Democratic Party (United States)
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The Democratic Party is one of the two major contemporary political parties in the United States along with the Republican Party. Since the 1930s, the party has promoted a socially liberal and progressive platform,234 and its Congressional caucus is composed of progressives, liberals, and centrists.5 The party has the lengthiest record of continuous operation in the United States and is among the oldest political parties in the world.6
Current President of the United States Barack Obama is the 15th Democrat to hold the office of Presidency. As of the 113th Congress following the 2012 elections, the Democratic Party currently holds a minority of seats in the House of Representatives and a majority of seats in the Senate, as well as a minority of state governorships and control of a minority of state legislatures.
The Democratic Party evolved from Anti-Federalist factions that opposed the fiscal policies of Alexander Hamilton in the early 1790s. Thomas Jefferson and James Madison organized these factions into the Democratic-Republican Party. The party favored states' rights and strict adherence to the Constitution; it opposed a national bank and wealthy, moneyed interests. The Democratic-Republican Party ascended to power in the election of 1800.
After the War of 1812, the party's chief rival, the Federalist Party, associated with the disloyalty and parochialism of the Hartford Convention, lost much of the favor it had previously enjoyed, and eventually disbanded in the late 1820s. Democratic-Republicans split over the choice of a successor to President James Monroe, and the party faction that supported many of the old Jeffersonian principles, led by Andrew Jackson and Martin Van Buren, became the Democratic Party. Along with the Whig Party, the Democratic Party was one of the major political parties in the United States until the Civil War. The Whigs were a commercial party, and usually less popular, if better financed. The Whigs divided over the slavery issue after the Mexican–American War and faded away. In the 1850s, under the stress of the Fugitive Slave Law and the Kansas–Nebraska Act, anti-slavery Democrats left the party. Joining with former members of existing or dwindling parties, the Republican Party emerged.78
The Democrats split over the choice of a successor to President James Buchanan along Northern and Southern lines; factions of the party provided two separate candidacies for President in the election of 1860, in which the Republican Party gained ascendancy. Southern Democrats, after some delegates followed the lead of the Fire-Eaters by walking out of the Democratic convention at Charleston's Institute Hall in April 1860, and were subsequently joined by those who, once again led by the Fire-Eaters, left the Baltimore Convention the following June when the convention would not adopt a resolution supporting extending slavery into territories whose voters did not want it, nominated the pro-slavery incumbent Vice-President, John C. Breckinridge of Kentucky, for President and General Joseph Lane, former Governor of Oregon, for Vice President. The Northern Democrats proceeded to nominate Senator Stephen A. Douglas of Illinois for President and former Governor of Georgia Herschel V. Johnson for Vice-President, while some southern Democrats joined the Constitutional Union Party, backing its nominees (who had both been prominent Whig leaders), former Senator, Speaker of the House, and Secretary of War John Bell of Tennessee for President and the politician, statesman, and educator Edward Everett of Massachusetts for Vice-President. This fracturing of the Democrats led to a Republican victory, and Abraham Lincoln was elected the 16th President of the United States.
As the American Civil War broke out, Northern Democrats were divided into War Democrats and Peace Democrats. The Confederate States of America, whose political leadership, mindful of the welter prevalent in antebellum American politics and with a pressing need for unity, largely viewed political parties as inimical to good governance; consequently the Confederacy had none, or at least none with the wide organization inherent to other American parties. Most War Democrats rallied to Republican President Abraham Lincoln and the Republicans' National Union Party in the election of 1864, which featured Andrew Johnson on the Republican ticket even though he was a Democrat from the South. Johnson replaced Lincoln in 1865 but stayed independent of both parties. The Democrats benefited from white Southerners' resentment of Reconstruction after the war and consequent hostility to the Republican Party. After Redeemers ended Reconstruction in the 1870s, and following the often extremely violent disenfranchisement of African Americans led by such white supremacist Democratic politicians as Benjamin Tillman of South Carolina in the 1880s and 1890s, the South, voting Democratic, became known as the "Solid South." Though Republicans won all but two presidential elections, the Democrats remained competitive. The party was dominated by pro-business Bourbon Democrats led by Samuel J. Tilden and Grover Cleveland, who represented mercantile, banking, and railroad interests; opposed imperialism and overseas expansion; fought for the gold standard; opposed bimetallism; and crusaded against corruption, high taxes, and tariffs. Cleveland was elected to non-consecutive presidential terms in 1884 and 1892.9
Agrarian Democrats demanding Free Silver overthrew the Bourbon Democrats in 1896 and nominated William Jennings Bryan for the presidency (a nomination repeated by Democrats in 1900 and 1908). Bryan waged a vigorous campaign attacking Eastern moneyed interests, but he lost to Republican William McKinley. The Democrats took control of the House in 1910 and elected Woodrow Wilson as president in 1912 and 1916. Wilson effectively led Congress to put to rest the issues of tariffs, money, and antitrust that had dominated politics for 40 years with new progressive laws. The Great Depression in 1929 that occurred under Republican President Herbert Hoover and the Republican Congress set the stage for a more liberal government; the Democrats controlled the House of Representatives nearly uninterrupted from 1931 until 1995 and won most presidential elections until 1968. Franklin D. Roosevelt, elected to the presidency in 1932, came forth with government programs called the New Deal. New Deal liberalism meant the promotion of social welfare, labor unions, civil rights, and regulation of business. The opponents, who stressed long-term growth, support for business, and low taxes, started calling themselves "conservatives."10
Issues facing parties and the United States after World War II included the Cold War and the Civil Rights Movement. Republicans attracted conservatives and white Southerners from the Democratic coalition with their use of the Southern strategy and resistance to New Deal and Great Society liberalism. African Americans had traditionally supported the Republican Party because of the anti-slavery agenda of Abraham Lincoln and successors such as Ulysses Grant. But they began supporting Democrats following the ascent of the Franklin Roosevelt administration, the New Deal, the integration of the military and embrace of proposed civil rights legislation by President Harry Truman in 1947-48, and the postwar Civil Rights movement. The Democratic Party's main base of support shifted to the Northeast, marking a dramatic reversal of history. Bill Clinton was elected to the presidency in 1992, governing as a New Democrat. The Democratic Party lost control of Congress in the election of 1994 to the Republican Party. Re-elected in 1996, Clinton was the first Democratic President since Franklin Roosevelt to be elected to two terms. Following twelve years of Republican rule, the Democratic Party regained majority control of both the House and the Senate in the 2006 elections. Some of the party's key issues in the early 21st century in their last national platform have included the methods of how to combat terrorism, homeland security, expanding access to health care, labor rights, environmentalism, and the preservation of liberal government programs.11 In the 2010 elections, the Democratic Party lost control of the House, but kept a small majority in the Senate (reduced from the 111th Congress). It also lost its majority in state legislatures and state governorships. However, the 2012 elections which re-elected President Obama represented a partial reversal of the results of the 2010 midterm vote, increasing the Democratic majority in the Senate and reducing the Republican majority in the House.
The Democratic Party traces its origins to the inspiration of the Democratic-Republican Party, founded by Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and other influential opponents of the Federalists in 1792. That party also inspired the Whigs and modern Republicans. Organizationally, the modern Democratic Party truly arose in the 1830s, with the election of Andrew Jackson. Since the division of the Republican Party in the election of 1912, it has gradually positioned itself to the left of the Republican Party on economic and social issues.
