DEMOCRATIC PARTY, the oldest mass-based political party in the world. The party traces its ancestry to the collaboration between Thomas Jefferson and James Madison of Virginia and Aaron Burr and George Clinton of New York. The four founders of the party may first have gathered in upstate New York in 1791 when Jefferson and Madison were allegedly on a botanical expedition to observe the vegetation and wildlife of the region. The fateful alliance between Virginia and New York, between the planters and small farmers of the South with the small farmers of the West and urban workers of the East, began a durable coalition of American politics that endured into the middle of the twentieth century.
Jefferson, Madison, Burr, and Clinton began their party as an organized opposition to the politics of Alexander Hamilton. Hamilton and his supporters favored a strong central government, debt, credit, banking, and trade policies to further commercial and manufacturing interests, an expanded military and naval budget, and a conciliatory policy toward Great Britain. The Jeffersonian "Republicans" as they were then known, favored minimalist government, retirement of the national debt, no favoritism for banks or for manufacturing enterprises, and discriminatory trade policies that would favor France over Britain. The Jeffersonians conceived that they could make America's agricultural exports into a potent instrument of diplomacy. Jefferson, Madison, and Albert Gallatin, the ablest political economist among them, disdained military and naval expenditure as inherently wasteful and corrupting in peacetime.
The Jeffersonians gained power in both the executive and legislative branches in 1801 and they retained political power for a quarter century, the era known as the "Virginia Dynasty": Jefferson's two terms as president were followed by two terms each for his fellow Virginians James Madison and James Monroe.
Jefferson as president was not the minimalist that Jefferson the opposition leader had been. Although he reduced government expenditures, particularly the war and navy budget, his refusal to pay a "tribute" to the dey of Algiers resulted in the Tripolitan War, and a buildup of American naval forces that extended to the War of 1812. Most importantly, Jefferson the "strict constructionist" of the Constitution dramatically expanded presidential power by negotiating the Louisiana Purchase, which he initiated and concluded without a specific constitutional warrant.
Jefferson's second term and Madison's first term marked a less successful period for the party that now called itself the "Democratic Republicans." The Jeffersonians tried to achieve their diplomatic ends peacefully, and this meant attempting to force diplomatic success through trade policy. Jefferson's Embargo Act and Madison's Non-Intercourse Act marked efforts to secure French and British recognition of America's neutral rights in the midst of their all-out struggle in the Napoleonic Wars.
In the upheaval of the war with Britain in 1812, the Jeffersonians found themselves severely hampered in their defense efforts, in part because of the cutbacks in naval and military budgets they had initiated a decade earlier. In the aftermath of the War of 1812, Madison and Monroe altered their approach to economic policy. Madison endorsed a protective tariff in 1816 and supported a new charter for a Bank of the United States. Madison even cautiously approved of federally initiated internal improvements, such as canals, roads, and river and harbor improvements. By the end of Madison's presidency and throughout Monroe's two terms, known as the "Era of Good Feeling," the Democratic Republican Party largely abandoned its minimalism and supported tariff, banking, and improvements policies originally supported by its Federalist opponents.
After the retirement of James Monroe, the newly renamed "Democratic" Party came to rally around the candidacy of Andrew Jackson. Jackson steered the party back toward its minimalist origins. Jackson vetoed the recharter of the Second Bank of the United States and expressed his hostility to federally funded internal improvements with a veto of the Maysville Road Bill. While Jackson favored tariff reduction in his first term, he would not countenance the efforts of states' rights extremists in South Carolina, under the leadership of John C. Calhoun, to nullify the existing tariff. Jackson reduced the tariff and used the threat of a Force Bill to compel South Carolina to retreat from its dangerous course. Jackson favored aggressive western expansion into Native American lands and he initiated the removal of the remaining Indian tribes in the Southeast—the Cherokees, Creeks, Choctaws, Chickasaws, and Seminoles—to much less hospitable lands more than 1,000 miles farther west in what today is the state of Oklahoma.
Jackson and his successor Martin Van Buren of New York favored the radical "hard money" policies advocated by labor reformers and some small farmers. Jackson initiated the Specie Circular, which required that all land transactions be conducted using coin rather than bank notes. In the aftermath of a severe downturn in the economy in 1837, Van Buren blamed "overspeculation" and called for a complete separation of bank and state. Hereafter all federal deposits would repose in an independent Subtreasury, immune from banking interference but also unavailable for investment to reflate the economy.
While the Specie Circular did not have its intended effect of reducing the power of banks and speculators, neither did it cause the panic of 1837, as many of the Democrats' Whig opponents charged. Nevertheless, the panic of 1837 and the economic discontent that lasted into the 1840s ended the Democratic dominance of the government after a dozen years. The Whig opposition to the Democrats succeeded in 1840 by imitating many of the aspects of Jacksonian Democracy that the voters found most appealing: in the "Log Cabin" campaign of that year they nominated a war hero and alleged log cabin dweller William Henry Harrison, known as "Old Tippecanoe" to supplant "Old Hickory" and his successor "Old Kinder-hook." Van Buren may not have made much impression on the voters in 1840, but he left a lasting impression on American language: His nickname "O.K." came to stand for anything that had popular approval.
The Democrats came back into power in 1845 with the accession to the presidency of another Tennessean, "Young Hickory," James K. Polk. Polk, like Jackson, was an ardent expansionist, and he campaigned for the presidency with promises to annex the republic of Texas to the Union and to extend Oregon Territory to the border of Russian Alaska: "Fifty-Four Forty or Fight!" In the latter affair, Polk accepted reality and abandoned northern expansion in favor of an equitable split of Oregon Territory between the United States and British North America. In the matter of Texas, Polk proved far more willing to resort to war. The successful conclusion of that war and the forced cession by Mexico of California, New Mexico, and the rest of its northern territory proved very popular. Polk's free trade policy, negotiated at a time when Great Britain was also abandoning protectionism, helped to generate significant economic expansion. Polk was sufficiently popular that he could easily have run for reelection. He had promised to serve only a single term, however. A Whig, the Mexican-American War hero General Zachary Taylor, followed in office.
Polk's term as president marks the maturity of the Democratic Party in the antebellum era. The Democrats had succeeded in becoming the dominant party of the era by appealing to most planters in the South, small farmers in the West, and urban workers and immigrants in the Northeast. The Democrats were the party of minimal government and libertarianism on the domestic front. The party was consistently hostile to the causes of social reform, such as temperance, education reform, women's rights, and, most unequivocally, abolitionism. The party supported western expansion and after Polk's term this expansion was linked to extending territory for the expansion of slavery. Jefferson's notion that expansion into the West would extend the "empire of liberty" had given way to an idea condemned by antislavery reformers that further expansion would only further the "empire of slavery."
