Democratic Party

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

The Democratic Party Logo
The Democratic Party Logo

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


Contents

History

The Democratic Party traces its origin to the Democratic-Republican Party founded by Thomas Jefferson in 1793. The Democratic Party itself was formed from a faction of the Democratic-Republicans, led by Andrew Jackson. Following his defeat in the election of 1824 despite having a majority of the popular vote, Andrew Jackson set about building a political coalition strong enough to defeat John Quincy Adams in the election of 1828. The coalition that he built was the foundation of the subsequent Democratic party.

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

In 1896 the Democrats, repudiating the relatively conservative Cleveland, chose radical William Jennings Bryan as their candidate, who then lost to William McKinley. The Democrats did not regain the presidency until Taft and Teddy Roosevelt split the Republican vote and Woodrow Wilson won with a modest plurality in 1912. The Republicans again took the lead in 1920 by championing laissez-faire regulatory policies. However, towards the end of the decade, the Democratic Party was recovering its strength, particularly in cities, as working-class voters and liberals started to build the elements of Democratic dominance. The election of 1928, where Alfred E. Smith, the Catholic Governor of New York, lost to Herbert Hoover, is generally seen by historians as the great turning point - in defeat, Smith set the stage for the rise of his successor as NY Governor to the Presidency.

The stock market crash in 1929 and the ensuing Great Depression set the stage for a more proactive government and Franklin D. Roosevelt (FDR) won a landslide election in 1932, campaigning on a platform of "relief, recovery, and reform". FDR's New Deal programs focused on job-creation through public works projects as well as on social welfare programs such as Social Security. The political coalition of labor unions, minorities, liberals, and southern whites (the New Deal Coalition) allowed the Democrats to control the government for much of the next 30 years, until the issue of civil rights divided conservative southern whites from the rest of the party (see Dixiecrat).

The political pendulum swung away from the Democrats with the election of Republican president Ronald Reagan in 1980. The country seemed ready for political change after a decade of oil price shocks, and its ripple effect on the economy, which stalled economic performance and the long Iranian hostage crisis in the last year of the Carter administration. Riding Reagan's coattails, the Republican Party successfully positioned itself as the party of national strength, gaining 34 seats in the House and gaining control of the Senate for the first time since 1955.

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

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

In the 2000 Presidential election, some progressives bolted the party to support the Green Party candidate Ralph Nader, which took votes away from Democratic presidential nominee Al Gore in many traditionally liberal states; a factor some observers cite as the main cause of his defeat. A more likely explanation is that the Supreme Court's party line decision interpreting the hotly disputed Florida election returns in favor of George W. Bush explains Gore's defeat.

In the immediate aftermath of the September 11, 2001 Terrorist Attacks, public opinion in the United States turned bellicose. Democrats found themselves marginalized in national security debates by Republican exploitation of the new vengeful patriotism. After the 2004 elections however, Democratic prospects began to rebound in the wake of revelations about the Bush administration's deceptive claims about the existence of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction, mismanagement and corruption in the Iraqi occupation, and photographic evidence of torture by the U.S. Army in the Abu Ghraib prison. A wave of returning Iraq veterans, known as the Fighting Dems ran for Congress in the 2006 midterm elections.

State Parties

In most states the Democratic Party organization is simply known as the "[State] Democratic Party" or some very similar wording. However, two of its state party organizations have different names reflecting the history of the party, namely the Minnesota Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party and the North Dakota Democratic-NPL Party.

See Also

List of Democratic Presidential Nominees

See also

List of Democratic National Conventions
Democratic National Convention
Democratic National Committee
Unofficial organizations for Democrats
Brand Democrat

External links

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