The Democratic Party
Started by Thomas Jefferson and James Madison in 1792 as the "Party Of The Common Man," the Democratic Party is the oldest political party in the United States. Jefferson and Madison started the party as a congressional caucus that fought for the Bill of Rights against the Federalist Party that believed in a strong federal government.
Jefferson, Madison, and their followers believed that the ambitions of the ruling Federalist party was to make the United States government a forum for wealthy land owners, merchants, and manufacturers.
In 1798, the name "Party Of The Common Man" was changed to the Democrat-Republican party. Later, the Democrat-Republican party split into two factions, one branch called the National Republican party, which was absorbed into the Whig party, and the other becoming the Democratic party.
In 1800, as the first Democratic candidate, Jefferson was elected the third President of the United States. The Democrats were elected to the presidency for the next 40 years. Jefferson was followed by James Madison, James Monroe, John Quincy Adams, Andrew Jackson, and Martin Van Buren in succession.
During the presidency of Andrew Jackson, the party held it's first National Convention. At the National Convention, the name of the Democrat-Republican Party was shorted to the Democratic Party, as it is known today.
In 1848, the Democratic National Committee (DNC) was formed by the National Convention, which is now the longest running political organization in the world.
During the latter years of the 19th century, the Democrats started welcoming immigrants into the party. At that time, immigrants were flooding the job market, creating a powerful economic engine.
A movement that was led by agricultural reformers and supporters of the rights of women and African Americans, made the the Democratic Party the dominant leader in urban affairs as America entered the 20th century.
In 1912, Woodrow Wilson became the first Democratic president in the 20th century. Wilson led the country during the years of World War 1, a time in which the Democratic party spit due to the pro German sentiments of German and Irish Americans against Great Britain.
Wilson led the fight for the League of Nations, while establishing the Federal Reserve System, and passed the first labor and child welfare laws. Although Wilson won two terms, the Democrats lost the election of 1920.
With social and cultural issues taking center stage during the next few elections, the Democratic party became unglued. Southern whites, who had always been a solid bloc of Democratic voters, defected to the Republican party en mass because of what they perceived as an erosion of the values in which they believe.
It was not until the Great Depression that Franklin Delano Roosevelt became the first Democratic president in almost 20 years. Roosevelt enacted the New Deal, which was a sweeping program to bring recovery to business and agriculture, relief to the unemployed and farmers in jeopardy of losing there farms and homes through foreclosure.
When the Japanese bombed Pear Harbor, Roosevelt took action and declared war on Japan and Germany, thereby thrusting the United States into World War II.
Roosevelt died while in office and Vice President Harry Truman became President. Under Truman, the U.S. defeated the German Axis, and made a crucial decision to drop the Atomic Bomb on Japan, thereby ending World War II.
Truman oversaw the reconstruction of Europe by setting up the Marshal Plan, and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. He signed legislation integrating the military, which drew a deeper divided between southern whites and the Democratic Party. Without the southern white votes, the democrats lost the next two elections.
John F. Kennedy won the Presidency in 1960. He challenged the nation to help restore the pride and dignity of the United States and offered his version of a New Frontier by making the decision to put a man on the moon.
Kennedy created the Peace Corps, worked hard to end segregation in the south, and succeeded in putting together a treaty to ban the testing of nuclear weapons in the Earth's atmosphere. In November of 1963, Kennedy was assassinated and Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson took office as the President of the United States.
Johnson declared War on Poverty and enacted a series of Great Society programs, which included Medicare, urban renewal, and conservation. Under Johnson's leadership, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 were passed into law.
Jimmy Carter was elected President in 1976. Carter's greatest achievement was reaching an historic peace agreement between Egypt and Israel. Under his administration, the Departments of Energy and Education were created.
Bill Clinton was elected president in 1992, becoming the first so called baby boomer president. Known as a centrist president, Clinton was responsible for the longest period of peace time economic growth in American history. His administration set the tone for lowering unemployment figures and the reduction of crime levels.
As one of the nations youngest presidents, 3rd behind Theodore Roosevelt and John F. Kennedy, Clinton turned high federal deficits left by his predecessors into a balanced budget with a large federal surplus during his years in office. He was the first democratic president to be re-elected since Roosevelt in 1936.
Clinton was impeached by congress for his sexual affair with white house intern, Monica Lowinsky, but was re-elected by a wide margin and stayed in office to complete his second term. When Clinton left office, he had one of the highest approval rating of any president.
On January 4, 2007, Nancy Pelosi made history when she was elected to serve as Speaker of the House, becoming the first women, the first Californian, and the first Italian American to hold the position.
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