Political Sigh is launching a series today that tackles the terminology and ideology that define our political structure. The first two days will be about the Democratic Party and the Republican Party respectively. Afterwards, we will discuss some other political philosophies that are bandied about in our political culture. Today, let’s start with the Democratic Party.
A Brief History of the Democratic Party
The Democratic Party is the oldest of our political parties and one of the oldest political parties in the world (1). The party’s roots date back to the days of Thomas Jefferson, when the Democratic-Republican Party was founded to oppose the Federalist Party (2). However, the modern party dates back to the 1830s when Martin Van Buren founded the Democratic Party. The first president elected who was a Democrat was Andrew Jackson from Tennessee.
After a split during the Civil War into two different factions, the Democratic Party was weakened. However, given enough time and the right people, any party can return to prominence. That happened with the presidential election of 1932, when a Democratic president was elected by the name of Franklin Delano Roosevelt. He was the champion of the New Deal after the economic collapse of 1929. The New Deal focused on relief, recovery and reform: relief of unemployment and rural anguish, recovery of the economy, and reform to make sure there was never another Great Depression. Roosevelt was also the only president in history to be elected to four terms. After Roosevelt, there was a string of Democratic victories. Presidents such as John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama have all represented the party.
What Do Democrats Believe?
The Democratic Party was founded on a belief that people should be represented regardless of how much money is in their bank account (3). That is the basic party platform. But with any party there are different factions and viewpoints.
Generally, Democrats lean to the left on the political scale.
They take a center- to-left view and champion liberal viewpoints.
By taking this center-to-left view, Democrats promote funding social programs such as Welfare and Medicaid. Democrats also tend to support raising taxes for people who are wealthy. There is a term called “Blue Dog Democrats,” which is a branch of Democrats who typically support fiscal conservatism (meaning that they may not favor raising taxes for everyone) but are socially liberal (4).
Social issues are another thing that Democrats usually fall to the left on as well. Democrats are generally more accepting of matters like same-sex marriage, pro-abortion rights, and equal rights for all. Topics like these are typically the ones that cause the most heated debates between Democrats and Republicans.
So What Does a Donkey Have To Do With Anything?
During the election of 1828, Andrew Jackson was the Democratic presidential nominee. His political opponents took to calling him “jackass” as a political insult. Highly amused, the stubborn Jackson began using the donkey as a symbol for his campaign. But it wasn’t until the 1870s that cartoonist Thomas Nast used a donkey to symbolize the Democratic Party. The symbol of the donkey has been used ever since (5).
Check back tomorrow for a look at the Republican Party.
1) History of the United States Democratic Party. Wikipedia. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_the_United_States_Democratic_Party
2) The History of the Democratic Party. http://www.wasatchwatcher.com/history-democratic-party.html.
3) See reference number 2.
4) What is a Democrat? Wisegeek. http://www.wisegeek.com/what-is-a-democrat.htm
5) Donkey and Elephant: The History of these Symbols in Politics. The Political Arena. http://www.wisegeek.com/what-is-a-democrat.htm
For more information on the Democratic Party visit: www.democrats.org