural South faded away, as former farmers commuted to factory jobs. As the South became more like the rest of the nation, it could not stand apart in terms of racial segregation.

Integration and the civil rights movement caused enormous controversy in the white South, with many attacking it as a violation of states' rights. When segregation was outlawed by court order and by the Civil Rights acts of 1964 and 1965, a die-hard element resisted integration, led by Democratic governors Orval Faubus of Arkansas, Lester Maddox of Georgia, and, especially George Wallace of Alabama. These populist governors appealed to a less-educated, blue-collar electorate that on economic grounds favored the Democratic Party, but opposed desegregation. After 1965 most Southerners accepted integration (with the exception of public schools). Believing themselves betrayed by the Democratic Party, traditional white southerners joined the new middle-class and the Northern transplants in moving toward the Republican Party. Meanwhile, newly enfranchised Black voters began supporting Democratic candidates at the 80-90-percent levels, producing Democratic leaders such as Julian Bond and John Lewis of Georgia, and Barbara Jordan of Texas. Just as Martin Luther King had promised, integration had brought about a new day in Southern politics. The Republican Party's southern strategy further alienated black voters from the party.

In addition to its white middle-class base, Republicans attracted strong majorities among evangelical Christians, who prior to the 1980s were largely apolitical. Exit polls in the 2004 presidential election showed that Bush led Kerry by 70-30% among Southern whites, who comprised 71% of the voters. Kerry had a 90-9 lead among the 18% of Southern voters who were black. One third of the Southern voters said they were white evangelicals; they voted for Bush by 80-20. [cite web |title=Exit Polls |publisher=CNN |url=http://www.cnn.com/ELECTION/2004/pages/results/states/US/P/00/epolls.3.html |date=2004-11-02|accessdate=2006-11-18]

The New Democrats: 1992-2004

In the 1990s the Democratic Party revived itself, in part by moving to the right on economic and social policy. In 1992, for the first time in 16 years, the United States elected a Democrat to the White House. During President Bill Clinton's term, the Congress balanced the federal budget for the first time since the Kennedy presidency and presided over a robust American economy that saw incomes grow across the board. In 1994, the economy had the lowest combination of unemployment and inflation in 25 years. However, President Clinton did sign into law many liberal causes, including the Brady Bill, which imposed a five-day waiting period on handgun purchases; he also signed into legislation a ban on many types of semi-automatic firearms (which expired in 2004). His Family and Medical Leave Act, covering some 40 million Americans, offered workers up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-guaranteed leave for childbirth or a personal or family illness. He helped temporarily restore democracy to Haiti, took a strong (if ultimately unsuccessful) hand in Palestinian-Israeli peace negotiations, brokered an historic cease-fire in Northern Ireland, and negotiated the Dayton accords, which helped bring an end to nearly four years of terror and killing in the former Yugoslavia. In 1996, Clinton became the first Democratic president to be reelected since Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1944.

However, the Democrats lost their majority in both houses of Congress in 1994. Clinton vetoed two Republican-backed welfare reform bills before signing the third, the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Act of 1996. The tort reform Private Securities Litigation Reform Act passed over his veto. 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 North American Free Trade Agreement with Canada and Mexico over their strong objections. [cite news |last=Kilborn |first=Peter T. |title=THE FREE TRADE ACCORD: Labor; Unions Vow to Punish Pact's Backers |publisher=The New York Times |date=1993-11-19 |url=http://select.nytimes.com/gst/abstract.html?res=F00616FB395D0C7A8DDDA80994DB494D81&n=Top%2fReference%2fTimes%20Topics%2fPeople%2fC%2fClinton%2c%20Bill|accessdate=2006-11-17] In 1998, the Republican-led House of Representatives impeached Clinton on two charges; he was subsequently acquitted by the United States Senate in 1999. Under Clinton's leadership, the United States participated in NATO's Operation Allied Force against Yugoslavia that year.

When the DLC attempted to move the Democratic agenda in favor of more centrist positions, prominent Democrats from both the centrist and conservative factions (such as Terry McAuliffe) assumed leadership of the party and its direction. Some liberals and progressives felt alienated by the Democratic Party, which they felt had become unconcerned with the interests of the common people and left-wing issues in general. Some Democrats challenged the validity of such critiques, citing the Democratic role in pushing for progressive reforms.

