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The Democratic Party of the United States is composed of various factions. It is a Big Tent party which ranges from the progressive to the conservative with moderates as well.

Modern Progressives

Main article: Progressivism in the United States

See also: Left-wing politics in the United States, Left-wing populism, Congressional Progressive Caucus, Justice Democrats, and Democratic Socialists of America

Franklin D. Roosevelt, 32nd U.S. President
36th U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson meets with Civil Rights leader Martin Luther King Jr.
The modern progressive movement in the U.S. draws deeply from the left-wing populist economic and political philosophies of Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal and Woodrow Wilson's New Freedom, the latter occurring at the end of the Progressive Era, which was largely started by Republican President Theodore Roosevelt and his Square Deal. While Wilson and Theodore Roosevelt considered themselves progressives, Franklin Roosevelt only referred to himself as a liberal.[1] Modern progressives are much more culturally liberal on social issues like race and identity, where they draw inspiration from the Civil and Voting Rights Acts enacted by President Johnson and advocated by Dr. King.[2]

While it does not transcend the political philosophy of social liberalism, the Progressive wing has fused tenets of social liberalism with traditions of the Progressive Era as well as drawing more robustly from Keynesian economics, social populism, and social democracy. Progressive Democratic candidates for public office have had popular support as candidates in metropolitan areas outside the South. The first self-described liberal president was Franklin D. Roosevelt whose ideas, such as his calls for a second Bill of Rights, continue to influence progressives today.[3] President Lyndon Johnson and Civil Rights activists such as Martin Luther King Jr. are influential to progressives as well, not only for their positions on race and identity but on economics as well (Johnson for the Great Society and King for his support of social democracy).[4] The writings of thinkers such as John Dewey and Lester Frank Ward helped shape liberal and progressive ideas in the United States.[5] While there are differences between them, both historical progressivism and the modern movement have the most crossover in the belief that free markets lead to economic inequalities and therefore the free market must be aggressively monitored and regulated with broad economic and social rights in order to protect the working class.[6]

Senator Bernie Sanders, while an Independent, caucuses with the Democratic Party and is often considered an unofficial leader of the modern progressive movement in the U.S.[7]
Senator Bernie Sanders, while an Independent, caucuses with the Democratic Party and is often considered an unofficial leader of the modern progressive movement in the U.S.[7]

Modern progressives seriously emphasize the threat of climate change and rally around the Green New Deal, which was created by Rep. Ocasio Cortez and Sen. Markey, as the framework forward to tackle the issue.[8] Progressive Democrats have also been described as constituting the most robust anti-establishment wing of the party in the sense that they "see part of their role as not just attacking Republicans, but also highlighting what they see as shortcomings of the Democratic Party itself."[9] Many progressive Democrats are also ideological descendants of the New Left of Democratic presidential candidate and Senator George McGovern of South Dakota, while others were involved in the presidential candidacies of Vermont Governor Howard Dean and U.S. Representative Dennis Kucinich of Ohio. Still others are former members of the Green Party. This group consists disproportionately of college-educated professionals.[10] A recent study by the Pew Research Center found that a plurality (41%) resided in mass affluent households and 49% were college graduates.[11]

The Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC) is a caucus of progressive House Democrats in the Congress, along with one independent in the Senate. It is the second largest Democratic caucus in the House of Representatives and its members have included Representatives Dennis Kucinich (OH), Alan Grayson (FL), John Conyers (MI), Barbara Lee (CA), Jim McDermott (WA), Peter DeFazio (OR), Keith Ellison (MN), Ayanna Pressley (MA), Ro Khanna (CA), Mark Pocan (WI), and John Lewis (GA).[12] Senators Elizabeth Warren and Ed Markey (MA),[13][14] Russ Feingold and Tammy Baldwin (WI),[15] Jeff Merkley (OR),[16] and Sherrod Brown (OH)[17] have all been described as progressives. Other notable progressives include Henry A. Wallace,[18] Eugene McCarthy, Ted Kennedy,[19] Paul Wellstone,[20] and Stacey Abrams.[2] In 2016, the Blue Collar Caucus, a pro-labor, anti-outsourcing Caucus was formed,[21][22][23][24] with significant overlap in members with the Progressive Caucus, although some moderates such as Cheri Bustos are members as well. There are six self-described democratic socialists in the United States Congress as of 2021: Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, Representative Danny K. Davis of Illinois, Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Jamaal Bowman of New York, Representative Rashida Tlaib of Michigan, and Representative Cori Bush of Missouri, although political scientists have noted that the policy platforms of such “democratic socialists” has tended to align more with social democracy in the spectrum of socialism.[25] All self-described democratic socialists in Congress are members of the Democratic Party, except for Senator Sanders, who was a member of the party for his 2016 and 2020 presidential campaigns but caucuses with the Senate Democrats as an Independent.