Until the period following the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964—which was championed by a Democratic president but faced lower Democratic than Republican support in Congress—the Democratic Party was primarily a coalition of two parties divided by region. Southern Democrats were typically given high conservative ratings by the American Conservative Union while northern Democrats were typically given very liberal ratings. Southern Democrats were a core bloc of the bipartisan conservative coalition which lasted through the Reagan-era. The economically activist philosophy of Franklin D. Roosevelt, which has strongly influenced American liberalism, has shaped much of the party's economic agenda since 1932, and served to tie the two regional factions of the party together until the late 1960s. In fact, Roosevelt's New Deal coalition usually controlled the national government until the 1970s.12
Based on a series of polls conducted in 2010, Gallup found that 31% of Americans identified as Democrats, 29% as Republicans, and 38% as Independents.13 A similar series of polls conducted in 2011 found the percentage of Democrats to be the same at 31%, while a two percentile-point rise in the number of Independents, to an all-time high of 40%, appeared to stem from an equal drop in the number of those Americans identifying themselves as Republicans from the previous poll, to 27%.14 A Pew Research Center survey of registered voters released August 2010 stated that 47% identified as Democrats or leaned towards the party; the same poll found that 43% of registered voters identified as Republicans or leaned towards the Republican party.15
Name and symbols
Initially calling itself the "Republican Party," Jeffersonians were labeled "Democratic" by the opposition Federalists, with the hope of stigmatizing them as purveyors of democracy or mob rule.16 By the Jacksonian era, the term "The Democracy" was in use by the party; the name "Democratic Party" was eventually settled upon.17 The term "Democrat party" has also been in local use but has usually been used by opponents since 1952 as an epithet.
The most common mascot symbol for the party is the donkey, although the party never officially adopted this symbol.18 Andrew Jackson's critics had labeled him a jackass because of his populist views and his slogan, "Let the people rule," during the intense mudslinging in 1828. Jackson decided to go along with it–even using images of a donkey in his campaign ads.19 A political cartoon titled "A Modern Balaam and his Ass" depicting Jackson riding and directing a donkey (representing the Democratic Party) was published in 1837. A political cartoon by Thomas Nast in an 1870 edition of Harper's Weekly revived the donkey as a symbol for the Democratic Party; earlier, Nast had used a fox to represent the Democrats, but decided that a fox was too clever for the party. Cartoonists followed Nast and used the donkey to represent the Democrats, and the elephant to represent the Republicans.
In the early 20th century, the traditional symbol of the Democratic Party in Midwestern states such as Indiana, Kentucky, Oklahoma and Ohio was the rooster, as opposed to the Republican eagle. This symbol still appears on Oklahoma, Kentucky, Indiana, and West Virginia20 ballots. In New York, the Democratic ballot symbol is a five-pointed star.21 For the majority of the 20th century, Missouri Democrats used the Statue of Liberty as their ballot emblem. This meant that when Libertarian candidates received ballot access in Missouri in 1976, they could not use the Statue of Liberty, their national symbol, as the ballot emblem. Missouri Libertarians instead used the Liberty Bell until 1995, when the mule became Missouri's state animal. From 1995 to 2004, there was some confusion among voters, as the Democratic ticket was marked with the Statue of Liberty (used by Libertarians in other states) and the Libertarians' mule was easily mistaken for a Democratic donkey.citation needed
Although both major political parties (and many minor ones) use the traditional American red, white, and blue colors in their marketing and representations, since election night 2000 the color blue has become the identified color of the Democratic Party, while the color red has become the identified color of the Republican Party. That night, for the first time, all major broadcast television networks used the same color scheme for the electoral map: blue states for Al Gore (Democratic nominee) and red states for George W. Bush (Republican nominee). Since then, the color blue has been widely used by the media to represent the party. This has caused confusion among non-American observers because blue is the traditional color of the right and red the color of the left outside of the United States. For example, in Canada red represents the Liberals, while blue represents the Conservatives. In the United Kingdom, red denotes the Labour Party and blue symbolizes the Conservative Party. Blue has also been used both by party supporters for promotional efforts — ActBlue, BuyBlue, BlueFund, as examples — and by the party itself in 2006 both for its "Red to Blue Program", created to support Democratic candidates running against Republican incumbents in the midterm elections that year, and on its official website.citation needed
In September, 2010, the Democratic Party unveiled its new logo, which featured a blue D inside a blue circle. It was the party's first official logo, as the donkey logo had only been semi-official.citation needed
Jefferson-Jackson Day is the annual fundraising event (dinner) held by Democratic Party organizations across the United States.22 It is named after Presidents Thomas Jefferson and Andrew Jackson, whom the party regards as its distinguished early leaders.citation needed
The song "Happy Days Are Here Again" is the unofficial song of the Democratic Party. It was used prominently when Franklin D. Roosevelt was nominated for president at the 1932 Democratic National Convention and remains a sentimental favorite for Democrats today. For example, Paul Shaffer played the theme on the Late Show with David Letterman after the Democrats won Congress in 2006. More recently, the emotionally similar song "Beautiful Day" by the band U2 has become a favorite theme song for Democratic candidates. John Kerry used the song during his 2004 presidential campaign, and several Democratic Congressional candidates used it as a celebratory tune in 2006.2324 Aaron Copland's Fanfare for the Common Man is traditionally performed at the beginning of the Democratic National Convention.
Current structure and composition
The Democratic National Committee (DNC) is responsible for promoting Democratic campaign activities. While the DNC is responsible for overseeing the process of writing the Democratic Platform, the DNC is more focused on campaign and organizational strategy than public policy. In presidential elections, it supervises the Democratic National Convention. The national convention is, subject to the charter of the party, the ultimate authority within the Democratic Party when it is in session, with the DNC running the party's organization at other times. The DNC is currently chaired by Florida congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz.25
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) assists party candidates in House races; its current chairman (selected by the party caucus) is Rep. Steve Israel of New York. Similarly, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC), currently headed by Senator Patty Murray of Washington, raises large sums for Senate races. The Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee (DLCC), currently chaired by Mike Gronstal of Iowa, is a smaller organization with much less funding that focuses on state legislative races. The DNC sponsors the College Democrats of America (CDA), a student-outreach organization with the goal of training and engaging a new generation of Democratic activists. Democrats Abroad is the organization for Americans living outside the United States; they work to advance the goals of the party and encourage Americans living abroad to support the Democrats. The Young Democrats of America (YDA) is a youth-led organization that attempts to draw in and mobilize young people for Democratic candidates, but operates outside of the DNC. In addition, the recently created branch of the Young Democrats, the Young Democrats High School Caucus, attempts to raise awareness and activism amongst teenagers to not only vote and volunteer, but participate in the future as well. The Democratic Governors Association (DGA), chaired by Governor Peter Shumlin of Vermont, is an organization supporting the candidacies of Democratic gubernatorial nominees and incumbents. Likewise, the mayors of the largest cities and urban centers convene as the National Conference of Democratic Mayors.
