Democratic party

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Democratic party,

American political party; the oldest continuous political party in the United States.

Origins in Jeffersonian Democracy

When political alignments first emerged in George Washington's administration, opposing factions were led by Alexander HamiltonHamilton, Alexander,
1755–1804, American statesman, b. Nevis, in the West Indies. Early Career

He was the illegitimate son of James Hamilton (of a prominent Scottish family) and Rachel Faucett Lavien (daughter of a doctor-planter on Nevis and the estranged
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 and Thomas JeffersonJefferson, Thomas,
1743–1826, 3d President of the United States (1801–9), author of the Declaration of Independence, and apostle of agrarian democracy. Early Life

Jefferson was born on Apr. 13, 1743, at "Shadwell," in Goochland (now in Albemarle) co.
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. In the basic disagreement over the nature and functions of government and of society, the Jeffersonians advocated a society based on the small farmer; they opposed strong centralized government and were suspicious of urban commercial interests. Their ideals—opposed to those of the Federalist partyFederalist party,
in U.S. history, the political faction that favored a strong federal government. Origins and Members

In the later years of the Articles of Confederation there was much agitation for a stronger federal union, which was crowned with success when the
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—came to be known as Jeffersonian democracy, based in large part on faith in the virtue and ability of the common man and the limitation of the powers of the federal government. This group of Anti-Federalists, who called themselves Republicans or Democratic Republicans (the name was not fixed as Democratic until 1828), supported many of the ideals of the French Revolution and opposed close relations with Great Britain.

Led by Jefferson and his ally James MadisonMadison, James,
1751–1836, 4th President of the United States (1809–17), b. Port Conway, Va. Early Career

A member of the Virginia planter class, he attended the College of New Jersey (now Princeton), graduating in 1771.
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, the group had become a nationwide party by 1800, winning the support of Aaron BurrBurr, Aaron,
1756–1836, American political leader, b. Newark, N.J., grad. College of New Jersey (now Princeton). Political Career

A brilliant law student, Burr interrupted his study to serve in the American Revolution and proved himself a valiant soldier in
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 and George ClintonClinton, George,
1739–1812, American statesman, vice president of the United States (1805–1812), b. Little Britain, N.Y. Before he was 20 he served on a privateer and, in the French and Indian War, accompanied the regiment of his father, Charles Clinton, in the
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 in New York, of Benjamin RushRush, Benjamin,
1745?–1813, American physician, signer of the Declaration of Independence, b. Byberry (now part of Philadelphia), Pa., grad. College of New Jersey (now Princeton), 1760, M.D. Univ. of Edinburgh, 1768.
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 and Albert GallatinGallatin, Albert
, 1761–1849, American financier and public official, b. Geneva, Switzerland. Left an orphan at nine, Gallatin was reared by his patrician relatives and had an excellent education.
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 in Pennsylvania, and of most influential politicians in the South. Jefferson became President in 1800 in an election that has often been called a turning point in American history. With this election emerged an alliance between Southern agrarians and Northern city dwellers, an alliance that grew to be the dominating coalition of the party. With Madison and James MonroeMonroe, James,
1758–1831, 5th President of the United States (1817–25), b. Westmoreland co., Va. Early Life

Leaving the College of William and Mary in 1776 to fight in the American Revolution, he served in several campaigns and was wounded (Dec.
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 succeeding Jefferson, the party's "Virginia dynasty" held the presidency until 1824.

The Dominant Party

As the Federalist party waned, politics came to consist mainly of feuds within the Democratic Republican organization, such as the opposition of the QuidsQuids,
in U.S. political history, an extreme states' rights group of Jeffersonian Republicans led by John Randolph of Virginia. Feeling that Thomas Jefferson and James Madison had retreated from the states' rights position they had taken in the Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions
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 to Madison's election (1808) and the peace ticket led by De Witt ClintonClinton, De Witt
, 1769–1828, American statesman, b. New Windsor, N.Y.; son of James Clinton. He was admitted (1790) to the New York bar but soon became secretary to his uncle, George Clinton, first governor of the state, and in that position (1790–95) gained
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 (1812). By 1820 the party dominated the nation so completely that Monroe was reelected without opposition. But the foundations for political regrouping were being laid.