Election of 2000

During the presidential election of 2000, the Democrats chose Vice President Al Gore to be the party's candidate for the presidency. Gore and George W. Bush, the Republican candidate and son of former Presiden, debt reduction, tax cuts, foreign policy, public education, global warming, judicial appointments, and affirmative action. Nevertheless, Gore's affiliation with Clinton and the DLC caused critics—Green Party presidential candidate Ralph Nader in particular—to assert that Bush and Gore were too similar, especially on free trade, reductions in social welfare, and the death penalty. "We want to punish the Democrats, we want to hurt them, wound them," Nader's closest advisor said. [cite news |last=Levine |first=Harry G. |title=Ralph Nader, Suicide Bomber |publisher=The Village Voice |date=2004-05-03 |url=http://www.villagevoice.com/news/0418,levine,53179,1.html|accessdate=2006-10-11]

Gore won a popular plurality of over 500,000 votes over Bush, but lost in the Electoral College by four votes. Many Democrats blamed Nader's third-party spoiler role for Gore's defeat. They pointed to the states of New Hampshire (4 electoral votes) and Florida (25 electoral votes), where Nader's total votes exceeded Bush's margin of victory. In Florida, Nader received 97,000 votes; Bush defeated Gore by a mere 538. Controversy plagued the election, and Gore largely dropped from politics for years; by 2005 however he was making speeches critical of Bush's foreign policy.

Despite Gore's close defeat, the Democrats gained five seats in the Senate (including the election of Hillary Rodham Clinton in New York), to turn a 55-45 Republican edge into a 50-50 split (with a Republican Vice President breaking a tie). However, when Republican Senator Jim Jeffords of Vermont decided in 2001 to become an independent and vote with the Democratic Caucus, the majority status shifted along with the seat, including control of the floor (by the Majority Leader) and control of all committee chairmanships. However, the Republicans regained their Senate majority with gains in 2002 and 2004, leaving the Democrats with only 44 seats, the fewest since the 1920s.


In the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 attacks, the nation's focus was changed to issues of national security. All but one Democrat (Representative Barbara Lee) voted with their Republican counterparts to authorize President Bush's 2001 invasion of Afghanistan. House leader Richard Gephardt and Senate leader Thomas Daschle pushed Democrats to vote for the USA PATRIOT Act and the invasion of Iraq. The Democrats were split over entering Iraq in 2003 and increasingly expressed concerns about both the justification and progress of the War on Terrorism, as well as the domestic effects, including threats to civil rights and civil liberties, from the USA PATRIOT Act. Senator Russ Feingold was the only Senator to vote against the act; it received considerably more resistance when it came up for renewal.

Nancy Pelosi of California became the first woman to lead a major political party in Congress in 2003. Since 2007, she has been Speaker of the House of Representatives.]

In the wake of the financial fraud scandal of the Enron Corporation and other corporations, Congressional Democrats pushed for a legal overhaul of business accounting with the intention of preventing further accounting fraud. This led to the bipartisan Sarbanes-Oxley Act in 2002. With job losses and bankruptcies across regions and industries increasing in 2001 and 2002, the Democrats generally campaigned on the issue of economic recovery. That did not work for them in 2002 as the Democrats lost a few seats in the U.S. House of Representatives. They lost three seats in the Senate (Georgia as Max Cleland was unseated, Minnesota as Paul Wellstone died and his succeeding Democratic candidate lost the election, and Missouri as Jean Carnahan was unseated) in the Senate. While Democrats gained governorships in New Mexico (where Bill Richardson was elected), Arizona (Janet Napolitano) and Wyoming (Dave Freudenthal), other Democrats lost governorships in South Carolina (Jim Hodges), Alabama (Don Siegelman) and, for the first time in more than a century, Georgia (Roy Barnes). The election led to another round of soul searching about the party's narrowing base. The party's miseries mounted in 2003, when a voter recall unseated their unpopular governor of California, Gray Davis, and replaced him which a charismatic Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger. By the end of 2003 the four largest states had Republican governors: California, Texas, New York and Florida.