The Democratic Party in the Sectional Crisis and Civil War
By the mid-1850s the Democratic Party was the only significant national institution that united adherents both North and South. The Democrats accomplished this feat at a time when churches, professional associations, and fraternal organizations, to say nothing of the Whigs, had split over the issue of slavery. The party had achieved this unity by papering over its differences on the issue of slavery and, as a result, antislavery Democrats like David Wilmot, Charles Sumner, and even Martin Van Buren abandoned the party. Beneath the veneer of unity, there lurked a deep division between the wings of the Democratic Party. Northern Democrats like Stephen A. Douglas of Illinois favored popular sovereignty as a solution to the problem of slavery in the territories. Southern Democrats like John C. Breckinridge of Kentucky argued that slave-holders were entitled to full protection of their "property" wherever they should go in the federal territories, a view endorsed by the U.S. Supreme Court in the Dred Scott v. Sandford (1857) decision.
By 1860 the Democrats could no longer paper over their differences. In a four-way presidential contest with Republican Abraham Lincoln and Constitutional Unionist John Bell, both wings of the Democratic Party were resoundingly defeated. With the secession of the Confederate states, the Democratic Party lost its base and became a rump party, deeply divided between War Democrats like Montgomery Blair of Maryland, who served in Lincoln's cabinet, and Peace Democrats like Mayor Fernando Wood of New York, who were openly friendly to the aims of the Confederacy. With the Union victories of 1863 and 1864, General George McClellan, a War Democrat campaigning on a Peace platform, could not win the presidency away from Abraham Lincoln.
The Gilded Age
In the aftermath of the Civil War the Democrats drifted for nearly a decade, unsure of their identity, from the pro-southern urban politics of New York governor Horatio Seymour to the reformist zeal of Horace Greeley, once anathema to every organization Democrat North or South. Although the Democrats under Samuel J. Tilden won the popular vote and in all likelihood the electoral vote in the disputed election of 1876, the Republican Party emerged victorious in a compromise settlement. The Democrats gained by this Faustian bargain, however. With the withdrawal of federal troops from the southern states in 1877, the South became solidly Democratic and succeeded in disenfranchising African Americans almost completely within a decade.
The Democrats' fortunes revived in 1884 thanks to the reformism of New York governor Grover Cleveland. Dedicated to free trade and civil service reform and opposed to expansionism into the Caribbean and Hawaii, the Democrats attracted a significant coterie of reformminded Republicans known as the "Mugwumps." These deserters left their party to support Cleveland and remained in the Democratic Party as the forerunners of the Democratic Progressives.
Populism and Progressivism
In the 1890s, however, the urban and agrarian components of the Democratic coalition drifted apart on the issue of an expansionist money supply. Cleveland and other eastern Democrats, known as "Gold Bugs," favored remaining on the gold standard, a policy that benefited both Wall Street financiers and urban workers. Agrarian Democrats in the West and South, however, suffering severely from credit reduction after the depression of 1893, found a new eloquent champion for an expansionist money policy in the silver-tongued oratory of William Jennings Bryan.
Bryan's oratory left his southern and western listeners spellbound. His hostility to banks and to eastern financial interests had deep roots in Jeffersonian and Jacksonian ideology. Bryan's expansionist money policy engendered hostility, however, among the other key component of the Democratic coalition: urban workers in the East. His money policy and his endorsement of free trade in the depressed economy of the 1890s left wageworkers seeking prosperity under the protectionist policies of William McKinley and the Republicans. Bryan's religious fundamentalism gave his oratory tremendous moral power among those for whom biblical imagery was an appropriate metaphor for all problems of life. His famous peroration delivered at the Chicago Democratic Convention in 1896 electrified his supporters, "You shall not press down upon the brow of labor this crown of thorns, you shall not crucify mankind upon a cross of gold." Others found Bryan's speech more alarming than thrilling. Among liturgical Christians, particularly Catholics and Lutherans, Bryan's use of the crucifixion as political metaphor sounded blasphemous. To Jews, the fixation on Christian crucifixion and on the avarice for gold held unpleasant echoes of European anti-Semitism. The result was the alienation of non-evangelical Democrats from Bryan and from the party. The Republican Party thereafter dominated all sections of the United States except the South until the Great Depression.
The Democrats spent the following sixteen years as a political minority, identified with a kind of retrogressive agrarianism in the South and ethnocentric tribalism in the North. The election of Woodrow Wilson transformed the Democrats in 1912. He led the party away from its agrarian roots and toward an energetic form of progressivism. Wilson's progressivism was more concerned with promoting economic competition than with regulating monopolies. Wilson essentially abandoned the traditional minimalism of previous Democrats from Jefferson and Jackson through Cleveland. Only in one respect did Wilson retain a traditional Democratic approach: Wilson was a strict segregationist who re-segregated the civil service in Washington.
During World War I, Wilson took an antitrust approach in foreign affairs. Like Jefferson and Madison one hundred years earlier, Wilson found it impossible to generate respect for American neutral rights when Europe was once again engaged in an all-out struggle. With America's entry into the war, the Wilsonians' agenda became ever more interventionist. The War Industries Board regulated wages and prices in key defense industries, including steel, petroleum, and railroads.
The aftermath of World War I brought the Democrats new problems. Wilson sponsored the Fourteen Points as principles by which the victorious Allies might lay the foundations of a lasting peace at Versailles. These were hailed abroad and widely admired at home. Wilson's devastating stroke, his consequent lack of judgment, and his failure to cooperate with the Republican-controlled Congress doomed the Versailles Treaty's passage in the Senate, and the failure of the United States to participate in Wilson's cherished League of Nations. The war's aftermath brought other problems on the home front. The passage of the Espionage and Sedition Acts and the "Palmer Raids" led by Wilson's attorney general against domestic radicals tarnished the Democrats' record as the defender of civil liberties. It also harmed the party's image among those ethnic minorities, such as Italians and Jews, singled out for persecution.
The 1920s were a period of eclipse for the Democrats. The party was bitterly divided over ethnocultural issues, including Prohibition, immigration restriction, and whether or not to recognize the Ku Klux Klan. The Democratic Party was deeply divided between Drys and Wets, Protestants and Catholics, Klansmen and their antagonists. Even among what Wilson called "hyphenated Americans," there were deep divisions between northern and southern Europeans, old and new immigrants, Catholics and Jews. With Al Smith's nomination for president in 1928, the latter divisions between non-Protestant immigrants disappeared and the urban Progressive Smith led a new generation of Italian and Jewish Americans into the Democratic fold, where they would later support Franklin D. Roosevelt and the New Deal. Smith, however, proved too much of an urban stereotype for Protestant Democrats in the South and West. His accent, his Catholicism, and his antagonism to Prohibition alienated many Democrats in the South and West into voting Republican for the first time in their lives. In 1928 Smith carried only two heavily Catholic states outside the Deep South: Massachusetts and Rhode Island. The Solid South was no longer solid in the face of a Catholic running for president. Smith lost the Upper South, where fear of Catholicism triumphed over hatred of Republicans. Only in the Deep South (including heavily Catholic Louisiana) did the loathing of Republicans prove stronger than fear of a Catholic in the White House.