In 1824 the electoral vote was split between Andrew JacksonJackson, Andrew,
1767–1845, 7th President of the United States (1829–37), b. Waxhaw settlement on the border of South Carolina and North Carolina (both states claim him). Early Career

A child of the backwoods, he was left an orphan at 14.
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, John Quincy AdamsAdams, John Quincy,
1767–1848, 6th President of the United States (1825–29), b. Quincy (then in Braintree), Mass.; son of John Adams and Abigail Adams and father of Charles Francis Adams (1807–86).
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, William H. CrawfordCrawford, William Harris,
1772–1834, American statesman, b. Amherst co., Va. (his birthplace is now in Nelson co.). He moved with his parents to South Carolina and later to Georgia. After studying law he practiced at Lexington, Va.
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, and Henry ClayClay, Henry,
1777–1852, American statesman, b. Hanover co., Va. Early Career

His father died when he was four years old, and Clay's formal schooling was limited to three years.
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; when the election went into the House of Representatives, Clay threw his support to Adams, who won. Jackson was elected in 1828 and in 1832 (when his followers held the first national conventionconvention,
in U.S. politics, a gathering of delegates to nominate candidates for elective office and to formulate party policy. They are held at the national, state, and local levels.
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 of the Democratic party). In the debates of his administrations, especially over his dissolution of the Bank of the United States and the nullificationnullification,
in U.S. history, a doctrine expounded by the advocates of extreme states' rights. It held that states have the right to declare null and void any federal law that they deem unconstitutional.
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 controversy, opposition ultimately coalesced in the Whig partyWhig party,
one of the two major political parties of the United States in the second quarter of the 19th cent. Origins

As a party it did not exist before 1834, but its nucleus was formed in 1824 when the adherents of John Quincy Adams and Henry Clay joined forces
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.

Until 1860 the Democrats won all the presidential elections except those of 1840 and 1848, electing Martin Van BurenVan Buren, Martin,
1782–1862, 8th President of the United States (1837–41), b. Kinderhook, Columbia co., N.Y. Early Career

He was reared on his father's farm, was educated at local schools, and after reading law was admitted (1803) to the bar.
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, James K. PolkPolk, James Knox
, 1795–1849, 11th President of the United States (1845–49), b. Mecklenburg co., N.C. Early Career

His family moved (1806) to the Duck River valley in Tennessee and there, after graduating from the Univ.
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, Franklin PiercePierce, Franklin,
1804–69, 14th President of the United States (1853–57), b. Hillsboro, N.H., grad. Bowdoin College, 1824. Admitted to the bar in 1827, he entered politics as a Jacksonian Democrat, like his father, Benjamin Pierce, who was twice elected governor of
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, and James BuchananBuchanan, James,
1791–1868, 15th President of the United States (1857–61), b. near Mercersburg, Pa., grad. Dickinson College, 1809. Early Career

Buchanan studied law at Lancaster, Pa.
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. During this period political debate centered more and more on the bitter question of slavery that was dividing North and South. With the demise of the Whig party in the election of 1852 and the emergence of the sectional, antislavery Republican partyRepublican party,
American political party. Origins and Early Years

The name was first used by Thomas Jefferson's party, later called the Democratic Republican party or, simply, the Democratic party.
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 in 1854 (succeeding the Free-Soil partyFree-Soil party,
in U.S. history, political party that came into existence in 1847–48 chiefly because of rising opposition to the extension of slavery into any of the territories newly acquired from Mexico.
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), the Democrats remained the sole national party.

The vital question of the decade between 1850 and 1860 concerned slavery in the territories, and on this issue the Democratic party divided sharply. One group, mainly Northern, led by Stephen A. DouglasDouglas, Stephen Arnold,
1813–61, American statesman, b. Brandon, Vt. Senatorial Career