Election of 2004

The 2004 campaign started as early as December 2002, when Gore announced he would not run again in the 2004 election. Howard Dean, former Governor of Vermont, an opponent of the war and a critic of the Democratic establishment, was the front-runner leading into the Democratic primaries. Dean had immense grassroots support, especially from the left wing of the party. Massachusetts Senator John Kerry, a more centrist figure with heavy support from the Democratic Leadership Council, was nominated because he was seen as more "electable" than Dean. [cite web |last=Mahajan |first=Rahul |publisher=Common Dreams NewsCenter | date=2004-01-28 |title=Kerry vs. Dean; New Hampshire vs. Iraq |url=http://www.commondreams.org/views04/0128-13.htm |accessdate=2006-10-12]

As layoffs of American workers occurred in various industries due to outsourcing, some Democrats (including Dean and senatorial candidate Erskine Bowles of North Carolina) began to refine their positions on free trade, and some even questioned their past support for it. By 2004, the failure of George W. Bush's administration to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, mounting combat casualties and fatalities in that country, and the lack of any end point for the War on Terror were frequently debated issues in the election. That year, Democrats generally campaigned on surmounting the jobless recovery, solving the Iraq crisis, and fighting terrorism more efficiently.

In the end, Kerry lost both the popular vote (by 3 million out of over 120 million votes cast) and the Electoral College. Republicans also gained four seats in the Senate (leaving the Democrats with only 44 seats, their fewest since the 1920s) and three seats in the House of Representatives. Also, for the first time since 1952, the Democratic leader of the Senate lost re-election. In the end, there were 3,660 Democratic state legislators across the nation to the Republicans' 3,557. Democrats gained governorships in Louisiana, New Hampshire and Montana. However, they lost the governorship of Missouri and a legislative majority in Georgia—which had long been a Democratic stronghold. Senate pickups for the Democrats included Ken Salazar in Colorado and 2004 Democratic National Convention keynote speaker Barack Obama in Illinois.

There were many reasons for the defeat. After the election most analysts concluded that Kerry was a poor campaigner.Thomas, Evan, Clift, Eleanor, and Staff of Newsweek (2005)."Election 2004: How Bush Won and What You Can Expect in the Future". PublicAffairs. ISBN 1-58648-293-9.] [cite news |last=Kelly |first=Jack |title=Kerry's Fall From Grace |publisher=Pittsburgh Post-Gazette |date=2004-09-05 |url=http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/04249/373186.stm |accessdate=2006-10-10 See also: cite news |last=Last |first=Jonathan V. |title=Saving John Kerry |publisher=The Weekly Standard |date=2004-11-12 |url=http://www.weeklystandard.com/Content/Public/Articles/000/000/004/900nmdbr.asp |accessdate=2006-10-10] A group of Vietnam veterans opposed to Kerry called the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth undercut Kerry's use of his military past as a campaign strategy. Kerry was unable to reconcile his initial support of the Iraq War with his opposition to the war in 2004, or manage the deep split in the Democratic Party between those who favored and opposed the war. Republicans ran thousands of television commercials to argue that Kerry had flip-flopped on Iraq. When Kerry's home state of Massachusetts legalized same-sex marriage, the issue split liberal and conservative Democrats and independents (Kerry publicly stated throughout his campaign that he opposed same sex marriage, but favored civil unions). Republicans exploited the same-sex marriage issue by promoting ballot initiatives in 11 states that brought conservatives to the polls in large numbers; all 11 initiatives passed. [cite news |last=Wenner |first=Jann S. |title=Why Bush Won |publisher=Rolling Stone |date=2004-11-17 |url=http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/story/_/id/6635544 |accessdate=2006-10-10] Flaws in vote-counting systems may also have played a role in Kerry's defeat (see 2004 U.S. presidential election controversy and irregularities). Senator Barbara Boxer of California and several Democratic U.S. Representatives (including John Conyers of Michigan) raised the issue of voting irregularities in Ohio when the 109th Congress first convened, but they were defeated 267-31 by the House and 74-1 by the Senate. Other factors include a healthy job market, a rising stock market, strong home sales, and low unemployment.

After the 2004 election, prominent Democrats began to rethink the party's direction, and a variety of strategies for moving forward were voiced. Some Democrats proposed moving towards the right to regain seats in the House and Senate and possibly win the presidency in the election of 2008; others demanded that the party move more to the left and become a stronger opposition party. One topic of discussion was the party's policies surrounding reproductive rights. Rethinking the party's position on gun control became a matter of discussion, brought up by Howard Dean, Bill Richardson, Brian Schweitzer and other Democrats who had won governorships in states where Second Amendment rights were important to many voters. In "What's the Matter with Kansas?," commentator Thomas Frank wrote the Democrats needed to return to campaigning on economic populism.