Modern Liberals

Main articles: Modern liberalism in the United States and Social liberalism

See also: Center-left politics and Center for American Progress

The Kennedy brothers, 35th U.S. President John F. Kennedy (right), Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy (left) and Senator Ted Kennedy (middle) in 1963
The Kennedy family dynasty was extremely influential to the development and popularity of the modern liberal movement in the US throughout the 1960s, particularly from President Kennedy's New Frontier initiatives and his brother, Attorney General and later Senator Robert Kennedy's efforts on poverty, civil rights and corruption, and his appeal to poor, African American, Hispanic and young voters. The Kennedy administration's Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson (later President) was also an important figure to the movement, his presidency and Great Society initiatives marking the peak of modern liberalism in the late 1960s.

Liberalism in the US began during the Progressive Era with President Theodore Roosevelt (a Republican) and his Square Deal and New Nationalism policies, with center-left ideas increasingly leaning toward the political philosophy of social liberalism, or better known in the United States as modern liberalism. The Wilson administration saw the enactment of the New Freedom, a package of progressive social programs. The rise of the women's suffrage movement, opposed by Southern Democrats but supported by Republicans and Wilson, saw the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution and a push for civil rights legislation on the basis of gender. In the 1940s, liberal Democrats began pushing for desegregation and civil rights legislation for racial minorities, and in the 1960s, for immigration reform and gun control. Beyond Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal, Democratic presidents advocated landmark liberal programs. Beginning in the 1970s, liberal Democrats emphasized civil rights for disabled people, consumer protection, environmentalism, LGBT rights, reproductive rights, and ending capital punishment. Following Roosevelt's New Deal, Harry S. Truman's Fair Deal, John F. Kennedy's New Frontier and Lyndon B. Johnson's Great Society (the latter of which established Medicare and Medicaid) further established the popularity of liberalism in the nation.

While the resurgence of conservatism and the Third Way of Bill Clinton's New Democrats briefly weakened the influence of social liberalism, Barack Obama acted as an ideological bridge. While characterizing himself as a New Democrat, Obama towed the ideological line between the Third Way and modern liberalism.[26][27] The key legislative achievement of the Obama administration, the passage and enactment of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), was generally supported among liberal Democrats,[28] though it drew inspiration from Mitt Romney's plan as governor of Massachusetts[29] and did not have a public option due to conservative Democrat Joe Lieberman.[30] Under Obama, Democrats achieved expansion of LGBT rights, federal hate crime laws, rescinding the Mexico City Policy, later reinstituted by President Donald Trump, rescinding the ban on federal taxpayer dollars to fund research on embryonic stem cells, Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action and the Cuban thaw. In the 2010s, many Democrats began pushing for the legalization of cannabis, succeeding in several states. Barack Obama did not crack down on states that legalized cannabis during his presidency.[31] Other prominent Democrats in Congress, such as John Lewis, openly advocated for liberal causes and even self-identified[32] as such–the nonpartisan organization On the Issues also characterizing Lewis in 2000 as a "Hard-Core Liberal".[33]

In 2011, the Democratic Leadership Council, which supported more centrist and Third Way positions, was dissolved. In 2016, Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton eschewed her husband's "New Covenant" centrism for more liberal proposals such as rolling back mandatory minimum sentencing laws, a debt-free college tuition plan for public university students, and a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants.[34][35] Moreover, Joe Biden, despite having largely been a centrist over the course of his career,[36] has increasingly adopted more social liberal policies during his presidency.[37] Both Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg and Vice President Kamala Harris have been described as "pragmatic progressives," due to having advocated for fairly progressive policies, although the plans have tended to be more modest and transitionary in implementation when compared to the more sweeping changes generally proposed in the progressive wing.[38][39] Such policies referred to as "pragmatic progressive" include those such as Buttigieg's proposed plan in his 2020 presidential campaign for a public option to operate as a "glide path" to eventual Medicare for All, a policy proposal which is more in line with the mainstream of modern liberalism rather than those associated with Sanders on the progressive side.[40]

Moderates

Main articles: Political moderate, New Democrats, and Third Way

See also: Centrism in the United States, New Democrat Coalition, Clintonism, New Democrat Network, and Progressive Policy Institute