Each state also has a state committee, made up of elected committee members as well as ex-officio committee members (usually elected officials and representatives of major constituencies), which in turn elects a chair. County, town, city, and ward committees generally are composed of individuals elected at the local level. State and local committees often coordinate campaign activities within their jurisdiction, oversee local conventions and in some cases primaries or caucuses, and may have a role in nominating candidates for elected office under state law. Rarely do they have much funding, but in 2005, DNC Chairman Dean began a program (called the "50 State Strategy") of using DNC national funds to assist all state parties and pay for full-time professional staffers.26
Since the 1890s, the Democratic Party has favored liberal positions (the term "liberal" in this sense describes social liberalism, not classical liberalism). In recent exit polls, the Democratic Party has had broad appeal across all socio-ethno-economic demographics.272829 Historically, the party has favored farmers, laborers, labor unions, and religious and ethnic minorities; it has opposed unregulated business and finance, and favored progressive income taxes. In foreign policy, internationalism (including interventionism) was a dominant theme from 1913 to the mid-1960s. In the 1930s, the party began advocating welfare spending programs targeted at the poor. The party had a fiscally conservative, pro-business wing, typified by Grover Cleveland and Al Smith, and a Southern conservative wing that shrank after President Lyndon B. Johnson supported the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The major influences for liberalism were labor unions (which peaked in the 1936–1952 era), and the African American wing, which has steadily grown since the 1960s. Since the 1970s, environmentalism has been a major new component.
In recent decades, the party has adopted a centrist economic and socially progressive agenda, with the voter base having shifted considerably. Today, Democrats advocate more social freedoms, affirmative action, balanced budget, and a market economy tempered by government intervention (mixed economy). The economic policy adopted by the modern Democratic Party, including the former Clinton administration, has been referred to as the "Third Way".30 The party believes that government should play a role in alleviating poverty and social injustice and use a system of progressive taxation.
The Democratic Party, once dominant in the Southeastern United States, is now strongest in the Northeast (Mid-Atlantic and New England), Great Lakes region, and the Pacific Coast (including Hawaii). The Democrats are also very strong in major cities (regardless of region).
Social liberals (modern liberals) and progressives constitute roughly half of the Democratic voter base. Liberals thereby form the largest united typological demographic within the Democratic base. According to the 2008 exit poll results, liberals constituted 22% of the electorate, and 89% of American liberals favored the candidate of the Democratic Party.31 White-collar college-educated professionals were mostly Republican until the 1950s; they now compose perhaps the most vital component of the Democratic Party.32
A large majority of liberals favor universal health care, with many supporting a single-payer system. A majority also favor diplomacy over military action, stem cell research, the legalization of same-sex marriage, secular government, stricter gun control, and environmental protection laws as well as the preservation of abortion rights. Immigration and cultural diversity is deemed positive; liberals favor cultural pluralism, a system in which immigrants retain their native culture in addition to adopting their new culture. They tend to be divided on free trade agreements and organizations such as the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Most liberals oppose increased military spending and the display of the Ten Commandments in public buildings.33
This ideological group differs from the traditional organized labor base. According to the Pew Research Center, a plurality of 41% resided in mass affluent households and 49% were college graduates, the highest figure of any typographical group. It was also the fastest growing typological group between the late 1990s and early 2000s.33 Liberals include most of academia34 and large portions of the professional class.272829
Many progressive Democrats are descendants of the New Left of Democratic presidential candidate Senator George McGovern of South Dakota; others were involved in the presidential candidacies of Vermont Governor Howard Dean and U.S. Representative Dennis Kucinich of Ohio. The Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC) is a caucus of progressive Democrats, and is the single largest Democratic caucus in the House of Representatives. Its members have included Kucinich, U.S. Representative John Conyers of Michigan, U.S. Representative Jim McDermott of Washington, U.S. Representative John Lewis of Georgia, U.S. Representative Barbara Lee of California, the late Senator Paul Wellstone of Minnesota. Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio was a member when he was in the House of Representatives. Today, no Democratic Senators belong to the Progressive Caucus. America Votes and the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights are liberal umbrella organizations that push for progressive causes.
Libertarians and civil liberties advocates
Some libertarians also support the Democratic Party because Democratic positions on such issues as civil rights and separation of church and state are more closely aligned to their own than the positions of the Republican Party. They oppose gun control, the "War on Drugs," protectionism, corporate welfare, government debt, and an interventionist foreign policy. The Democratic Freedom Caucus is an organized group of this faction.
Some civil liberties advocates also support the party because of their support of habeas corpus for unlawful combatants, opposition to torture of suspected terrorists, extraordinary rendition, warrantless wiretapping, indefinite detention without trial or charge, the Patriot Act, the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base and what they see as the erosion of the protections of the Bill of Rights.
The Pew Research Center has stated that conservative Democrats represent 15% of registered voters and 14% of the general electorate.33 In the House of Representatives, the Blue Dog Coalition, a caucus of fiscal and social conservatives and moderates forms part of the Democratic Party's current faction of conservative Democrats. They have acted as a unified voting bloc in the past, giving its forty plus members some ability to change legislation and broker compromises with the Republican Party's leadership. Historically, southern Democrats were generally much more ideologically conservative. In 1972, the last year that a sizable number of conservatives dominated the southern wing of the Democratic Party, the American Conservative Union gave higher ratings to most southern Democratic Senators and Congressmen than it did to Republicans.
Chapman notes a split vote among many conservative Southern Democrats in the 1970s and 1980s who supported local and statewide conservative Democrats while simultaneously voting for Republican presidential candidates.35
Though centrist Democrats differ on a variety of issues, they typically foster a mix of political views and ideas. Compared to other Democratic factions, they tend to be supportive of the use of military force, including the war in Iraq, and are more willing to reduce government welfare, as indicated by their support for welfare reform and tax cuts. One of the most influential factions is the Democratic Leadership Council (DLC), a nonprofit organization that advocates centrist positions for the party. The DLC hails President Bill Clinton as proof of the viability of "Third Way" politicians and a DLC success story. Former Representative Harold Ford, Jr. of Tennessee is its current chairman. Centrist Democrats form the New Democrat Coalition in the House of Representatives and Senate.
Professionals, those who have a college education and whose work revolves around the conceptualization of ideas, have supported the Democratic Party by a slight majority since 2000. Between 1988 and 2000, professionals favored Democrats by a 12-percentage point margin. While the professional class was once a stronghold of the Republican Party, it has become increasingly split between the two parties, leaning in favor of the Democratic Party. The increasing support for Democratic candidates among professionals may be traced to the prevalence of social liberal values among this group.36
|“||Professionals, who are, roughly speaking, college-educated producers of services and ideas, used to be the most staunchly Republican of all occupational groups... now chiefly working for large corporations and bureaucracies rather than on their own, and heavily influenced by the environmental, civil-rights, and feminist movements — began to vote Democratic. In the four elections from 1988 to 2000, they backed Democrats by an average of 52 percent to 40 percent.||”|
A study on the political attitudes of medical students, for example, found that "U.S. medical students are considerably more likely to be liberal than conservative and are more likely to be liberal than are other young U.S. adults. Future U.S. physicians may be more receptive to liberal messages than current ones, and their political orientation may profoundly affect their health system attitudes."37 Similar results are found for professors, who are more strongly inclined towards liberalism and the Democratic Party than other occupational groups.34 The Democratic Party also has strong support among scientists, with 55% identifying as Democrats, 32% as Independents, and 6% as Republicans and 52% identifying as liberal, 35% as moderate, and 9% as conservative.38
Academics, intellectuals, and the highly educated overall constitute an important part of the Democratic voter base. Academia in particular tends to be progressive. In a 2005 survey, nearly 72% of full-time faculty members identified as liberal, while 15% identified as conservative. The social sciences and humanities were the most liberal disciplines while business was the most conservative. Male professors at more advanced stages of their careers as well as those at elite institutions tend be the most liberal.34 Another survey by UCLA conducted in 2001/02, found 47.6% of scholars identifying as liberal, 34.3% as moderate, and 18% as conservative.39 Percentages of professors who identified as liberal ranged from 49% in business to over 80% in political science and the humanities.34 Social scientists, such as Brett O'Bannon of DePauw University, have claimed that the "liberal" opinions of professors seem to have little, if any, effect on the political orientation of students.4041 Whether or not that is true, some conservatives and Republicans complain they are offended and even threatened by the liberal atmosphere of college campuses.who? As of July 2008 the Students for Academic Freedom arm of the David Horowitz Freedom Center, a conservative organization, posted a list of 440 student complaints, most of which pertain to perceived liberal bias of college professors.