He was admitted to the bar at Jacksonville, Ill., in 1834. After holding various state and local offices he became a U.S.
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, championed the doctrine of popular sovereigntypopular sovereignty,
in U.S. history, doctrine under which the status of slavery in the territories was to be determined by the settlers themselves. Although the doctrine won wide support as a means of avoiding sectional conflict over the slavery issue, its meaning remained
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, which held that the inhabitants of the territory should decide whether it would be slave or free. Other Northern Democrats (mostly the old BarnburnersBarnburners,
radical element of the Democratic party in New York state from 1842 to 1848, opposed to the conservative Hunkers. The name derives from the fabled Dutchman who burned his barn to rid it of rats; by implication, the Barnburners would destroy corporations and public
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) swung over to the new antislavery parties. Southern Democrats, led by Robert ToombsToombs, Robert,
1810–85, American statesman, Confederate leader, b. Wilkes co., Ga. A successful lawyer in Georgia, he entered politics as a Whig, serving in the state legislature and in Congress (1845–53).
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 and Jefferson DavisDavis, Jefferson,
1808–89, American statesman, President of the Southern Confederacy, b. Fairview, near Elkton, Ky. His birthday was June 3. Early Life

Davis's parents moved to Mississippi when he was a boy.
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 among others, and buttressed by the Supreme Court's decision in the Dred Scott CaseDred Scott Case,
argued before the U.S. Supreme Court in 1856–57. It involved the then bitterly contested issue of the status of slavery in the federal territories. In 1834, Dred Scott, a black slave, personal servant to Dr. John Emerson, a U.S.
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, held that slavery must be protected in the territories. At the Democratic Convention of 1860 the party split, Northern Democrats nominating Douglas, and the Southern Democrats choosing John C. BreckinridgeBreckinridge, John Cabell,
1821–75, Vice President of the United States (1857–61) and Confederate general, b. Lexington, Ky. A lawyer, Breckinridge served in the Kentucky legislature (1849–51) and in the House of Representatives (1851–55).
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, thus facilitating the victory of Abraham Lincoln.

From the Civil War to Bryan

During the Civil War some members of the party were openly sympathetic toward the South (see CopperheadsCopperheads,
in the American Civil War, a reproachful term for those Northerners sympathetic to the South, mostly Democrats outspoken in their opposition to the Lincoln administration. They were especially strong in Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio, where Clement L.
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), and Republicans in postwar years attempted with some success to depict the Democrats as the party of rebellion. Southern leaders associated the defeat of the South and ReconstructionReconstruction,
1865–77, in U.S. history, the period of readjustment following the Civil War. At the end of the Civil War, the defeated South was a ruined land. The physical destruction wrought by the invading Union forces was enormous, and the old social and economic
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 with the Republican party, and the eleven states of the old Confederacy, with few exceptions, voted Democratic until the 1960s, giving rise to the "solid South."

The years from 1860 to 1912 were lean ones for the party on the national level. In 1876 the Democratic candidate, Samuel J. TildenTilden, Samuel Jones,
1814–86, American political figure, Democratic presidential candidate in 1876, b. New Lebanon, N.Y. Admitted to the bar in 1841, Tilden was an eminently successful lawyer, with many railroad companies as clients.
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, won a plurality of the popular vote, but the disputed electoral votes of Florida, South Carolina, and Louisiana (states still under Republican control) were awarded to the Republican Rutherford B. HayesHayes, Rutherford Birchard,
1822–93, 19th President of the United States (1877–81), b. Delaware, Ohio, grad. Kenyon College, 1843, and Harvard law school, 1845. He became a moderately successful lawyer in Cincinnati and was made (1858) city solicitor.
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, who became President. Thus only the victories of Grover ClevelandCleveland, Grover
(Stephen Grover Cleveland), 1837–1908, 22d (1885–89) and 24th (1893–97) President of the United States, b. Caldwell, N.J.; son of a Presbyterian clergyman.
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 (1884 and 1892) broke the Republican control of the presidency during this period. Yet the Democrats often controlled one or both houses of Congress in this era and had wide success in the states.

In general policy the two parties differed little from the end of Reconstruction in 1877 until 1896. Traditionally the Democrats were more the party of agrarianism and cheap money and the opponents of protective tariffs, and even the most conservative Democrats were opposed to the control of industry and trade by the trusts and big business. However, radical economic and agrarian schemes were as distasteful to many Democrats as they were to the Republicans.