The New Deal and the Fair Deal
In 1932, in the worst days of the Great Depression, the Democrats nominated another New Yorker for president: this time however, he had an impeccable old-line Protestant background and he hailed from a rural area in the Hudson River valley. Franklin D. Roosevelt united the Wets, Catholics, Jews, and urban Progressive reformers of the East and Midwest with the small farmers and miners of the West and the lily-white Democratic Party of the South. Roosevelt synthesized the trust-busting economic policy of the Wilsonians with the interventionist regulatory approach of his distant cousin Theodore.
In the midst of the Great Depression, Roosevelt launched the "alphabet soup" of government agencies instituted to help the American economy get going again. In agriculture, labor reform, securities trading, child labor restrictions, social security, unemployment relief, rural electrification, banking, and currency regulation, Roosevelt stamped the Democrats' vision of government as inherently interventionist.
World War II drew the United States once again into an all-out European conflict, and Roosevelt sought an unprecedented third term because the nation required an experienced chief executive in the midst of such a grave worldwide crisis. In the midst of the war, the Democrats sponsored active intervention in the economy. As in World War I, government, industry, and labor found themselves in a sometimes-uneasy partnership directing a planned war economy. Wartime exigencies forced Roosevelt to break with another Democratic tradition: in the midst of the war, by executive order, Roosevelt prohibited racial discrimination in the hiring policy of federal contractors. African Americans reciprocated by giving their support to the Democrats, beginning in 1932 and accelerating in the 1940s. For the first time in American history, by the 1940s the majority of African American votes were cast for the Democrats.
With Roosevelt's death and the defeat of the Axis, the Democrats looked to Harry Truman to orchestrate the postwar strategic and economic order. The devastation of Western Europe and growing tensions with Joseph Stalin over the political complexion of Eastern Europe produced conflict with the Soviet Union in the early stages of formulating a postwar world order. The Soviet blockade of West Berlin and a Communist takeover of Czechoslovakia produced a siege mentality among Americans now in the early stages of the Cold War with the Soviet Union.
Truman and the Democrats supported interventionism and new mechanisms to promote international stability. The Marshall Plan, the World Bank, and the International Monetary Fund produced economic aid and lent stability to the war-torn Western European economies. The Truman Doctrine in the eastern Mediterranean produced "containment" of Communism in Greece and Turkey. American sponsorship of decolonization in India and the Middle East gave Americans greater leverage in those newly emerging states. The United States' recognition of Israel cemented a lasting relationship in the Middle East, despite the antagonism of European allies and the emerging Arab states.
East Asia proved more difficult for Truman and the Democratic Party. The successful Communist Revolution in China prompted Truman's Republican opponents to ask, "Who lost China?" American inability to halt the Korean War before it degenerated into a long, inconclusive stalemate also proved unpopular with the voters. When the Republicans nominated war hero Dwight Eisenhower in 1952, campaigning against "Korea, Communism, and Corruption," they made inroads into hitherto solid Democratic constituencies, including Southerners and Catholics.
In 1954 the Democrats regained their control of both houses of Congress after their losses in the 1952 Eisenhower landslide. The Democratic leadership was able to work with Eisenhower to promote a bipartisan approach to such issues as nuclear energy, federal aid to education, interstate highways, and limited civil rights legislation. The Democrats in Congress and the Eisenhower administration proved unwilling, or incapable, however, of opposing Senator Joseph McCarthy, until his own ruthless excesses destroyed him.
The New Frontier and the Great Society
In 1960 the Democrats broke with tradition and nominated a young, Harvard-educated Catholic, John F. Kennedy, for the presidency. Kennedy inspired a generation of young Americans with his idealistic rhetoric promoting sacrifice. Kennedy sponsored sweeping civil rights legislation, a tax cut to stimulate the economy, and a doctrine of "limited war" that would engage Communism in peripheral struggle without risking nuclear holocaust.
After Kennedy's assassination, President Lyndon Johnson inherited Kennedy's civil rights and limited war initiatives. In the hands of Johnson, widely considered the most effective majority leader of the Senate, sweeping civil rights legislation passed Congress for the first time since Reconstruction. The Democrats, once the party supporting white supremacy, inaugurated an era of Second Reconstruction with the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Voting Rights Act of 1965, and the Fair Housing Bill of 1966. These measures and Johnson's sponsorship of a War on Poverty brought to life the full promise of inclusion for African Americans. That this was achieved by a southerner, thanks to his extraordinary legislative abilities, was an irony lost neither on blacks nor on his fellow white southerners. The Vietnam War, however, proved to be Johnson's worst nightmare. He would not withdraw and he could not escalate the war without risking a nuclear war with the Soviet Union and with China. Johnson was left in a war he could not win, and he refused to run for re-election in a year in which the Democrats seemed bent on self-destruction.
The candidacies of Robert Kennedy and Eugene Mc-Carthy in 1968, and the candidacy of George McGovern in 1972, fired the idealism of the youthful antiwar wing of the Democratic Party. The labor unions, the lower middle class, Catholics, and white southerners expressed their alienation from these new politics by staying away from the polls or defecting to the Republicans or to George Wallace.
The Post-Watergate Democrats
In the aftermath of Watergate, widespread disillusion with the Republicans produced dramatic gains for the Democrats in Congress and in the statehouses in 1974. Despite a four-year hiatus in which white southerner Jimmy Carter temporarily won the South back for the Democrats, the party once again seemed on the verge of convulsion in 1980. With the advent of Ronald Reagan's presidency in that year, the Republicans gained control of the Senate as well as the White House, while the Democrats—bitterly divided once again between the liberal wing supporting Edward Kennedy and the moderate wing supporting Carter—went down to a landslide defeat. The Democrats recovered their control of the Senate in 1986 but continued to govern largely in response to Republican initiatives in the Reagan years and in the Persian Gulf War of President George H. W. Bush.
The election of Bill Clinton in 1992 seemed to argue a return to more of the activist policies of the Democrats in earlier eras, but after the failure of his health care initiative and the ignominious defeat of the Democrats in both houses of Congress the party lost whatever initiative it had in leading the government. Although President Clinton easily won a second term in 1996 and Vice President Al Gore won the popular vote in 2000, after that time the Democratic Party exhibited the deep divisions between its diverse constituencies that marked its earlier errands in the political wilderness.
