The Democratic Party is one of the two major contemporary political parties in the United States, along with the Republican Party. Tracing its heritage back to Thomas Jefferson and James Madison’s Democratic-Republican Party, the modern-day Democratic Party was founded around 1828 by supporters of Andrew Jackson, making it the world’s oldest active party.
The Democrats’ dominant worldview was once social conservativism and economic liberalism, while—especially in the rural South—populism was its leading characteristic. In 1912, Theodore Roosevelt ran as a third-party candidate in the Progressive (“Bull Moose”) Party, leading to a switch of political platforms between the Democratic and Republican Party and Woodrow Wilson being elected as the first fiscally progressive Democrat. Since Franklin D. Roosevelt and his New Deal coalition in the 1930s, the Democratic Party has also promoted a social-liberal platform, supporting social justice.
Today, the House Democratic caucus is composed mostly of progressives and centrists, with a smaller minority of conservative Democrats. The party’s philosophy of modern liberalism advocates social and economic equality, along with the welfare state. It seeks to provide government intervention and regulation in the economy. These interventions, such as the introduction of social programs, support for labor unions, affordable college tuitions, moves toward universal health care and equal opportunity, consumer protection, and environmental protection form the core of the party’s economic policy. The party has united with smaller liberal regional parties throughout the country, such as the Farmer–Labor Party in Minnesota and the Nonpartisan League in North Dakota.
Well into the 20th century, the party had conservative pro-business and southern conservative-populist anti-business wings. The New Deal Coalition of 1932–1964 attracted strong support from voters of recent European extraction—many of whom were Catholics based in the cities. After Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal of the 1930s, the pro-business wing withered outside the South. After the racial turmoil of the 1960s, most southern whites and many northern Catholics moved into the Republican Party at the presidential level. The once-powerful labor union element became smaller and less supportive after the 1970s. White Evangelicals and Southerners became heavily Republican at the state and local level in the 1990s. Racial and ethnic minorities in the U.S. such as Jewish Americans, Hispanic Americans, Arabic Americans, and African Americans, tend to support the Democratic Party much more than they support the rival Republican Party (GOP), giving the Democratic Party its current membership lead over the Republicans.
15 Democrats have served as president under 16 administrations: the first was seventh president Andrew Jackson, who served from 1829 to 1837; Grover Cleveland served two nonconsecutive terms from 1885 to 1889 and 1893 to 1897, and is thus counted twice (as the 22nd and 24th president). The most recent was the 44th president Barack Obama, who held the office from 2009 to 2017.
In the 115th Congress, following the 2016 elections, Democrats have become the opposition party, holding a minority of seats in both the House of Representatives and the Senate. The party also holds a minority of governorships (15/50) and state legislatures (full control of 12/50, split control of six others), though they do control the mayoralty of cities such as New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, Houston, and Washington, D.C.
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