Those with graduate education, have become increasingly Democratic beginning in the 1992,42 1996,42 2000,27 2004,28 and 200843 elections. Intellectualism, the tendency to constantly reexamine issues, or in the words of Edwards Shields, the "penetration beyond the screen of immediate concrete experience," has also been named as an explanation why academia is strongly democratic and liberal.4445
In the past, self-identified Republicans were more likely to have attained a 4-year college degree, but over time this trend has reversed itself, to the point today that Republicans and Democrats are represented equally amongst college educated voters and Democrats hold a majority of post-graduate educated voters.46
Studies have shown that younger voters tend to vote mostly for Democratic candidates in recent years. Despite supporting Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush, the young have voted in favor of the Democratic presidential candidate in every election since Bill Clinton in 1992, and are more likely to identify as liberals than the general population.47 In the 2004 presidential election, Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry received 54% of the vote from voters of the age group 18–29, while Republican George W. Bush received 45% of the vote from the same age group. In the 2006 midterm elections, the Democrats received 60% of the vote from the same age group.2829 Polls suggest that younger voters tend to be more liberal than the general population and have more liberal views than the public on same-sex marriage and universal healthcare, helping Barack Obama carry 66% of their votes in 2008. The Young Democrats of America are an affiliated organization of members of the party younger than 36 that advocates for youth issues and works for youth voter turnout.
Since the 1930s, a critical component of the Democratic Party coalition has been organized labor. Labor unions supply a great deal of the money, grass roots political organization, and voting base of support for the party. Democrats are far more likely to be represented by unions, although union membership has declined, in general, during the last few decades. This trend is depicted in the following graph from the book, Democrats and Republicans — Rhetoric and Reality.48 It is based on surveys conducted by the National Election Studies (NES).
The historic decline in union membership over the past half century has been accompanied by a growing disparity between public sector and private sector union membership percentages. The three most significant labor groupings in the Democratic coalition today are the AFL-CIO and Change to Win labor federations, as well as the National Education Association, a large, unaffiliated teachers' union. Both the AFL-CIO and Change to Win have identified their top legislative priority for 2007 as passage of the Employee Free Choice Act. Other important issues for labor unions include supporting industrial policy (including protectionism) that sustains unionized manufacturing jobs, raising the minimum wage and promoting broad social programs such as Social Security and universal health care.
While the American working class has lost much of its political strength with the decline of labor unions,49 it remains a stronghold of the Democratic Party and continues as an essential part of the Democratic base. Today, roughly a third of the American public is estimated to be working class with around 52% being either members of the working or lower classes.5051 Yet, as those with lower socioeconomic status are less likely to vote, the working and lower classes are underrepresented in the electorate. The working class is largely distinguished by highly routinized and closely supervised work. It consists mainly of clerical and blue-collar workers.50 Even though most in the working class are able to afford an adequate standard of living, high economic insecurity and possible personal benefit from an extended social safety net, make the majority of working class person left-of-center on economic issues. Most working class Democrats differ from most liberals, however, in their more socially conservative views. Working class Democrats tend to be more religious and likely to belong to an ethnic minority. Socially conservative and disadvantaged Democrats are among the least educated and lowest earning ideological demographics. In 2005, only 15% had a college degree, compared to 27% at the national average and 49% of liberals, respectively. Together socially conservative and the financially disadvantaged comprised roughly 54% of the Democratic base.33 The continued importance of the working class votes manifests itself in recent CNN exit polls, which shows that the majority of those with low incomes and little education vote for the Democratic Party.272829
Although the "gender gap" has varied over many years, women of all ages are more likely than men to identify as Democrats. Recent polls have indicated that 41% of women identify as Democrats while only 25% of women identify as Republicans and 26% as independents, while 32% of men identify as Democrats, 28% as Republicans and 34% as independents. Among ethnic minorities, women also are more likely than males to identify as Democrats. Also, American women that identified as single, living with a domestic partner, divorced, separated, or widowed are more likely than men in these categories to vote Democratic, in contrast to married Americans, which split about equally between Democrat and Republican. Again, women in these categories are significantly more likely than males in these categories to vote Democratic.52 The National Federation of Democratic Women is an affiliated organization meant to advocate for women's issues. National women's organizations that often support Democratic candidates are Emily's List and the National Organization for Women.
Relation to marital status and parenthood
Americans that identify as single, living with a domestic partner, divorced, separated, or widowed are more likely to vote Democratic, in contrast to married Americans, which split about equally between Democrat and Republican.52
GSS surveys of more than 11,000 Democrats and Republicans conducted between 1996 and 2006 came to the result that the differences in fertility rates are not statistically significant between these parties, with the average Democrat having 1.94 children and the average Republican having 1.91 children.53 However, there is a significant difference in fertility rates between the two related groups liberals and conservatives, with liberals reproducing at much lower rate than conservatives.53
Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Americans typically vote Democratic in national elections within the 70-77% range, according to national media exit polling. In heavily gay precincts in large cities across the nation, the average was higher, ranging from 85-94%. This trend has continued since 1996 when Bill Clinton won 71% of the LGBT vote compared to Bob Dole's 16% and 13% for others. In 2000 Al Gore won 70% to George W. Bush's 25% with 5% for others, in 2004 John Kerry won 77% to George W. Bush's 23%, in 2008 Barack Obama won 70% to John McCain's 27% with 3% to others and in 2012 Barack Obama won 76% to Mitt Romney's 22% with 2% to others. Patrick Egan, a professor of politics at New York University specializing in LGBT voting patterns, calls this a "remarkable continuity." Saying "about three-fourths vote Democratic and one-fourth Republican from year to year."54 Notable LGBT Democrats include current Senator Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin and current Representatives Jared Polis of Colorado and David Cicilline of Rhode Island. The late activist and San Francisco Supervisor Harvey Milk was a Democrat as is former Representative Barney Frank of Massachusetts. The National Stonewall Democrats is an LGBT advocacy group associated with the Democratic Party. The LGBT Equality Caucus is a congressional caucus of 97 Democrats and 3 Republicans that work and advocate for LGBT rights within the House of Representatives.56
From the end of the Civil War, African Americans primarily favored the Republican Party due to its overwhelming political and more tangible efforts in achieving abolition, particularly through President Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation.57 The south had long been a Democratic stronghold, favoring a state's right to legal slavery. In addition, the ranks of the fledgling Ku Klux Klan were composed almost entirely of white Democrats angry over poor treatment by northerners and bent on reversing the policies of Reconstruction.58 However, as years passed and memories waned, African Americans began drifting to the Democratic Party, as Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal programs gave economic relief to all minorities, including African Americans and Hispanics.57 Support for the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s by Democratic presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson helped give the Democrats even larger support among the African-American community, which consistently vote between 85-95% Democratic.57
Prominent modern-day African-American Democratic politicians include Jim Clyburn, Ed Towns, Maxine Waters, John Lewis, Deval Patrick, Charles Rangel, John Conyers, and the current President of the United States, Barack Obama, who managed to net over 95% of the African-American vote in the 2008 election.59 Despite being unaffiliated, the NAACP often participates in organizing and voter turnout drives and advocates for progressive causes, especially those that affect people of color.60 Within the House of Representatives, the Congressional Black Caucus, consisting of 44 black Democrats, serves to represent the interests of African Americans and advocate on issues that affect them.