The problem of how to deal with the agrarian appeal of the Populist partyPopulist party,
in U.S. history, political party formed primarily to express the agrarian protest of the late 19th cent. In some states the party was known as the People's party.
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 and with the question of free silverfree silver,
in U.S. history, term designating the political movement for the unlimited coinage of silver. Origins of the Movement

Free silver became a popular issue soon after the Panic of 1873, and it was a major issue in the next quarter century.
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 split the Democrats in Cleveland's second administration. In the convention of 1896 a radical group succeeded in nominating William Jennings BryanBryan, William Jennings
, 1860–1925, American political leader, b. Salem, Ill. Although the nation consistently rejected him for the presidency, it eventually adopted many of the reforms he urged—the graduated federal income tax, popular election of senators, woman
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 for President on a platform calling for free silver and supporting other Populist demands. In the election the party suffered its worst popular defeat since 1872, and it appeared doomed by the impossibility of reconciling its diverse elements—Southern farmers, Western farmers, urban industrial classes, and a wealthy few.

The New Freedom and New Deal

The Democrats regained the presidency in 1912 under Woodrow WilsonWilson, Woodrow
(Thomas Woodrow Wilson), 1856–1924, 28th President of the United States (1913–21), b. Staunton, Va. Educator

He graduated from Princeton in 1879 and studied law at the Univ. of Virginia.
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, but only because the candidacy of Theodore Roosevelt on the Progressive partyProgressive party,
in U.S. history, the name of three political organizations, active, respectively, in the presidential elections of 1912, 1924, and 1948. Election of 1912
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 ticket diminished the Republican vote. Under Wilson's progressive policy, known as the New Freedom, some fruitful reform was enacted, but the idealism he had inspired waned after World War I. Democratic presidential candidates were defeated in the next three elections, but in 1928 urban Democrats made key inroads into important urban voting blocs.

The economic depression that began in 1929 helped to sweep the Democrats and Franklin Delano RooseveltRoosevelt, Franklin Delano
, 1882–1945, 32d President of the United States (1933–45), b. Hyde Park, N.Y. Early Life

Through both his father, James Roosevelt, and his mother, Sara Delano Roosevelt, he came of old, wealthy families.
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 into office in 1932, and with his New Deal the Democrats were again identified as the party of reform. Roosevelt was reelected in 1936 with the largest plurality in the nation's history, and in 1940 he became the first U.S. President to be elected to a third term. After leading the country for three years in World War II, he was reelected for a fourth term in 1944.

Upon his death (Apr., 1945) he was succeeded by Harry S. TrumanTruman, Harry S.,
1884–1972, 33d President of the United States, b. Lamar, Mo. Early Life and Political Career

He grew up on a farm near Independence, Mo., worked at various jobs, and tended the family farm.
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. In 1948, despite the withdrawal from the Democratic convention of many Southern Democrats (whose subsequent nominee was J. Strom ThurmondThurmond, Strom
(James Strom Thurmond) , 1902–2003, U.S. senator from South Carolina (1954–2003), b. Edgefield, S.C. He read law while teaching school (1923–29) and was admitted to the bar in 1930.
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) and despite the candidacy of Henry A. WallaceWallace, Henry Agard,
1888–1965, vice president of the United States (1941–45), b. Adair co., Iowa; grad. Iowa State Univ. He was (1910–24) associate editor of Wallaces' Farmer,
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, Truman narrowly defeated the Republican candidate, Thomas E. Dewey. Adlai E. StevensonStevenson, Adlai Ewing,
1900–1965, American statesman, b. Los Angeles; grandson of Adlai Ewing Stevenson (1835–1914). A graduate (1922) of Princeton, he received his law degree from Northwestern Univ., was admitted (1926) to the bar, and practiced law in Chicago.
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, the Democratic nominee in 1952 and 1956 was easily defeated by Dwight D. Eisenhower.

The 1960s to the Present

In 1960, John F. KennedyKennedy, John Fitzgerald,
1917–63, 35th President of the United States (1961–63), b. Brookline, Mass.; son of Joseph P. Kennedy. Early Life

While an undergraduate at Harvard (1936–40) he served briefly in London as secretary to his father, who was
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 narrowly defeated the Republican candidate, Richard M. Nixon, in the presidential race. Upon Kennedy's assassination (1963), Lyndon B. JohnsonJohnson, Lyndon Baines,
1908–73, 36th President of the United States (1963–69), b. near Stonewall, Tex. Early Life