Recent history: 2005-present

These debates were reflected in the 2005 campaign for Chairman of the Democratic National Committee, which Howard Dean won over the objections of many party insiders. Dean sought to move the Democratic strategy away from the establishment, and bolster support for the party's state organizations, even in red states. [ [http://web.archive.org/web/20050204073722/http://www.blogforamerica.com/archives/005851.html Interview with Howard Dean] , "This Week", 2005-01-23. American Broadcasting Company (ABC). Retrieved on 2006-10-11.]

When the 109th Congress convened, Harry Reid, the new Senate Minority Leader, tried to convince the Democratic Senators to vote more as a bloc on important issues; he forced the Republicans to abandon their push for privatization of Social Security. In 2005, the Democrats retained their governorships in Virginia and New Jersey, electing Tim Kaine and Jon Corzine, respectively. However, the party lost the mayoral race in New York City, a Democratic stronghold, for the fourth straight time.

With scandals involving lobbyist Jack Abramoff, as well as Duke Cunningham, Tom DeLay, Mark Foley, and Bob Taft, the Democrats used the slogan "Culture of corruption" against the Republicans during the 2006 campaign. Negative public opinion on the war in Iraq, widespread dissatisfaction over the ballooning federal deficit, and the inept handling of the Hurricane Katrina disaster dragged down President Bush's job approval ratings.

As a result of the 2006 midterm elections, the Democratic Party became the majority party in the House of Representatives and its caucus in the United States Senate constituted a majority when the 110th Congress convened in 2007. The Democrats had spent twelve successive years as the minority party in the House before the 2006 mid-term elections. The Democrats also went from controlling a minority of governorships to a majority. The number of seats held by party members likewise increased in various state legislatures, giving the Democrats control of a plurality of them nationwide. No Democratic incumbent was defeated, and no Democratic-held open seat was lost, in either the U.S. Senate, U.S. House, or with regards to any governorship.

The Democratic Party's electoral success has been attributed by some to running conservative-leaning Democrats against at-risk Republican incumbents, [cite news |last=Hook |first=Janet |title=A right kind of Democrat |publisher=Los Angeles Times |date=2006-10-26 See also: cite news |last=Dewan |first=Shaila |coauthors=Kornblut, Anne E. |title=In Key House Races, Democrats Run to the Right |publisher=The New York Times |date=2006-10-30 |url=http://www.nytimes.com/2006/10/30/us/politics/30dems.html |accessdate=2006-11-10] while others claim that running more populists and progressive candidates has been the source of success. [cite news |last=Toner |first=Robin |title=Incoming Democrats Put Populism Before Ideology |publisher=The New York Times |date=2006-11-12 |url=http://www.nytimes.com/2006/11/12/us/politics/12class.html?ex=1320987600&en=fd6f17e5fd44b9ad&ei=5090&partner=rssuserland&emc=rss |accessdate=2007-04-24 cite news |last=Burt |first=Nick |coauthors=Bleifuss, Joel |title=Progressive Caucus Rising |publisher=In These Times |date=2006-11-08 |url=http://www.inthesetimes.com/article/2914/ |accessdate=2007-02-15 cite news |last=Bacon Jr. |first=Perry |coauthors=Cox, Ana Marie and Tumulty, Karen |title=5 Myths About the Midterm Elections |publisher=Time Magazine |date=2006-11-16 |url=http://www.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,1560212,00.html |accessdate=2007-02-11 cite news |last=Bazinet |first=Kenneth R. |title=Hil's no dump Dean fan |publisher=New York Daily News |date=2006-11-19 |url=http://www.nydailynews.com/news/politics/story/472767p-397816c.html |accessdate=2007-02-11] The twelve years the Democrats spent as a minority party in Congress were characterized by the dominance of the centrist wing of the party and the 2006 victory only came in the wake of the liberal wing reasserting itself (most obviously in Howard Dean's election as DNC chair, the first chair since 1994 not to be a member of the DLC). Exit polling suggested that corruption was a key issue for many voters. [cite news |title=Corruption named as key issue by voters in exit polls |publisher=CNN |date=2006-11-08 |url=http://www.cnn.com/2006/POLITICS/11/07/election.exitpolls/ |accessdate=2007-01-25]

In the 2006 Democratic caucus leadership elections, Democrats chose Rep. Steny Hoyer of Maryland for House Majority Leader and nominated Rep. Nancy Pelosi of California for Speaker of the United States House of Representatives. Senate Democrats chose Harry Reid of Nevada for United States Senate Majority Leader. Pelosi was elected as the first female House Speaker at the commencement of the 110th Congress. The House of Representatives soon passed the measures that comprised the Democrats' 100-Hour Plan.