Hispanic and Latino Americans
The Hispanic population, particularly the large Mexican American population in the Southwest and the large Puerto Rican and Dominican populations in the Northeast, have been strong supporters of the Democratic Party. They commonly favor liberal views on immigration.citation needed In the 1996 presidential election, Democratic President Bill Clinton received 72% of the Hispanic vote.61 In following years, however, the Republican Party gained increasing support from the Hispanic community, especially among Hispanic Protestants and Pentecostals. With his much more liberal views on immigration, President Bush was the first Republican president to gain 40% of the Hispanic vote (he did so in the 2004 presidential election). Yet the Republican Party's support among Hispanics eroded in the 2006 midterm elections, dropping from 44% to 30%, with the Democrats gaining in the Hispanic vote from 55% in 2004 to 69% in 2006.2829 Democrats increased their share of the Hispanic vote in the 2008 presidential election, with Barack Obama receiving 67%. According to exit polls by Edison Research, Obama increased his support again in 2012, winning 71% of Hispanic voters.62
Cuban Americans still tend to vote Republican, though there has been a noticeable change starting with the 2008 elections. During the 2008 elections Barack Obama received 47% of the Cuban American vote in Florida.63 According to Bendixen's exit polls, 84% of Miami-Dade Cuban American voters 65 or older backed McCain, while 55% of those 29 or younger backed Obama,64 showing that the younger Cuban-American generation has become more liberal.
Unaffiliated Hispanic advocacy groups that often support progressive candidates and causes include the National Council of La Raza and the League of United Latin American Citizens. In the House of Representatives, the Democratic caucus of Hispanic Americans is the Congressional Hispanic Caucus.
The Democratic Party also has strong support among the Native American population, particularly in Arizona, New Mexico, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Washington, Alaska, Idaho, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and North Carolina. Though now a small percentage of the population (virtually non-existent in some regions), most Native American precincts vote Democratic in margins exceeded only by African-Americans.65
Jewish American communities tend to be a stronghold for the Democratic Party, with more than 70% of Jewish voters having cast their ballots for the Democrats in the 2004 and 2006 elections.2829 Al Gore received 79% of the Jewish votes in 2000, and Barack Obama won about 77% of the Jewish vote in 2008.66 Support tends to vary among specific sectarian groups. For example, only 13% of Orthodox Jews supported Barack Obama in 2008 while around 60% of Conservative Jews and Reform Jews did so.67 A 2010 poll by the Pew Research Center found that 60% of self-described Jews identified as Democratic or leaning towards the party, compared to 33% with those feelings towards Republicans.15
Jews as an important Democratic constituency are especially politically active and influential in large cities such as New York City, Los Angeles, Boston, Chicago; and play critical roles in large cities within presidential swing states, such as Philadelphia, Miami, and Las Vegas. Many prominent national Democrats in recent decades have been Jewish, including Chuck Schumer, Abraham Ribicoff, Henry Waxman, Martin Frost, Joseph Lieberman, Dianne Feinstein, Barney Frank, Barbara Boxer, Paul Wellstone, Rahm Emanuel, Russ Feingold, Herb Kohl, and Howard Metzenbaum.67
Arab and Muslim Americans
Arab Americans and Muslim Americans have leaned Democratic since the Iraq War.68 Zogby found in June 2007 that 39% of Arab Americans identify as Democrats, 26% as Republicans, and 28% as independents.68
The 2012 poll found that 68% of Muslim Americans surveyed support Barack Obama.70
The Democratic Party also has strong support in the small but growing Asian American population. The Asian American population had been a stronghold of the Republican Party through the United States presidential election of 1992 in which George H. W. Bush won 55% of the Asian American vote, compared to Bill Clinton winning 31%, and Ross Perot winning 15% of the Asian vote. Originally, the vast majority of Asian Americans consisted of anti-communist Vietnamese refugees, Chinese Americans, Korean Americans, and socially conservative Filipinos who fled Ferdinand Marcos in the 1960s through the 1980s. The Democratic party made gains among the Asian American population starting with 1996 and in 2006, won 62% of the Asian American vote. Exit polls after the 2008 presidential election indicated that Democratic candidate, Barack Obama won 62% of the Asian American vote nationwide.71 In the 2012 Presidential election, 73% of the Asian American electorate voted for Obama's re-election.72 This is due to demographic shifts in the Asian American community, with growing numbers of well educated Chinese and Asian Indian immigrants that are typically economic centrist and social progressives.
Barack Obama currently has the support of 85% of Indian Americans, 68% of Chinese Americans, and 57% of Filipino Americans.73 The Asian American community's increasing number of young voters has also helped to erode traditionally reliably Republican voting blocs such as Vietnamese and Filipino Americans, leading to an increase in support for Democrats. Prominent Asian-American Democrats include Senators Daniel Inouye, Daniel Akaka and Mazie Hirono, former Governor and Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke, and Representatives Mike Honda, Judy Chu, Doris Matsui, and Norman Mineta.
Recent issue stances
The following views are generally held by Democrats.citation needed
Democrats favor a higher minimum wage, and more regular increases. The Fair Minimum Wage Act of 2007 was an early component of the Democrats' agenda during the 110th Congress. In 2006, the Democrats supported six state ballot initiatives to increase the minimum wage; all six initiatives passed.
Democrats generally support a more progressive tax structure to provide more services and reduce economic inequality.74 Currently they have proposed allowing those tax cuts the Bush administration gave to the wealthiest Americans to expire as written in the original legislation while wishing to keep in place those given to the middle class.7475 Democrats generally support more government spending on social services while spending less on the military.7677 They oppose the cutting of social services, such as Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and various welfare programs,78 believing it to be harmful to efficiency and social justice. Democrats believe the benefits of social services, in monetary and non-monetary terms, are a more productive labor force and cultured population, and believe that the benefits of this are greater than any benefits that could be derived from lower taxes, especially on top earners, or cuts to social services. Furthermore, Democrats see social services as essential towards providing positive freedom, i.e. freedom derived from economic opportunity. The Democratic-led House of Representatives reinstated the PAYGO (pay-as-you-go) budget rule at the start of the 110th Congress.79 DNC Chairman Howard Dean has cited Bill Clinton's presidency as a model for fiscal responsibility.