Born into a farm family, he graduated (1930) from Southwest Texas State Teachers College (now Southwest Texas State Univ.), in San Marcos.
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 became president and won a landslide victory in 1964 against the conservative Republican Barry Goldwater. His administration was marked by much social welfare and civil-rights legislation but the conduct of the Vietnam War split the party, and when combined with the strong third-party showing of the conservative Southern Democrat George C. WallaceWallace, George Corley,
1919–98, governor of Alabama (1963–67, 1971–79, 1983–87), b. Clio, Ala. Admitted to the bar in 1942, he was active in the Alabama Democratic party, serving in the state assembly (1947–53) and as a district court judge
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, led to the defeat of Hubert H. HumphreyHumphrey, Hubert Horatio,
1911–78, U.S. Vice President (1965–69), b. Wallace, S.Dak. After practicing pharmacy for several years, Humphrey taught political science and became involved in state politics.
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 by Richard Nixon in 1968.

The Democratic party of the 1970s and 80s was an uneasy alliance among labor, urban, and ethnic minority groups, intellectuals and middle-class reformers, and increasingly disaffected Southern Democrats. In 1972 the balance in the party was further upset with the nomination of George McGovernMcGovern, George Stanley
, 1922–2012, U.S. senator from South Dakota (1963–81), b. Avon, S.Dak. He was a decorated B-24 bomber pilot during World War II. He later obtained degrees from Dakota Wesleyan Univ. (B.A., 1946) and Northwestern (Ph.D.
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, whose defense and social welfare views proved unacceptable to many labor unions and other groups, while the South continued to swing its support to national Republican candidates. Although the Democrats retained their solid majorities in Congress (except for the Senate in 1980, 1982, and 1984), the victorious national coalition built by Nixon was sustained by Ronald ReaganReagan, Ronald Wilson
, 1911–2004, 40th president of the United States (1981–89), b. Tampico, Ill. In 1932, after graduation from Eureka College, he became a radio announcer and sportscaster.
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 in 1980 and 1984 and by George H. W. BushBush, George Herbert Walker,
1924–, 41st President of the United States (1989–93), b. Milton, Mass., B.A., Yale Univ., 1948. Career in Business and Government
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 in 1988. Jimmy CarterCarter, Jimmy
(James Earl Carter, Jr.), 1924–, 39th President of the United States (1977–81), b. Plains, Ga, grad. Annapolis, 1946.

Carter served in the navy, where he worked with Admiral Hyman G. Rickover in developing the nuclear submarine program.
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, a Democrat from Georgia, may have won in 1976 because of the political scandals that emerged during the second Nixon administration and by temporarily recalling Southern Democratic voters to the fold.

The Democratic victory of Bill ClintonClinton, Bill
(William Jefferson Clinton), 1946–, 42d President of the United States (1993–2001), b. Hope, Ark. His father died before he was born, and he was originally named William Jefferson Blythe 4th, but after his mother remarried, he assumed the surname of his
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 in 1992 was thought by some to have marked the emergence of a new Democratic coalition of labor, women, minorities, moderates, "Reagan Democrats," and the South. In 1994, however, voters expressed their anti-Washington and anti-incumbent sentiments by delivering Republican victories nationwide, with a particularly strong showing in the South, resulting in the loss for the Democrats of their majorities in both houses of Congress as well as the loss of a number of governorships. Clinton's conflicts with the Republican House helped restore much of the stature he had lost in 1994, and with a generally healthy national economy in 1996 he handily defeated Republican Bob DoleDole, Bob
(Robert Joseph Dole), 1923–, American political leader, b. Russell, Kan.; husband of Elizabeth Hanford Dole. While serving in World War II, he was seriously wounded and required several years of convalescence. After obtaining his law degree from Washburn Univ.
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 and Reform party candidate Ross PerotPerot, H. Ross
(Henry Ross Perot), 1930–, American business executive and political leader, b. Texarkana, Tex., grad. Annapolis, 1953. In 1957 he resigned his commission and became a salesman for IBM.
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. Other incumbents, however, also benefited from the voters' general contentment, and Republicans retained control of the House of Representatives and the Senate. This situation was largely unchanged by the 1998 congressional elections despite the Lewinsky scandalLewinsky scandal
, sensation that enveloped the presidency of Bill Clinton in 1998–99, leading to his impeachment by the U.S. House of Representatives and acquittal by the Senate.
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, which Democrats feared would benefit Republicans.