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As the oldest existing political party in the world, the Democratic Party of the United States experienced its most significant expansion in voter registration and party organization, consistent electoral success in national elections, and fundamental changes in its coalition, policy agenda, and ideology during the Great Depression. Despite Democratic presidential nominee Alfred E. Smith's resounding defeat in the 1928 election, there was evidence of the potential for a future political realignment favoring the Democratic Party. Smith was the first Democratic presidential nominee in many years to win pluralities in the twelve largest American cities. He also carried the two most Catholic, urban states: Massachusetts and Rhode Island. The presidential election of 1928 also stimulated a sharp increase in voter registration and turnout among foreign-born citizens and the voting-age children of immigrants, especially women, who voted overwhelmingly for Smith.
After being nominated for president, Smith had designated John J. Raskob, a wealthy, Catholic, anti-prohibition or "wet," former Republican and General Motors executive, as chairman of the Democratic National Committee (DNC). Through his vigorous fund-raising among his business contacts, Raskob succeeded in liquidating the DNC's $1.5 million campaign debt. He also created and financed a full-time publicity division for then DNC. Its director, Charles Michelson, researched and publicized the policy behavior and statements of Republican president Herbert Hoover, the RNC chairman, and Republicans in Congress so that Raskob and other Democrats could regularly and publicly criticize and oppose Republican policies, especially after the Great Depression began in late 1929.
Nonetheless, Raskob wanted to continue to focus the efforts of the Democratic Party in general and the DNC's apparatus in particular on repealing the national prohibition of alcohol. By concentrating on the prohibition issue, Raskob hoped that the Democratic Party would nominate Smith for president in 1932 and adopt a platform as conservative and pro-big business as the Republican platform on economic issues. Like other conservative Democrats, Raskob blamed the worsening economic conditions on excessive spending, bureaucratic bloat, and an unbalanced federal budget by the Hoover administration.
FRANKLIN D. ROOSEVELT
The major obstacle to Raskob's strategy for the 1932 presidential election was Democratic governor Franklin D. Roosevelt of New York. Roosevelt had served as assistant secretary of the navy during the Woodrow Wilson administration and as the Democratic vice presidential nominee of 1920. He had also made nominating speeches for Al Smith at the 1924 and 1928 Democratic national conventions, earning Roosevelt the respect of many Catholic Democrats. Reluctantly accepting Smith's request that he run for governor in 1928, Roosevelt won by a narrow margin as Smith decisively lost his home state to Hoover.
Frustrated by his failed efforts throughout the 1920s to change the national Democratic Party's organization, decision-making processes, ideology, and future economic platform, Roosevelt used his governorship and titular leadership of the New York Democratic Party as a role model for his future national party leadership as president. In order to attract the support of traditionally Republican, rural upstate New Yorkers, Roosevelt's policy agenda included property tax relief for farmers, the construction of farm-to-market roads, and the development of state-sponsored hydroelectric power for rural areas. With James A. Farley serving as secretary and later chairman of the New York Democratic state committee, Roosevelt directed Farley and Secretary of State Edward J. Flynn to secure the removal of local Democratic chairmen in heavily Republican areas who had been collaborating with Republican politicians in exchange for patronage. The governor also encouraged Farley and Flynn to recruit Democratic candidates for state and local offices in order to provide contested elections in Republican-dominated areas and increase Democratic representation in the Republican-controlled state legislature. Shrewdly attuned to the power of publicity through modern technology, Roosevelt had Farley arrange and finance monthly radio broadcasts and later, for his 1930 reelection campaign, talking movies.
Reelected governor in 1930 with 62 percent of the votes and a winning margin of more than 167,000 votes in upstate counties, Roosevelt used his second term to develop a successful campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination of 1932. He distinguished himself as the first governor to advocate unemployment insurance and old age pensions. Roosevelt also educated himself on policy issues that were of greater concern in the South and West, such as cotton prices, railroad rates, soil and forest conservation, flood control, and rural electrification. Meanwhile, James A. Farley and Roosevelt's aide Louis Howe traveled throughout the United States, but especially in the South and West, to lobby for delegate support for Roosevelt at the 1932 Democratic national convention. Roosevelt, Farley, and Howe assumed that most northern delegates controlled by Catholic Democratic politicians would probably vote for Smith at the convention. Consequently, their strategy was to gradually develop a consensus-building yet ideologically diverse coalition of southern conservatives and western progressives whose delegates would eventually provide Roosevelt with at least the two-thirds majority needed for the presidential nomination. But this strategy also required the pro-Roosevelt Democrats to discourage and minimize the number of favorite son and other minor presidential candidacies at the convention. After they persuaded Speaker of the House John N. Garner of Texas to end his presidential candidacy in exchange for the vice-presidential nomination, Roosevelt was nominated for president on the fourth ballot.
With approximately one third of the voters identified as Democrats in 1932, Roosevelt recognized the need to attract the votes of disaffected Republicans, independents, and minor party members so that he could win a decisive victory that would provide a mandate for major policy changes and for transforming the Democratic Party into the new majority party in the two-party system. Therefore, Roosevelt rarely used the word Republican in his post-convention campaign speeches. His policy proposals and the Democratic national platform were a dichotomous, contradictory mixture of promises to balance the federal budget, reduce bureaucratic centralization, and protect states' rights, but also to provide vigorous presidential leadership and more federal intervention to reduce unemployment, raise farm prices, and protect Americans against the economic abuses and mistakes of banks and big business.
Franklin D. Roosevelt defeated Republican president Herbert Hoover with 59 percent of the popular votes and carried forty-two states in the electoral college. Although about 65 percent of black voters supported Hoover, Roosevelt's electoral support from white Republicans and independents was broadly distributed among income levels and various ethnic groups and between urban and rural areas. Only 25 percent of Roosevelt's plurality in 1932 was derived from the nation's twelve largest cities.
From 1932 until 1940, James A. Farley served as DNC chairman. Roosevelt agreed with Farley that the DNC apparatus and activities should be used to promote intra-party harmony at such events as Jefferson-Jackson Day dinners and through fundraising efforts. For example, the Colored Division, a special division of the DNC that concentrated on black voters, cultivated the realignment of non-southern blacks from the Republican to the Democratic Party, but ignored controversial racial issues like segregation and the disfranchisement of southern blacks. Other DNC special divisions, such as those for labor, agriculture, and foreign-language ethnic groups, were used to promote the expansion and diversification of the Democratic coalition during this era.