Health care reform
Democrats call for "affordable and quality health care," and many advocate an expansion of government intervention in this area. Many Democrats favor national health insurance or universal health care in a variety of forms to address the rising costs of modern health insurance. Some Democrats, such as Representatives John Conyers and John Dingell, have called for a single-payer program of Medicare for All. The Progressive Democrats of America, a group operating inside the Democratic Party, has made single-payer universal health care one of their primary policy goals.80
Some Democratic governors have supported purchasing Canadian drugs, citing lower costs and budget restrictions as a primary incentive. Recognizing that unpaid insurance bills increase costs to the service provider, who passes the cost on to health-care consumers, many Democrats advocate expansion of health insurance coverage.
Policies which most Democrats favor include:
- ending the ability of insurers to drop coverage when people get sick
- ending lifetime caps on benefits and payments insurers provide
- creating a nation-wide insurance exchange across state lines
- dropping the current anti-trust provision for insurance companies
- requiring large businesses to provide employer-based insurance
- mandating coverage for all Americans
- ending insurance companies' ability to discriminate based on pre-existing conditions
- expansion of Medicaid
- providing subsidies for low to moderate income families and small businesses
- allowing children to stay on their parents' coverage longer
- the expansion of Medicare to those aged 55
- importing Canadian drugs and creating a national public insurance option paid for by premiums and co-pays.
Many of these proposals were included in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010.
Renewable energy and oil
Democrats have opposed tax cuts and incentives to oil companies, favoring a policy of developing domestic renewable energy, such as Montana's state-supported wind farm and "clean coal" programs as well as setting in place a cap and trade policy in hopes of reducing carbon emissions and creating incentives for clean-energy innovations.
Democrats believe that the government should protect the environment and have a history of environmentalism. In more recent years, this stance has had as its emphasis alternative energy generation as the basis for an improved economy, greater national security, and general environmental benefits.81
The Democratic Party also favors expansion of conservation lands and encourages open space and rail travel to relieve highway and airport congestion and improve air quality and economy; it "believe[s] that communities, environmental interests, and government should work together to protect resources while ensuring the vitality of local economies. Once Americans were led to believe they had to make a choice between the economy and the environment. They now know this is a false choice."82
The most important environmental concern of the Democratic Party is global warming. Democrats, most notably former Vice President Al Gore, have pressed for stern regulation of greenhouse gases. On October 15, 2007, he won the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts to build greater knowledge about man-made climate change, and laying the foundations for the measures needed to counteract these changes asserting that "the climate crisis is not a political issue, it is a moral and spiritual challenge to all of humanity."83
Most Democrats have the long-term aim of having low-cost, publicly funded college education with low tuition fees (like in much of Europe and Canada), which should be available to every eligible American student, or alternatively, with increasing state funding for student financial aid such as the Pell Grant or college tuition tax deduction.8485
The Democratic Party has a mixed record on international trade agreements that reflects a diversity of viewpoints in the party. The liberal and cosmopolitan wing of the party, including the intelligentsia and college-educated professionals overall, tend to favor globalization, while the organized labor wing of the party opposes it.86 In the 1990s, the Clinton administration and a number of prominent Democrats pushed through a number of agreements such as the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Since then, the party's shift away from free trade became evident in the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) vote, with 15 House Democrats voting for the agreement and 187 voting against.8788
In his 1997 Achieving Our Country, philosopher Richard Rorty, professor at Stanford University states that economic globalization "invites two responses from the Left. The first is to insist that the inequalities between nations need to be mitigated... The second is to insist that the primary responsibility of each democratic nation-state is to its own least advantaged citizens... the first response suggests that the old democracies should open their borders, whereas the second suggests that they should close them. The first response comes naturally to academic leftists, who have always been internationally minded. The second comes naturally to members of trade unions, and to marginally employed people who can most easily be recruited into right-wing populist movements." (p. 88)86
Alternative Minimum Tax
While the Democratic Party is in support of a progressive tax structure, it has vowed to adjust the Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT). The tax was originally designed to tax the rich but now may affect many households, especially those with incomes ranging from $75,000 to $100,000. The party proposed to re-adjust the tax in such a manner as to restore its initial intention. According to a 2007 Reuters News Report, "House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Charles B. Rangel has said he will push for permanent AMT relief for those taxpayers who were never meant to pay it."89
The Democratic Party supports equal opportunity for all Americans regardless of sex, age, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity, religion, creed, or national origin. Many Democrats support affirmative action programs to further this goal. Democrats also strongly support the Americans with Disabilities Act to prohibit discrimination against people based on physical or mental disability. As such, the Democrats pushed as well the ADA Amendments Act of 2008, a legal expansion that became law.
Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender rights
The Democratic Party is generally supportive of LGBT rights. Most support for same-sex marriage in the United States has come from Democrats, although some favor civil unions instead or oppose same-sex marriage. Support for same-sex marriage has increased in the past decade according to ABC News. An April 2009 ABC News/Washington Post public opinion poll put support among Democrats at 62%,90 while a June 2008 Newsweek poll found that 42% of Democrats support same-sex marriage while 23% support civil unions or domestic partnership laws and 28% oppose any legal recognition at all.91 A broad majority of Democrats have supported other LGBT-related laws such as extending hate crime statutes, legally preventing discrimination against LGBT people in the workforce, and repealing Don't ask, don't tell. A 2006 Pew Research Center poll of Democrats found that 55% supported gays adopting children with 40% opposed while 70% support gays in the military with only 23% opposed.92 Gallup polling from May 2009 stated that 82% of Democrats support open enlistment.93
The 2004 Democratic National Platform stated that marriage should be defined at the state level and it repudiated the Federal Marriage Amendment.94 The 2008 platform, while not stating support of same-sex marriage, called for repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act, which banned federal recognition of same-sex marriage and removed the need for interstate recognition, supported antidiscrimination laws and the extension of hate crime laws to LGBT people, and opposed the don't ask, don't tell military policy.95 The 2012 platform included support for same-sex marriage and for the repeal of DOMA.96
President Barack Obama became the first sitting U.S. president to say he supports same-sex marriage, announcing his position on May 9, 2012.9798 Previously, he had opposed restrictions on same-sex marriage such as the Defense of Marriage Act, which he promised to repeal,99 California's Prop 8,100 and a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage (which he opposed saying that "decisions about marriage should be left to the states as they always have been."101) but also stated that he personally believed marriage to be between a man and a woman and that he favored civil unions that would "give same-sex couples equal legal rights and privileges as married couples".99 Earlier, when running for the Illinois Senate in 1996, he said that he "unequivocally support(ed) gay marriage" and "favor(ed) legalizing same-sex marriages, and would fight efforts to prohibit such marriages."102 Senator John Kerry, Democratic presidential candidate in 2004, did not support same-sex marriage. Former President Bill Clinton and former Vice President Al Gore said in 2009 that they now support gay marriage.103104
Abortion and reproductive rights
Most members of the Democratic Party believe that all women should have access to birth control, and support public funding of contraception for poor women. The Democratic Party, in its national platforms from 1992 to 2004, has called for abortion to be "safe, legal and rare" — namely, keeping it legal by rejecting laws that allow governmental interference in abortion decisions, and reducing the number of abortions by promoting both knowledge of reproduction and contraception, and incentives for adoption. The wording changed in the 2008 platform. When Congress voted on the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act in 2003, Congressional Democrats were split, with a minority (including current Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid) supporting the ban, and the majority of Democrats opposing the legislation.