In the 2000 elections, the party's presidential nominee, Al GoreGore, Albert Arnold, Jr.,
1948–, Vice President of the United States (1993–2001), b. Washington, D.C., grad. Harvard, 1969. After serving in the army in Vietnam and working as a reporter, he was elected (1976) to the U.S.
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, lost to Republican George W. BushBush, George Walker,
1946–, 43d President of the United States (2001–9), b. New Haven, Conn. The eldest son of President George H. W. Bush, he was was raised in Texas and, like his father, attended Phillips Academy in Andover, Mass., and Yale, graduating in 1968.
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 despite having won a plurality of the popular vote. Gore's candidacy was hurt by the campaign of Green party candidate Ralph NaderNader, Ralph
, 1934–, U.S. consumer advocate and political reformer, b. Winsted, Conn. Admitted to the bar in 1958, he practiced law in Connecticut and was a lecturer (1961–63) in history and government at the Univ. of Hartford.
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, and the extremely narrow loss of Florida's electoral votes, which Gore unsuccessfully challenged in the courts. Despite Gore's electoral-college loss, the party's fortunes clearly seemed to have improved since the Reagan years, and the Democrats made gains in Congress, subsequently (June, 2001) controlling the Senate due to a Republican member's defection. The Nov., 2002, elections, however, returned control of both houses of Congress to the Republicans. Senator John KerryKerry, John Forbes,
1943–, U.S. politician, b. Denver, grad. Yale, 1966, Boston College law school, 1976. A decorated navy veteran who served two tours in Vietnam after graduating from Yale, Kerry won national notice as an outspoken opponent of the war when he returned
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 easily won the party's 2004 presidential nomination, but he was soundly defeated in the general election by President Bush. The party also saw the Republicans further solidify their majorities in Congress.

The party's national fortunes reversed with the 2006 congressional elections, in which voter discontent with political scandals, the war in Iraq, and other issues resulted in significant Democratic advances, giving the party control of both houses of Congress. Democrats also made gains in the states, winning control of additional governorships and state legislatures. Some of the gains, however, particularly in the U.S. Senate, were due to narrow victories.

In 2008, aided by the unpopularity of the Bush presidency and a national economic crisis, Democrat Barack ObamaObama, Barack
(Barack Hussein Obama 2d), , 1961–, 44th president of the United States (2009–), b. Honolulu, grad. Columbia (B.A. 1983), Harvard Law School (J.D. 1991).
..... Click the link for more information.
 defeated Republican John McCainMcCain, John Sidney, 3d,
1936–, U.S. politician, b. Panama Canal Zone. A much decorated navy veteran, he was born into a career naval family and attended the U.S. Naval Academy, graduating in 1958.
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 to become the first African American to win the nation's highest office. Obama's win represented the Democrat's biggest presidential victory since Jimmy Carter was elected in 1976, and the party generally added to its gains of 2006, especially in the U.S. Congress. Those gains were in large part reversed in 2010, when an uncertain, lackluster recovery contributed to the Republican party's capturing the U.S. House of Representatives as well as winning many governorships and additional U.S. Senate seats. In 2012, despite an economic recovery that continued to be only gradual, Obama was reelected, defeating Republican Mitt RomneyRomney, Mitt
(Willard Mitt Romney) , 1947–, American politician and business executive, b. Detroit, Mich., grad. Brigham Young Univ. (B.A., 1971), Harvard (M.B.A., 1975, J.D., 1975). Son of George W. Romney, he worked for Bain and Co.
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. The balance of power in the Congress remained largely the same, but in the 2014 elections the Republicans won control of the Senate. In 2016, Hillary ClintonClinton, Hillary Rodham
, 1947–, U.S. senator and secretary of state, wife of President Bill Clinton, b. Chicago, grad. Wellesley College (B.A. 1969), Yale Law School (LL.B., 1973). After law school she served on the House panel that investigated the Watergate affair.
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 secured the party's presidential nomination after a primary fight with Sen. Bernie SandersSanders, Bernie
(Bernard Sanders), 1941–, American politician, b. Brooklyn, N.Y. The son of Jewish immigrants from Poland, he spent a year at Brooklyn College and graduated from the Univ. of Chicago (B.A., 1964). He moved to Vermont in 1964.
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.