By far, though, the most innovative, effective, and regularly active special division of the DNC from 1932 to 1940 was the Women's Division. Mary "Molly" Dewson, director of and later adviser to this division, shrewdly realized that Democratic women could increase their status and influence in the party organization and the Roosevelt administration if they impressed the president, DNC chairman, and other male Democratic politicians with their ability to raise funds, distribute publicity, mobilize voters, and win elections. For example, in the 1936 election, the DNC Women's Division produced and distributed about 80 percent of all Democratic campaign literature. It also published the Democratic Digest, a monthly newsletter, and increased the number of female Democratic campaign workers from approximately 73,000 in 1936 to 109,000 in 1940. Dewson used these impressive campaign accomplishments and her long-time friendships with Eleanor Roosevelt and Secretary of Labor Frances Perkins to lobby and persuade the president and Farley to increase DNC funding of the Women's Division, the representation of women on party committees and at national conventions, and the number and status of federal jobs given to women. By the time of the 1940 election, however, Edward J. Flynn replaced the disgruntled Farley as DNC chairman, Dewson had left the Women's Division, and the DNC's apparatus played a smaller role in campaign finances and services.
Roosevelt hoped that the New Deal's economic policies would not only unite and satisfy the voting blocs and interest groups that elected him in 1932 but would eventually persuade enough disaffected Republican and independent voters to become loyal Democrats so that the Democratic Party would become the new majority party in the two-party system for a long time. However, after the Supreme Court struck down the National Industrial Recovery Act (NIRA) and similar New Deal policies that emphasized economic cooperation and planning, Roosevelt moved New Deal liberalism and the national Democratic Party in a more controversial, leftist, divisive programmatic and ideological direction that favored labor and northern urban policy interests and was more antagonistic toward big business and upper-income Americans. Roosevelt wanted this more liberal, social welfare character of his administration and party to co-opt growing grassroots support for various economic protest movements, such as those led by Huey Long and Francis Townsend, before the 1936 election. Enactment of the Social Security Act of 1935 and the Wealth Tax Act of 1935 served to satisfy much of this demand for a broader redistribution of income by the federal government.
WAGNER ACT OF 1935
Likewise, Roosevelt's support of the National Labor Relations (or Wagner) Act of 1935 helped to prevent the possibility of labor unions creating their own party for the 1936 election and to attract the endorsement of John L. Lewis, a Republican and the most powerful labor leader in the nation. Despite growing complaints from southern Democrats in Congress that Roosevelt's policies and party leadership pandered to blacks, Roosevelt cultivated black voters by appointing a so-called black cabinet. This was an informal group of black federal officials who tried to reduce racial discrimination in the distribution of federal relief benefits and public works jobs. For the first time ever, a black minister delivered the opening prayer at a Democratic national convention in 1936.
No matter how controversial the New Deal and the Democratic Party under Roosevelt had become among conservatives and business interests, Roosevelt's landslide reelection in 1936 confirmed that a political realignment had occurred. Roosevelt defeated Alfred Landon, the Republican presidential nominee, with more than 60 percent of the popular votes and carried all but two states in the electoral college. Approximately 65 percent of black voters supported Hoover in 1932, but 76 percent of them voted for Roosevelt in 1936. In addition, 80 percent of Catholics, 90 percent of Jews, and 60 percent of low-income, non-southern white Protestants voted for Roosevelt in 1936.
The fact that these voting statistics signaled a partisan realignment, rather than merely a personal following for Roosevelt, is evident in the increasing number and proportion of non-southern Democratic seats in Congress as a consequence of the 1930 to 1936 congressional elections. In 1920, 82 percent of the Democratic representatives and 70 percent of the Democratic senators were southerners. By 1936, only 35 percent of the Democrats in Congress were southerners, and only 23 percent of Roosevelt's electoral college votes in that election came from the South. Even more ominous for the decline of southern influence in the Democratic Party, the Democratic national convention of 1936 repealed the two-thirds rule. This requirement of at least a two-thirds majority of delegate votes for presidential nominations had, in effect, given the South as a region the power to reject any presidential candidate objectionable to it, especially on racial issues.
Determined to solidify the policy accomplishments of the New Deal and to further develop the national Democratic Party as a liberal party, Roosevelt became embroiled with southern Democrats in Congress on two especially divisive issues: the court reform bill of 1937 and the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938. Most southern Democrats in Congress opposed Roosevelt on both bills, claiming that his apparent attempt to "pack" the Supreme Court with liberal justices violated the spirit of the Constitution and that the minimum wage legislation would unfairly punish the South for its lower labor costs and threaten race relations by requiring southern employers to pay blacks and whites the same wages. Frustrated with the increasing intra-party opposition in Congress from southern Democrats, Roosevelt decided to dramatically enforce party discipline by attempting to "purge" several conservative southern Democratic senators by opposing their renomination in their states' 1938 Democratic primaries. Roosevelt and his preferred Democratic candidates failed to defeat any of these senators, and the Republicans made substantial gains in the 1938 congressional elections.
After the 1938 elections, southern Democrats and Republicans in Congress cooperated with each other more openly and regularly, especially within the committee system, by forming a bipartisan conservative coalition that could prevent, defeat, or weaken any new liberal legislation. But the ever growing intra-party influence of blacks, labor unions, big city mayors, and liberal activists on Roosevelt's presidency and the party leadership was evident in his creation of the Fair Employment Practices Commission (FEPC) by an executive order in 1940. The FEPC was authorized to investigate and prohibit racial discrimination in hiring by defense contractors.
Despite the regional and ideological diversity of Democratic support in Congress for Roosevelt's pre-Pearl Harbor foreign and defense policies, the Democratic national convention of 1940 proved to be unusually restless and rancorous because of the controversy over the anticipation of Roosevelt's nomination for an unprecedented third term. Former DNC chairman James A. Farley and Vice President John N. Garner both ran against Roosevelt for the presidential nomination. But Roosevelt was easily and overwhelmingly renominated on the first ballot after Chicago machine politicians organized a rousing pro-Roosevelt demonstration. By contrast, Roosevelt's new running mate, Henry A. Wallace, was nominated by a narrow margin because of his reputation among delegates as a politically inept former Republican who was outspoken in his liberalism on race and other matters.
Franklin D. Roosevelt was reelected president in 1940 with 55 percent of the popular votes and he carried thirty-eight states in the electoral college. American entry into and participation in World War II finally ended the lingering economic effects of the Great Depression and slowed the rising southern white rebellion against the increasingly liberal, northern-dominated national Democratic Party, especially on racial issues. Nonetheless, the immediate political and economic effects of the Great Depression stimulated a realignment that enabled the Democratic Party under Franklin D. Roosevelt to transform itself into the new majority party with a broad, diverse coalition, a new ideology based on New Deal liberalism, and a policy agenda that appealed to a wide range of voting blocs and interest groups that dominated the presidency, Congress, policy making, and even the internal politics of the Republican Party until the 1970s.
See Also: DEWSON, MARY (MOLLY); ELECTION OF 1928; ELECTION OF 1930; ELECTION OF 1932; ELECTION OF 1934; ELECTION OF 1936; ELECTION OF 1938; ELECTION OF 1940; FARLEY, JAMES A.; POLITICAL REALIGNMENT; RASKOB, JOHN J.; ROOSEVELT, FRANKLIN D.; SMITH, ALFRED E.