The Democratic Party opposes attempts to reverse the 1973 Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade, which declared abortion covered by the constitutionally protected individual right to privacy under the Ninth Amendment, and Planned Parenthood v. Casey, which lays out the legal framework in which government action alleged to violate that right is assessed by courts. As a matter of the right to privacy and of gender equality, many Democrats believe all women should have the ability to choose to abort without governmental interference. They believe that each woman, conferring with her conscience, has the right to choose for herself whether abortion is morally correct. Some Democrats also believe that poor women should have a right to publicly funded abortions.
Current Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid self-identifies as 'pro-life', while President Barack Obama and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi self-identify as 'pro-choice'. Groups such as Democrats for Life of America represent the pro-life faction of the party, while groups such as EMILY's List represent the pro-choice faction. A Newsweek poll from October 2006 found that 25% of Democrats were pro-life while a 69% majority was pro-choice.105 Pro-life Democrats themselves state that they represent over 40% of Democrats.106
Embryonic stem cell research
The Democratic Party has voiced strong support for embryonic stem cell research with federal funding.107 In his 2004 platform, John Kerry affirmed his support of federally funded embryonic stem cell research "under the strictest ethical guidelines," saying, "We will not walk away from the chance to save lives and reduce human suffering."94 In 2009, Barack Obama lifted the eight-year running ban on embryonic stem cell research and proposed federal funding to further research.
Foreign policy issues
Invasion of Afghanistan
Democrats in the House of Representatives and in the Senate near-unanimously voted for the Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Terrorists against "those responsible for the recent attacks launched against the United States" in Afghanistan in 2001, supporting the NATO coalition invasion of the nation. Most elected Democrats continue to support the Afghanistan conflict, and some, such as a Democratic National Committee spokesperson, have voiced concerns that the Iraq War shifted too many resources away from the presence in Afghanistan.108109110 Since 2006, Democratic candidate Barack Obama has called for a "surge" of troops into Afghanistan and, since 2008, Republican candidate John McCain has also called for a "surge".110 As President, Obama sent a "surge" force of additional troops to Afghanistan. Troop levels were 94,000 in December 2011, and are falling, with a target of 68,000 by fall 2012. Obama plans to bring all the troops home by 2014.111
Support for the war among the American people has diminished over time, and many Democrats have changed their opinion and now oppose a continuation of the conflict.112113 In July 2008, Gallup found that 41% of Democrats called the invasion a "mistake" while a 55% majority disagreed; in contrast, Republicans were more supportive of the war. The survey described Democrats as evenly divided about whether or not more troops should be sent—56% support it if it would mean removing troops from Iraq and only 47% support it otherwise.113 A CNN survey in August 2009 stated that a majority of Democrats now oppose the war. CNN polling director Keating Holland said, "Nearly two thirds of Republicans support the war in Afghanistan. Three quarters of Democrats oppose the war."112 An August 2009 Washington Post poll found similar results, and the paper stated that Obama's policies would anger his closest supporters.114
The Democratic Party has both recently and historically supported Israel.115116 House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has said, “When it comes to Israel, Republicans and Democrats speak with one voice.”117 A 2008 Gallup poll found that 64% say that they have a favorable image of Israel while only 16% say that they have a favorable image of the Palestinian Authority.115 Within the party, the majority view is held by the Democratic leadership although some members such as John Conyers Jr., George Miller, Nick Rahall, Dave Obey, Pete Stark, Dennis Kucinich, Jim McDermott, and Cynthia McKinney as well as former President Jimmy Carter are less or not supportive of Israel.116 The party leadership refers to the other side as a "fringe".116
The 2008 Democratic Party Platform acknowledges a "special relationship with Israel, grounded in shared interests and shared values, and a clear, strong, fundamental commitment to the security of Israel, our strongest ally in the region and its only established democracy." It also included:
It is in the best interests of all parties, including the United States, that we take an active role to help secure a lasting settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict with a democratic, viable Palestinian state dedicated to living in peace and security side by side with the Jewish State of Israel. To do so, we must help Israel identify and strengthen those partners who are truly committed to peace, while isolating those who seek conflict and instability, and stand with Israel against those who seek its destruction. The United States and its Quartet partners should continue to isolate Hamas until it renounces terrorism, recognizes Israel’s right to exist, and abides by past agreements. Sustained American leadership for peace and security will require patient efforts and the personal commitment of the President of the United States. The creation of a Palestinian state through final status negotiations, together with an international compensation mechanism, should resolve the issue of Palestinian refugees by allowing them to settle there, rather than in Israel. All understand that it is unrealistic to expect the outcome of final status negotiations to be a full and complete return to the armistice lines of 1949. Jerusalem is and will remain the capital of Israel. The parties have agreed that Jerusalem is a matter for final status negotiations. It should remain an undivided city accessible to people of all faiths.118
A January 2009 Pew Research Center study found that, when asked "which side do you sympathize with more", 42% of Democrats and 33% of liberals (a plurality in both groups) sympathize most with the Israelis. Around half of all political moderates and/or independents sided with Israel.119
In 2002, Congressional Democrats were divided on the Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq; 147 voted against it (21 in the Senate and 126 in the House) and 110 voted for it (29 in the Senate, 81 in the House). Since then, many prominent Democrats, such as former Senator John Edwards, have expressed regret about this decision, and have called it a mistake, while others, such as Senator Hillary Clinton have criticized the conduct of the war but not repudiated their initial vote for it (though Clinton later went on to repudiate her stance during the 2008 primaries). Referring to Iraq, in April 2007 Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid declared the war to be "lost" while other Democrats (especially during the 2004 presidential election cycle) accused the President of lying to the public about WMDs in Iraq. Amongst lawmakers, Democrats are the most vocal opponents of Operation Iraqi Freedom and campaigned on a platform of withdrawal ahead of the 2006 mid-term elections.