The 2008 Democratic presidential primaries left two candidates in close competition: New York Senator Hillary Clinton and Illinois Senator Barack Obama. Both had won more support within a major American political party than any previous female or African American candidate. Before official ratification at the 2008 Democratic National Convention, Obama emerged as the Democratic Party's presumptive presidential nominee. Obama's campaign slogan emphasized "change." With President George W. Bush of the Republican Party ineligible for a third term and the Vice President not pursuing their party's nomination, Senator John McCain of Arizona more quickly emerged as the Democrats' presumed competitor for the presidency from the Republican primaries.

Throughout most of the 2008 general election, polls showed a close race between Barack Obama and John McCain. However, Obama has maintained a small lead over McCain in the wake of the Liquidity crisis of September 2008.

ee also

* Democratic National Convention
* List of Democratic National Conventions
* American election campaigns in the 19th century
* History of the United States Republican Party



Secondary sources

* "American National Biography" (20 volumes, 1999) covers all politicians no longer alive; online and paper copies at many academic libraries. Older "Dictionary of American Biography".
* Dinkin, Robert J. "Campaigning in America: A History of Election Practices." Greenwood 1989)
* Remini, Robert V.. "The House: The History of the House of Representatives" (2006), extensive coverage of the party
* Schlesinger, Jr., Arthur Meier ed. "History of American Presidential Elections, 1789-2000" (various multivolume editions, latest is 2001). For each election includes history and selection of primary documents. Essays on some elections are reprinted in Schlesinger, "The Coming to Power: Critical presidential elections in American history" (1972)
* Schlesinger, Arthur Meier, Jr. ed. "History of U.S. Political Parties" (1973) multivolume
* Shafer, Byron E. and Anthony J. Badger, eds. "Contesting Democracy: Substance and Structure in American Political History, 1775-2000" (2001), most recent collection of new essays by specialists on each time period:
**includes: "State Development in the Early Republic: 1775–1840" by Ronald P. Formisano; "The Nationalization and Racialization of American Politics: 1790–1840" by David Waldstreicher; "'To One or Another of These Parties Every Man Belongs;": 1820–1865 by Joel H. Silbey; "Change and Continuity in the Party Period: 1835–1885" by Michael F. Holt; "The Transformation of American Politics: 1865–1910" by Peter H. Argersinger; "Democracy, Republicanism, and Efficiency: 1885–1930" by Richard Jensen; "The Limits of Federal Power and Social Policy: 1910–1955" by Anthony J. Badger; "The Rise of Rights and Rights Consciousness: 1930–1980" by James T. Patterson, Brown University; and "Economic Growth, Issue Evolution, and Divided Government: 1955–2000" by Byron E. Shafer