Brinkley, Alan. Voices of Protest: Huey Long, Father Coughlin, and the Great Depression. 1982.
Burner, David. The Politics of Provincialism: The Democratic Party in Transition, 1918–1932. 1986.
Burns, James MacGregor. Roosevelt: The Lion and the Fox. 1956.
Savage, Sean J. Roosevelt: The Party Leader, 1932–1945. 1991.
Sundquist, James. The Dynamics of the Party System: Alignment and Realignment of Political Parties in the United States. 1973.
Weiss, Nancy J. Farwell to the Party of Lincoln: Black Politics in the Age of FDR. 1983.
Sean J. Savage
The modern Democratic Party is the descendant of the democratic-republican party, an early-nineteenth-century political organization led by thomas jefferson and james madison. Also known as the Jeffersonian Republican Party, the Democratic-Republican Party began as an antifederalist group, opposed to strong, centralized government. The party was officially established at a national nominating convention in 1832. It dropped the Republican portion of its name in 1840.
Despite destructive struggles and philosophical shifts, the Democratic Party remains a dominant political force in the United States. The Democrats compete for office with the Republicans, their counterparts in the United States's de facto two-party system though third-party candidates and independents have experienced increasing success at both the state and federal levels, with Minnesota Governor Jesse Ventura, a former professional wrestler and Navy Seal, being the most visible example. He won the gubernatorial race as a member of the state's reform party.
The Democratic Party of the late 1990s supports liberal government policies in social and economic matters. The early party disapproved of federal involvement. Jefferson, Madison, and James Monroe—Virginians who were each elected president of the United States—favored limited powers for the national government.
The fundamental change in Democratic philosophy was the result of fluid coalitions and historical circumstance. The master coalition builder and founder of the modern Democratic Party was andrew jackson, a populist president who was portrayed as a donkey by political satirists. Jackson transformed presidential politics by expanding party involvement. (The donkey later became the symbol for the Democratic Party.)
The transformation began after Jackson's first unsuccessful bid for the White House. In the 1824 presidential election, Jackson won the popular vote but failed to win a majority in the electoral college. The U.S. Constitution requires the House of Representatives to select the president under these circumstances. When the House chose john quincy adams, Jackson was incensed—and began a four-year campaign to win the next presidential election.
With help from political adviser and future president martin van buren, Jackson won the presidency in 1828.
Jackson had benefited from growth in the nation's population and from laws that increased the number of U.S. citizens eligible to vote. In the 1824 presidential election, about 365,000 votes had been counted. In the 1828 election, over 1 million votes were cast, an
|Democratic National Convention Sites, 1832 to 2004|
|aAn earlier convention, held in Charleston, South Carolina, had resulted in a split ticket in the party. The official nomination was made at the Baltimore convention.|
|source:Democratic Nation Convention website.|
|1868||New York City|
|1900||Kansas City, MO|
|1924||New York City|
|1976||New York City|
|1980||New York City|
|1992||New York City|
increase that clearly helped Jackson, the socalled people's president.
In reaching his goal, Jackson laid the groundwork for a strong party system. He set up an efficient Democratic political organization by forming committees at the local, district, and state levels; holding rallies and conventions; generating publicity; registering new voters; and getting people to the polls.
Jackson also backed the newly created convention system for nominating presidential candidates and was himself nominated for reelection at the 1832 Democratic convention. The original purpose of conventions was to allow local input in the political process. In Jackson's time, conventions were forums for debate and deal making.
As the Democratic Party changed in form and purpose, alliances became more difficult. Relations between southern and northern Democrats were increasingly strained. Southern states sought the reduction of tariffs, or taxes on imports, whereas northern states favored tariffs to safeguard their manufactured goods. Some southern Democrats suggested that individual states could nullify federal tariff laws.
Even more troublesome was the issue of states' rights and slavery. The regional split within the party widened over the designation of new territories as free or slave states. The breaking point was the 1860 national convention. The Democrats were divided—the southern faction favored John C. Breckinridge, and the northerners selected stephen a. douglas. Although Douglas advocated limited national control, or popular sovereignty, the southern delegates were not appeased. Republican nominee abraham lincoln capitalized on the dissension in the Democratic Party and won the election.
Following Lincoln's election came a twenty-four-year spell with no Democrat in the White House. After the Civil War, Democrats were denounced in the North because they had not supported legislation to finance the war or to enlist new soldiers. Meanwhile, the South became solidly Democratic in response to the Republicans' unpopular Reconstruction policies.
During the nineteenth century, the Democrats also created powerful urban political machines such as New York City's tammany hall. In these systems, people were offered political jobs or money in exchange for voter loyalty. Immigrants tended to support the Democratic Party and machine politics as a way to gain a foothold in their new country. Unfortunately, the machines became sources of corruption and graft.
In 1884, Democratic nominee grover cleveland, of New York, was elected president with a pledge to end political patronage and support for the gold standard. Again, factionalism undermined Democratic strength. william jennings bryan, a powerful Democratic orator, supported free coinage of silver currency. He tapped into the discontent of southern and western farmers who sought government assistance. He also drew support from the labor movement. With Bryan as the unsuccessful Democratic presidential nominee in 1896, 1900, and 1908, the party's original position on limited government was all but abandoned.
Factionalism was the party's strength as well as its weakness. On the one hand, it gave minority interests a chance to be heard. However, successful coalitions among the different interests were difficult to achieve. The traditional Democratic alliance consisted of labor supporters, immigrants, farmers, urban interests, and southern populists. Later, African Americans and northern liberals joined the coalition.
After Bryan's losses, the Democrats were determined to regain the White House. In 1912, former Princeton University President woodrow wilson won the nomination on the forty-sixth ballot of the Democratic convention. A liberal reformer, Wilson defeated Republican william howard taft and third-party candidate theodore roosevelt. Wilson's accomplishments as president included lowering tariffs, establishing the federal trade commission, backing antitrust legislation, and leading the country during world war i. However, the Republicans regained the presidency in 1920 with a huge victory by warren g. harding.
The Republicans prevailed for the next decade. Finally, in 1932, the Democratic Party triumphed at the polls with the election of New York's franklin d. roosevelt. Roosevelt introduced his sweeping new deal to pull the nation out of the Great Depression. Ambitious government programs helped put many businesses and millions of people back on their feet. The Roosevelt administration openly embraced social welfare programs and economic regulation. Elected president in 1932, 1936, 1940, and 1944, Roosevelt was the only president in U.S. history to win four terms in office, before the constitutional limitation of two consecutive terms was put in place in 1951 with the ratification of the twenty-second amendment to the U.S. Constitution. He also steered the nation through most of world war ii.