A March 2003 CBS News poll taken a few days before the invasion of Iraq found that 34% of Democrats nationwide would support it without United Nations backing, 51% would support it only with its backing, and 14% would not support it at all.120 The Los Angeles Times stated in early April 2003 that 70% of Democrats supported the decision to invade while 27% opposed it.121 The Pew Research Center stated in August 2007 that opposition increased from 37% during the initial invasion to 74%.122 In April 2008, a CBS News poll found that about 90% of Democrats disapprove of the Bush administration's conduct and want to end the war within the next year.123
Democrats in the House of Representatives near-unanimously supported a non-binding resolution disapproving of President Bush's decision to send additional troops into Iraq in 2007. Congressional Democrats overwhelmingly supported military funding legislation that included a provision that set "a timeline for the withdrawal of all US combat troops from Iraq" by March 31, 2008, but also would leave combat forces in Iraq for purposes such as targeted counter-terrorism operations.124125 After a veto from the president, and a failed attempt in Congress to override the veto,126 the U.S. Troop Readiness, Veterans' Care, Katrina Recovery, and Iraq Accountability Appropriations Act, 2007 was passed by Congress and signed by the president after the timetable was dropped. Criticism of the Iraq War subsided after the Iraq War troop surge of 2007 led to a dramatic decrease in Iraqi violence. The Democratic-controlled 110th Congress continued to fund efforts in both Iraq and Afghanistan. Presidential candidate Barack Obama advocated a withdrawal of combat troops within Iraq by late 2010 with a residual force of peacekeeping troops left in place.127 He stated that both the speed of withdrawal and the amount of troops left over would be "entirely conditions-based."127
On February 27, 2009, President Obama announced, “As a candidate for president, I made clear my support for a timeline of 16 months to carry out this drawdown, while pledging to consult closely with our military commanders upon taking office to ensure that we preserve the gains we’ve made and protect our troops... Those consultations are now complete, and I have chosen a timeline that will remove our combat brigades over the next 18 months."128 Around 50,000 non-combat related forces will remain.128 Obama's plan drew wide bipartisan support, including that of defeated Republican Presidential candidate Senator John McCain.128
Political status of Puerto Rico
The Democratic Party has expressed its support for the U.S. Citizens of Puerto Rico to exercise their right to self-determination. Puerto Rico has been under U.S. sovereignty for over a century and Puerto Ricans have been U.S. citizens since 1917, but the island’s ultimate status still has not been determined and its 3.9 million residents still do not have voting representation in their national government. Also states that U.S. citizens in Puerto Rico should receive treatment under federal programs that is comparable to that of citizens in the States. In addition indicates that the political status of Puerto Rico remains an issue of overwhelming importance, but lack of resolution about status has held the island back and that it is time for Puerto Rico to take the next step in the history of its status and its relationship to the rest of the United States. The following is the appropriate section from the 2012 party platform:12994130131
As President Obama said when he became the first President to visit Puerto Rico and address its people in 50 years, Boricuas every day help write the American story. Puerto Ricans have been proud American citizens for almost 100 years. During that time, the people of Puerto Rico have developed strong political, economic, social, and cultural ties to the United States. The political status of Puerto Rico remains an issue of overwhelming importance, but lack of resolution about status has held the island back. It is time for Puerto Rico to take the next step in the history of its status and its relationship to the rest of the United States. The White House Task Force Report on Puerto Rico has taken important and historic steps regarding status. We commit to moving resolution of the status issue forward with the goal of resolving it expeditiously. If local efforts in Puerto Rico to resolve the status issue do not provide a clear result in the short term, the President should support, and Congress should enact, self-executing legislation that specifies in advance for the people of Puerto Rico a set of clear status options, such as those recommended in the White House Task Force Report on Puerto Rico, which the United States is politically committed to fulfilling. The economic success of Puerto Rico is intimately linked to a swift resolution of the status question, as well as consistent, focused efforts on improving the lives of the people of Puerto Rico. We have made great progress for Puerto Rico over the past four years, including a sharp, historic increase in Medicaid funding for the people of Puerto Rico and fair and equitable inclusion in the Recovery Act and the Affordable Care Act. Going forward, we will continue working toward fair and equitable participation for Puerto Rico in federal programs. We support increased efforts by the federal government to improve public safety in Puerto Rico and the United States Virgin Islands, with a particular emphasis on efforts to combat drug trafficking and crime throughout our Caribbean border. In addition, consistent with the task force report, we will continue to work on improving Puerto Rico's economic status by promoting job creation, education, health care, clean energy, and economic development on the Island.
The party pursues a Russia policy that recognizes that country’s importance and advances the core U.S. security interests at stake in Russia’s historic transformation, beginning with cooperative work to secure vulnerable stockpiles of nuclear weapons and materials.132
Democrats usually oppose the doctrine of unilateralism, which dictates that the United States should use military force without any assistance from other nations whenever it believes there is a threat to its security or welfare. They believe the United States should act in the international arena in concert with strong alliances and broad international support. This was a major foreign policy issue of John Kerry's 2004 presidential campaign; his platform attributed rifts with international allies to unilateralism. Barack Obama's 2008 campaign also discussed promoting the image of the United States abroad.
In a general sense, the modern Democratic Party is more closely aligned with the international relations theories of liberalism, neoliberalism, and functionalism than realism and neorealism, though realism has some influence on the party. Wilsonian idealism, in which unilateral foreign intervention is justified to end genocide or other humanitarian crises, has also played a major role both historically and currently- with its supporters known as 'liberal hawks'.
Many Democrats are opposed to the use of torture against individuals apprehended and held prisoner by the U.S. military, and hold that categorizing such prisoners as unlawful combatants does not release the U.S. from its obligations under the Geneva Conventions. Democrats contend that torture is inhumane, decreases the United States' moral standing in the world, and produces questionable results. Democrats largely spoke out against waterboarding.
All but two Democrats in the U.S. Senate voted for the original Patriot Act legislation in 2001. The lone nay vote was from Russ Feingold of Wisconsin; Mary Landrieu of Louisiana did not vote. In the House the Democrats voted for the Act by 145 yea and 62 nay. Democrats split on the renewal in 2006. In the Senate, Democrats voted 34 for the 2006 renewal, and 9 against. In the House, Democrats voted 66 voted for the renewal, and 124 against.133
Right to privacy
Some Democratic officeholders have championed consumer protection laws that limit the sharing of consumer data between corporations. Most Democrats oppose sodomy laws and believe that government should not regulate consensual noncommercial sexual conduct among adults as a matter of personal privacy.
With a stated goal of reducing crime and homicide, the Democratic Party has introduced various gun control measures, most notably the Gun Control Act of 1968, the Brady Bill of 1993, and Crime Control Act of 1994. However, some Democrats, especially rural, Southern, and Western Democrats, favor fewer restrictions on firearm possession and warned the party was defeated in the 2000 presidential election in rural areas because of the issue.134 In the national platform for 2008, the only statement explicitly favoring gun control was a plan calling for renewal of the 1994 Assault Weapons Ban.
The Democratic Party supports the death penalty far less than the Republican Party. Though most Democrats in Congress have never seriously moved to overturn the rarely used federal death penalty, both Russ Feingold and Dennis Kucinich have introduced such bills with little success. Democrats have led efforts to overturn state death penalty laws, particularly in New Jersey and in New Mexico. They have also sought to prevent reinstatement of the death penalty in those states which currently prohibit it, including Massachusetts and New York. During the Clinton administration, Democrats led the expansion of the federal death penalty. These efforts resulted in the passage of the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996, signed into law by President Clinton, the law heavily limited appeals in death penalty cases.
In 1992, 1993, and 1995, Democratic Texas Congressman Henry González unsuccessfully introduced the Death Penalty Abolition Amendment which prohibited the use of capital punishment in the United States. Democratic Missouri Congressman William Lacy Clay, Sr. cosponsored the amendment in 1993.
During his Illinois Senate career, now-President Barack Obama successfully introduced legislation intended to reduce the likelihood of wrongful convictions in capital cases, requiring videotaping of confessions. When campaigning for the presidency, Obama stated that he supports the limited use of the death penalty, including for people who have been convicted of raping a minor under the age of 12, having opposed the Supreme Court's ruling in Kennedy v. Louisiana that the death penalty was unconstitutional in child rape cases.135 Obama has stated that he thinks the "death penalty does little to deter crime", and that it is used too frequently and too inconsistently.136
State and territorial parties
- List of United States Democratic Party presidential tickets
- Democratic organizations
- Factions in the Democratic Party (United States)
- Politics of the United States - Organization of American political parties
- Political party strength in U.S. states
- 2008 Democratic National Convention
- Atari Democrat
- Bourbon Democrat
- National Jewish Democratic Council
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