Before 1932

* Allen, Oliver E. "The Tiger: The Rise and Fall of Tammany Hall" (1993)
* Baker, Jean. "Affairs of Party: The Political Culture of Northern Democrats in the Mid-Nineteenth Century" (1983).
* Cole, Donald B. "Martin Van Buren And The American Political System" (1984)
* Bass, Herbert J. "I Am a Democrat": The Political Career of David B. Hill" 1961.
* Craig, Douglas B. "After Wilson: The Struggle for the Democratic Party, 1920-1934" (1992)
* Earle, Jonathan H. "Jacksonian Antislavery and the Politics of Free Soil, 1824-1854" (2004)
* Flick, Alexander C. "Samuel Jones Tilden: A Study in Political Sagacity" 1939.
* Formisano, Ronald P. "The Transformation of Political Culture: Massachusetts Parties, 1790s-1840s" (1983)
* Gammon, Samuel Rhea. "The Presidential Campaign of 1832" (1922)
* Hammond, Bray. "Banks and Politics in America from the Revolution to the Civil War" (1960), Pulitzer prize. Pro-Bank
* Jensen, Richard. "Grass Roots Politics: Parties, Issues, and Voters, 1854-1983" (1983)
* Keller, Morton. "Affairs of State: Public Life in Late Nineteenth Century America" 1977.
* Kleppner, Paul et al. "The Evolution of American Electoral Systems" (1983), essays, 1790s to 1980s.
* Kleppner, Paul. "The Third Electoral System 1853-1892: Parties, Voters, and Political Cultures" (1979), analysis of voting behavior, with emphasis on region, ethnicity, religion and class.
* McCormick, Richard P. "The Second American Party System: Party Formation in the Jacksonian Era" (1966)
* Merrill, Horace Samuel. "Bourbon Democracy of the Middle West, 1865-1896" 1953.
* Nevins, Allan. "Grover Cleveland: A Study in Courage" 1934. Pulitzer Prize
* Remini, Robert V. "Martin Van Buren and the Making of the Democratic Party" (1959)
* Rhodes, James Ford. "The History of the United States from the Compromise of 1850" 8 vol (1932)
* Sanders, Elizabeth. "Roots of Reform: Farmers, Workers, and the American State, 1877-1917" (1999). argues the Democrats were the true progressives and GOP was mostly conservative
* Sarasohn, David. "The Party of Reform: Democrats in the Progressive Era" (1989), covers 1910-1930.
* Sharp, James Roger. "The Jacksonians Versus the Banks: Politics in the States after the Panic of 1837" (1970)
* Silbey, Joel H. "A Respectable Minority: The Democratic Party in the Civil War Era, 1860-1868" (1977)
* Silbey, Joel H. "The American Political Nation, 1838-1893" (1991)
* Stampp, Kenneth M. "Indiana Politics during the Civil War" (1949)
* Welch, Richard E. "The Presidencies of Grover Cleveland" 1988.
* Whicher, George F. "William Jennings Bryan and the Campaign of 1896" (1953), primary and secondary sources.
* Wilentz, Sean. "The Rise of American Democracy: Jefferson to Lincoln" (2005), highly detailed synthesis.
* Woodward, C. Vann. "Origins of the New South, 1877-1913" 1951. [http://ets.umdl.umich.edu/cgi/t/text/text-idx?c=acls;cc=acls;view=toc;idno=heb00007.0001.001 online edition at ACLS History ebooks]

ince 1932

* Allswang, John M. "New Deal and American Politics" (1978)
* Andersen, Kristi. "The Creation of a Democratic Majority, 1928-1936" (1979)
* Barone, Michael, and Grant Ujifusa, "The Almanac of American Politics 2006: The Senators, the Representatives and the Governors: Their Records and Election Results, Their States and Districts" (2005), covers all the live politicians.
* Burns, James MacGregor. "Roosevelt: The Lion and the Fox" (1956)
* Cantril, Hadley and Mildred Strunk, eds. "Public Opinion, 1935-1946" (1951), compilation of public opinion polls from US, UK, Canada, Australia, and elsewhere.
* Dallek, Robert. " Lyndon B. Johnson: Portrait of a President" (2004)]
* Fraser, Steve, and Gary Gerstle, eds. "The Rise and Fall of the New Deal Order, 1930-1980" (1990), essays.
* Hamby, Alonzo. "Liberalism and Its Challengers: From F.D.R. to Bush" (1992).
* Jensen, Richard. "Grass Roots Politics: Parties, Issues, and Voters, 1854-1983" (1983)
* Jensen, Richard. "The Last Party System, 1932-1980," in Paul Kleppner, ed. "Evolution of American Electoral Systems" (1981)
* Judis, John B. and Ruy Teixeira. "The Emerging Democratic Majority" (2004) demography is destiny
**"Movement Interruptus: September 11 Slowed the Democratic Trend That We Predicted, but the Coalition We Foresaw Is Still Taking Shape" "The American Prospect" Vol 16. Issue: 1. January 2005.
* Kennedy, David M. "Freedom from Fear: The American People in Depression and War, 1929-1945" (2001), synthesis
* Kleppner, Paul et al. "The Evolution of American Electoral Systems" (1983), essays, 1790s to 1980s.
* Ladd Jr., Everett Carll with Charles D. Hadley. "Transformations of the American Party System: Political Coalitions from the New Deal to the 1970s" 2nd ed. (1978).
* Lamis, Alexander P. ed. "Southern Politics in the 1990s" (1999)
* Martin, John Bartlow. "Adlai Stevenson of Illinois: The Life of Adlai E. Stevenson" (1976),
* Moscow, Warren. "The Last of the Big-Time Bosses: The Life and Times of Carmine de Sapio and the Rise and Fall of Tammany Hall" (1971)
* Palermo, Joseph. "In His Own Right: The Political Odyssey of Senator Robert F. Kennedy" (2001).
* Patterson, James T. "Grand Expectations: The United States, 1945-1974" (1997) synthesis.
* Patterson, James T. "Restless Giant: The United States from Watergate to Bush vs. Gore" (2005) synthesis.
* Patterson, James. "Congressional Conservatism and the New Deal: The Growth of the Conservative Coalition in Congress, 1933-39" (1967)
* Plotke, David. "Building a Democratic Political Order: Reshaping American Liberalism in the 1930s and 1940s" (1996).
* Nicol C. Rae; "Southern Democrats" Oxford University Press. 1994
* Sabato, Larry J. "Divided States of America: The Slash and Burn Politics of the 2004 Presidential Election" (2005), analytic.
* Sabato, Larry J. and Bruce Larson. "The Party's Just Begun: Shaping Political Parties for America's Future" (2001), textbook.
* Shafer, Byron E. "Quiet Revolution: The Struggle for the Democratic Party and the Shaping of Post-Reform Politics" (1983)
* Shelley II, Mack C. "The Permanent Majority: The Conservative Coalition in the United States Congress" (1983)
* Sundquist, James L. "Dynamics of the Party System: Alignment and Realignment of Political Parties in the United States" (1983)