Bibliography

See C. A. Beard, Economic Origins of Jeffersonian Democracy (1915); A. M. Schlesinger, Jr., The Age of Jackson (1945); H. J. Clancy, The Democratic Party (1962); R. M. Goldman, Search for Consensus (1979) and Dilemma and Destiny (1986); S. E. Frantzich, Political Parties in the Technological Age (1989); D. Sarasohn, Party of Reform: Democrats in the Progressive Era (1989); S. L. Maisel, The Parties Respond: Changes in the American Party System (1990).

Democratic Party

 

(US), one of the two main parties of monopoly capital in the USA (the other is the Republican Party).

The Democratic Party was formed in 1828 (it is often called the successor of the Democratic-Republican Party, founded by T. Jefferson in the 1790’s). Initially, the Democratic Party united the slave-owning Southern planters and that part of the Northern bourgeoisie linked with them, as well as a significant number of farmers and petite bourgeoisie. Toward the middle of the 19th century, the position of the big planter-bourgeoisie coalition in the Democratic Party strengthened. Between 1828 and 1861 it was the ruling party for 24 years: from 1829 to 1841 (Presidents A. Jackson and M. Van Buren), from 1845 to 1849 (President J. K. Polk), and from 1853 to 1861 (Presidents F. Pierce and J. Buchanan). As the contradictions between the North and the South sharpened, particularly on the question of slavery, a split took place in the Democratic Party, which helped the Republican Party strengthen its position. After the Republican candidate A. Lincoln won the election of 1860, the more reactionary group of southern Democrats (called the Dixiecrats) became, during 1860-61, the main organizers of rebellion and of a separatist slave-owning confederation. After the end of the Civil War of 1861-65 the differences between the Democratic Party and the Republican Party began to blur; at the beginning of the 20th century both parties turned into political organizations of big capital. Under the USA’s two-party system, which is used by the ruling class as one means of diverting workers from the struggle for their essential interests, the Democratic and Republican parties periodically replace each other in power. Since 1861 the Democratic Party has held power for 44 years: from 1885 to 1889 and from 1893 to 1897 (President S. G. Cleveland), from 1913 to 1921 (President T. W. Wilson), from 1933 to 1953 (Presidents F. D. Roosevelt and H. Truman), and from 1961 to 1969 (Presidents J. F. Kennedy and L. Johnson).

Defending the interests of monopoly capital, the Democratic Party tries to maintain a base of various social strata and frequently employs sophisticated social demagoguery to that end. At the end of the 1960’s there were three basic groups in the Democratic Party: the center, reflecting primarily the interests of a sector of the major Northeastern monopolies and exercising the greatest influence; the “liberal wing” (radically inclined intelligentsia, some of the trade unions, and students), which in a number of cases called for more flexible domestic and foreign policies; and the Dixiecrats, who united the most reactionary forces of the party, mainly from the southern states, and often formed a coalition with the right wing of the Republican Party. During the electoral campaign of 1968, a group of southern Democrats took an active part in forming the so-called American Independent Party, which held openly racist, profascist positions.

The Democratic Party does not have a permanent membership; membership is defined by voting for its candidates in the elections. The party apparatus, consisting of leaders and officials on various levels who are active in the states, cities, and counties, constitutes the party in the proper sense of the word. Once every four years a party convention is called to choose candidates for the presidency and the vice presidency and to adopt a party program (platform), which does not actually bind the party leaders at all. Between conventions, the Democratic Party’s activity is coordinated by its National Committee; the party factions in both houses of Congress, as well as local party bosses, are very influential. The leader of the party is the president (if the party is in power) or a former president or presidential candidate (if it is out of power). The headquarters of the National Committee is in Washington.

REFERENCES

Lenin, V. I. “Itogi i znachenie prezidentskikh vyborov v Amerike.” Poln. sobr. soch., 5th ed., vol. 22.
Cherniak, E. B. Gosudarstvennyi stroi i politic he skie partii SShA. Moscow, 1957.
Minor, H. The Story of the Democratic Party. New York, 1928.
Chambers, W. N. The Democrats 1789-1964: A Short History of a Popular Party. Princeton-New York, 1964.

D. S. ASANOV

Democratic Party

donkey; symbol of Democratic Party in U.S. politics. [Am. Culture: Misc.]
See: Ass
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