After Roosevelt's death in 1945, Vice President harry s. truman assumed office. In 1948, after Truman had supported key civil rights legislation, a cadre of southern Democrats rebelled by joining the Dixiecrat Party, a group advocating states' rights and segregation. The Dixiecrats eventually disbanded, and some southern Democrats switched to the republican party. This shift began in earnest with the election of dwight d. eisenhower in 1952 and peaked with the election of ronald reagan in 1980 and 1984.
In 1960, Democratic nominee john f. kennedy became the first Roman Catholic to hold the Oval Office. Kennedy's administration, called the New Frontier, established the Peace Corps; weathered the cuban missile crisis, in which it convinced the Soviet Union to dismantle long-range nuclear missile sites in Cuba and return the missiles to Russia; and lent support to integration efforts in the South. After Kennedy's assassination in 1963, Vice President lyndon b. johnson was sworn in as president. He later defeated Republican barry m. goldwater for the chief executive position in the 1964 general election.
Johnson strongly supported civil rights, a position that further eroded the Democrats' base of southern whites and northern labor and ethnic voters. Johnson's policies for U.S. military involvement in Southeast Asia made him unpopular at home and abroad. In 1968, after Johnson declined a reelection bid, the Democrats held a tumultuous convention in Chicago that tarnished the image of party leaders and Chicago police. As protesters and police officers clashed on the streets, convention delegates nominated Minnesota's hubert h. humphrey, despite a groundswell of support for vietnam war critic eugene mccarthy. Humphrey lost the general election to Republican richard m. nixon.
In 1976, Governor jimmy carter, of Georgia, reclaimed the White House and the South for Democrats. Carter served one term, losing the 1980 election to Republican Reagan. Another southern Democrat, Governor bill clinton, of Arkansas, won the presidency in 1992 and again in 1996, becoming the first Democratic president to win reelection since Franklin D. Roosevelt.
Under Bill Clinton, the Democratic Party was led to what many believed to be a centrist position. After the failure of his health care plan in the early part of his term, Clinton backed welfare reform and ran a budget surplus through most of his presidency. At the same
time, Clinton did not shrink from all liberal positions, vetoing Republican efforts to ban partial-birth abortion and to reform bankruptcy laws to help creditors, among other things, and allowing the government to be shut down for a long period rather than give in to Republican spending cuts.
The impeachment of Clinton in 1999 furthered the partisan divide in the country. Led by a Republican Congress, the impeachment was backed by a majority of Republicans and opposed by a majority of Democrats. Despite the embarrassment to Clinton, the impeachment did not seem to hurt the Democrats in the same way watergate hurt the Republicans—the Democrats actually picked up seats in the House and the Senate in both the 1998 and 2000 elections.
Just how evenly the country was split between the Republicans and Democrats was illustrated by the 2000 election. Democratic presidential candidate al gore won the popular vote by over 500,000 votes; however, the Electoral College was another story. A disputed ballot count in Florida kept the election from being officially decided for over a month after Election Day. When it was over, george w. bush had become president of the United States by a mere 537 votes, according to the Florida statewide official tally. Bush beat Al Gore in the Electoral College 271-266, one of the closest results in U.S. history.
Ironically, considering that they won the popular vote for president and picked up seats in both the House and Senate, the 2000 election paradoxically left the Democrats in their weakest position since the Eisenhower administration. In addition to the presidency, the Republicans controlled the House and the Senate by slim majorities. In the Senate, that majority consisted of one seat.
However, the decision by Republican Senator Jim Jeffords, of Vermont, to become an independent in 2001 gave the Senate majority to the Democrats for the first time since 1994. Using their majority, the Democrats were able to frustrate President Bush on some of his proposed policies, though they were too weak to pass legislation on their own. The Republicans strengthened their position after the 2002 election, regaining control of the Senate and increasing the number of seats they controlled in the House. But they still did not have enough votes to stop a Democratic filibuster in the Senate, thus giving the Democrats a measure of power.
Some party activists felt at the end of the 2002 campaign that the Democratic Party had lost its way with the centrist policies advocated by former President Clinton and others—they saw the way back to power to take the party in a more liberal direction and to delineate more strongly their differences with Republicans. Others saw this as political suicide, pointing out that Clinton was the only successful Democratic candidate in the past quarter century. Whom the Democrats nominate for the 2004 presidential election was seen as an important determinant of what direction the Democratic Party goes from here, in an era when much of Middle America appears politically ambivalent, fluctuating across party lines.
Judis, John B., and Teixeira, Ruy. 2002. The Emerging Democratic Majority. New York: Scribner.
Wilson, James Q. 2004. American Government: Institutions and Policies. 9th ed. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.
The Democratic Party emerged out of the Democratic-Republican Party of U.S. president Thomas Jefferson (1743–1826; served 1801–9), and was founded in 1792. In the 1820s, internal divisions caused the Democratic-Republican Party to split into two organizations. Those who most held onto the party's original political ideals established the Democratic Party. The other faction became known first as the National Republicans and later evolved into the Whig Party . The Whigs eventually dissolved, but the Democratic Party of the 1820s continues to be an integral part of American politics today.
The Democratic-Republican Party emerged in 1792 in response to the strong Federalist Party policies of members of the first Congress. Worried about an overly powerful central government and liberal interpretations of the U.S. Constitution , critics of the Federalists united in an opposition party. They attempted to balance congressional action that supported wealthy merchants by representing the interests of farmers and common free men. Members of the Democratic-Republican Party believed governmental power should reside more in the state governments than in the federal government.
When the party evolved into the Democratic Party in the 1820s, its members held onto the same ideals supported by Jefferson and other founders. The Democrats of the 1820s were mostly westerners, southerners, and laborers from the east. They were small businessmen, farmers, craftsmen, and other hard workers. The party tried to protect their interests against the privileges of powerful institutions, such as banks, industry, and wealthy merchants.
Members of the Democratic Party opposed the growth of a powerful central government and worked to protect states’ rights. They favored the expansion of the United States to provide individuals with opportunities to thrive. Personal liberty was highly cherished, and as a result Democrats tended to oppose reform movements.
Over time, the Democratic Party has enjoyed times of immense popularity as well as declining interest. Debates over slavery in the 1850s led the party to split into northern and southern factions. The northern faction wanted individual states to decide whether to make slavery illegal. The southern faction wanted to prevent nations and states from outlawing slavery. Yet the party managed to survive the American Civil War (1861–65).
While the party has evolved to confront current issues, it has remained consistent in its orientation to representing the interests of small businesspeople and laborers. Although it was once the party of slavery (the opposition party during the Civil War was the Republican Party of U.S. president Abraham Lincoln [1809–1865; served 1861–65] who issued the Emancipation Proclamation putting an end to slavery in the United States), it has come to be the party favored by African Americans and other groups of citizens fighting for political power.