Popular histories

* Ling, Peter J. "The Democratic Party: A Photographic History" (2003).
* Rutland, Robert Allen. "The Democrats: From Jefferson to Clinton" (1995).
* Schlisinger, Galbraith. "Of the People: The 200 Year History of the Democratic Party" (1992)
* Taylor, Jeff. "Where Did the Party Go?: William Jennings Bryan, Hubert Humphrey, and the Jeffersonian Legacy" (2006), for history and ideology of the party.
* Witcover, Jules. "Party of the People: A History of the Democrats" (2003)

Primary sources

* Schlesinger, Arthur Meier, Jr. ed. "History of American Presidential Elections, 1789-2000" (various multivolume editions, latest is 2001). For each election includes history and selection of primary documents.
* The [http://www.digitalbookindex.com/_search/search010histuspoliticspartiesdemocratica.asp Digital Book Index] includes some newspapers for the main events of the 1850s, proceedings of state conventions (1850-1900), and proceedings of the Democratic National Conventions. Other references of the proceedings can be found in the linked article years on the Listhi of Democratic National Conventions.

Campaign text books

The national committees of major parties published a "campaign textbook" every presidential election from about 1856 to about 1932. They were designed for speakers and contain statistics, speeches, summaries of legislation, and documents, with plenty of argumentation. Only large academic libraries have them, but some are online:
* [http://books.google.com/books?vid=OCLC13127365&id=jhsFyUO2OzQC&printsec=titlepage "Address to the Democratic Republican Electors of the State of New York"] (1840). Published before the formation of party national committees.
* [http://books.google.com/books?vid=0NfGnmTTrDeyV2&id=KmC4icmd_44C&printsec=titlepage "The Campaign Text Book: Why the People Want a Change. The Republican Party Reviewed..."] (1876)
* [http://books.google.com/books?vid=OCLC06985861&id=PqIGAAAAMAAJ&printsec=titlepage "The Campaign Book of the Democratic Party"] (1882) I HDFHKKL
* [http://books.google.com/books?vid=LCCN09032785&id=1LEGAAAAMAAJ&printsec=titlepage "The Political Reformation of 1884: A Democratic Campaign Book"]
* [http://books.google.com/books?vid=OCLC01293534&id=e44FAAAAMAAJ&printsec=toc "The Campaign Text Book of the Democratic Party of the United States, for the Presidential Election of 1888"]
* [http://books.google.com/books?vid=OCLC02743554&id=BbEGAAAAMAAJ&printsec=titlepage "The Campaign Text Book of the Democratic Party for the Presidential Election of 1892"]
* [http://books.google.com/books?vid=OCLC14123462&id=VrAGAAAAMAAJ&printsec=titlepage "Democratic Campaign Book. Presidential Election of 1896"]

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