In the twentieth century, the Democratic Party confronted the divisive issues of poverty, gender, ethnicity, and religion. Its members have often embraced immigrants, supported women's rights, and fought for civil rights for all Americans. Democrats helped to pass the first labor and child welfare laws, established forms of government assistance during the Great Depression (1929–41), and led the nation through two world wars. The Democratic Party held a majority in the U.S. House of Representatives for most of the latter half of the twentieth century. Striving to embrace the diversity of America, the Democratic Party has made great strides in protecting the quality of life and rights of ordinary citizens.
The Democratic Party of Russia (DPR) since its founding in 1990 has changed its face radically at least three times. It was created by politicians, including radical anticommunists as well as "communists with a human face," as a counterbalance to the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU). The first split happened as early as the constituent assembly, and a number of well-known politicians left the party, unhappy with the selection of Nikolai Travkin, leader of the CPSU Democratic platform, as sole chair. In the 1993 elections, the DPR, whose list was headed by Travkin, film director Stanislav Govorukhin, and academicianeconomist Oleg Bogomolov, received 3.0 million votes (5.5%, eighth place) and fourteen seats in the Duma. The second split happened in 1994, when Travkin entered the government; the majority of the fraction, charging him with compromise, elected a new leader, economist Sergei Glaziev, who had left Boris Yeltsin's administration in 1993. The DPR changed from "Travkin's party" into "the party of Glaziev-Govorukhin." The DPR did not participate independently in the 1995 elections. Its leaders joined three ballots: Glaziev was third on the KRO list, Govorukhin headed the Stanislav Govorukhin Bloc, and Bogomolov was third on the "Social-Democrat" list. None of the three lists crossed the five-percent barrier. In 1996, with the departure first of Glaziev from the DPR (via the Congress of Russian Communities to the Communist Party of the Russian Federation, or KPRF), then Govorukhin (via the KPRF to Fatherland—All Russia, or OVR), the DPR came to be led by little-known functionaries. In the 1999 elections, the party first became a co-constituent of the bloc "Voice of Russia," then moved into the bloc "All Russia," and vanished completely with the formation of OVR.
When, in the fall of 2001, an attempt was made to restore the former popularity of the old brand, and the Novgorod governor Mikhail Prusak was elected leader of the DPR, many viewed this as an endeavor on the part of the Kremlin to create a tame right-centrist party to replace the Union of Right Forces (SPS), which was not sufficiently compliant. Prusak announced at the time that the "The DPR will most likely become a party of the center, with a clear structure in observance of the principle of single management. This will be a national party, whose tasks will include the construction of a democratic civil society, fortification of the government, preservation of its territorial integrity, formation of a middle class, and development of national product." In 2002, having created fortynine regional branches with a total of more than 10 million members, the DPR was able to register again as a political party with the Ministry of Justice.
Prusak was not sufficiently dedicated to party matters, and at the 2003 congress the DPR deposed its leader. It was announced that the party would enter federal elections for the first time in ten years but that the position of leader would probably be vacant.
See also: political party system; union of right forces
McFaul, Michael. (2001). Russia's Unfinished Revolution: Political Change from Gorbachev to Putin. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.
McFaul, Michael, and Markov, Sergei. (1993). The Troubled Birth of Russian Democracy: Parties, Personalities, and Programs. Stanford, CA: Hoover Institution Press.
Reddaway, Peter, and Glinski, Dmitri. (2001). The Tragedy of Russia's Reforms: Market Bolshevism against Democracry. Washington, DC: U.S. Institute of Peace Press.
The Democratic Party (Partido Demócrata) was the first Chilean political party dedicated to advancing the cause of the workers. Created in 1887 by an offshoot of the Radical Party, the Democrats held their first convention two years later. This party was the first in Chile seeking to protect the economic and political interests of the lower classes, calling for honest elections, laws to provide decent housing and improved working conditions, a return to the gold standard, and economic nationalism.
Unlike other political organizations, the Democratic Party's directors included professionals and intellectuals like lawyer Malaquías Concha and physician Alejandro Bustamante, but more significantly, it also included workers, such as printer Luis Emilio Recabarren. Not surprisingly, this party, which seriously challenged Chile's status quo, encountered difficulties. Its support of José Manuel Balmaceda during the 1891 revolution led to the persecution of its leaders at the hands of the congressionalist victors. Perhaps because it included various political extremists such as anarchists, the party initially refused to participate in any of the parliamentary political coalitions. It also provided leadership in organizing various strikes and demonstrations, such as the 1905 Santiago Meat Riots.
Eventually, anxious to participate in government, and perhaps in patronage as well, the Democrats abandoned their principles of noncooperation, often supporting extremely reactionary candidates such as those of the Conservative Party, in return for ministerial portfolios. This willingness to cooperate with bourgeois parties, which gained the Democrats a ministerial post, precipitated various schisms. The conflict between the traditionalists and those advocating socialism ultimately led, in 1912, to the creation of the Socialist Workers Party (Partido Obrero Socialista—POS).
Electing its first deputy to the national Congress in 1894, the Democratic Party continued to win additional victories. In 1904 six Democratic congressmen and, for the first time, a senator, won legislative seats. Triumph at the polls, however, did not always translate into political power, as the Congress sometimes refused to seat Democratic legislators. The party nevertheless enjoyed increasing popularity, particularly in the nitrate pampas and among urban workers. The Democrats seemed to reach their political zenith in 1932, when the party elected thirteen deputies. Too conservative for the Left and too radical for the Right, the party began to lose support, particularly when some of its more progressive members, like Recabarren, left the party. Even those who remained seemed without direction: in the 1958 presidential election the members of the Democratic Party supported each of the three candidates. By this time the party had won but 5 percent of the vote, and by 1965 it had ceased to be of any real importance.
Although it eventually went out of existence, the Democratic Party nonetheless fulfilled an important function. It was one of the first of Chile's parties to articulate such ideas as creating a labor section and providing social security, worker compensation, and accident insurance to protect the nation's working class.
Hector De Petris Giesen, Historia del partido democrático (1942).
Germán Urzúa Valenzuela, Los partidos políticos chilenos (1968), pp. 53-55.
Ben G. Burnett, Political Groups in Chile (1970), pp. 161-170, 178-181.
Peter De Shazo, Urban Workers and Labor Unions in Chile, 1902–1927 (1983), pp. 90-92, 109-113, 119-122, 126, 139-140, 175, 177.
Karen L. Remmer, Party Competition in Argentina and Chile: Political Recruitment and Public Policy, 1890–1930 (1984), pp. 67-70, 85-86, 118-120.
Hutchison, Elizabeth Q. Labors Appropriate to Their Sex Gender, Labor, and Politics in Urban Chile, 1900–1930. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2001.
William F. Sater