The Third Way is a centrist political movement that can trace some of its origins to pro-Vietnam war moderate Hubert Humphrey winning of the Democratic presidential nomination over anti-Vietnam war progressive Eugene McCarthy in the 1968 United States presidential election[41] as well as angst following the landslide victory of Republican Ronald Reagan over the more left-leaning Democrat Walter Mondale at the 1984 presidential election.[42] Most Third Way centrism in America is associated with reconciling centre-left social policies with centre-right economic approaches, mostly associated in the U.S. with the presidency of Bill Clinton and the New Democrats.[43] During the Cold War, the Democratic movement became anti-communist. The success of purer social liberalism was weakened with the presidency of Ronald Reagan and the ensuing tide of conservative popularity in response to a perception of liberal failure.[44] The Clinton Administration responded by adopting a synthesis of right-wing and left-wing ideas in the Third Way. During the 1992 United States presidential election, Bill Clinton and Al Gore, both members of the Democratic Leadership Council, each ran as a New Democrat, positioning themselves as Democrats willing to synthesize fiscally conservative views with the more culturally liberal position of the Democratic Party ethos, or to harmonize center-left and center-right politics. In 1994, Clinton signed the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act.[45] One of Clinton's key Third Way achievements was the 1996 Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Act, representing a substantial change in welfare and workfare in the nation. Despite indications of cultural liberality, though, the Clinton Administration signed many controversial cultural bills into law, including the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act and Don't Ask, Don't Tell ban on openly gay service in the Armed Forces. Most moderate Democrats in the House of Representatives are members of the New Democrat Coalition, although there is considerable overlap in the membership of New Democrats and Blue Dogs, with most Blue Dogs also being New Democrats.[46] Barack Obama and Joe Biden have largely tried to bridge the gap and unify the wings of the Democratic Party while still addressing the goals of the liberal wing, and the Third Way is still a large coalition in the modern Democratic Party.[26][37]

Conservatives

Main article: Conservative Democrat

See also: Centre-right politics and Blue Dog Coalition

The conservative coalition was an unofficial coalition in the United States Congress bringing together a conservative majority of the Republican Party and the conservative, mostly Southern wing of the Democratic Party. It was dominant in Congress from 1937 to 1963 and remained a political force until the mid-1980s, eventually dying out in the 1990s. In terms of Congressional roll call votes, it primarily appeared on votes affecting labor unions. The conservative coalition did not operate on civil rights bills, for the two wings had opposing viewpoints.[47] However, the coalition did have the power to prevent unwanted bills from even coming to a vote. The coalition included many committee chairmen from the South who blocked bills by not reporting them from their committees. Furthermore, Howard W. Smith, Chairman of the House Rules Committee, often could kill a bill simply by not reporting it out with a favorable rule and he lost some of that power in 1961.[48] The conservative coalition was not concerned with foreign policy as most of the Southern Democrats were internationalists, a position opposed by most Republicans.[citation needed]

Today, conservative Democrats are generally regarded as members of the Democratic Party who are more conservative than the national political party as a whole. The Blue Dog Coalition was originally founded as a group of conservative Democrats. After reaching a peak of 59 members in 2008,[citation needed] the caucus was reduced following the 2010 election, reduced to only 26 members. The caucus has adopted more liberal stances on social issues in recent years.[49] The Coalition remains the most conservative grouping of Democrats in the house, broadly adopting socially liberal and fiscally conservative policies and promoting fiscal restraint,[50] although some members retain socially conservative views.[49] Currently, 19 House members are part of the Blue Dog Coalition.[51]

Congressional caucuses

Main article: Congressional caucus

The following table lists coalitions' electoral results for the House of Representatives:

Election year Blue Dog Coalition New Democrat Coalition Congressional Progressive Caucus
1994
23 / 435
1996
1998
2000
74 / 435
2002
73 / 435
2004
74 / 435
2006
50 / 435
63 / 435
2008
56 / 435
59 / 435
71 / 435
2010
26 / 435
42 / 435
77 / 435
2012
14 / 435
53 / 435
68 / 435
2014
14 / 435
46 / 435
68 / 435
2016
18 / 435
61 / 435
78 / 435
2018
26 / 435
103 / 435
96 / 435
2020
19 / 435
94 / 435
95 / 435

See also

Republican Party
Libertarian Party

References

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  3. ^ Vaughan, Sophie (February 25, 2020). "How Bernie Sanders is Reviving the Promise of FDR's Economic Bill of Rights". Progressive.org. Retrieved January 9, 2022.
  4. ^ King, Martin Luther Jr. (2015). West, Cornel (ed.). The Radical King. Beacon Press. ISBN 978-0-8070-1282-6.
  5. ^ Commager, Henry Steele, ed. (1967). Lester Ward and the Welfare State. New York: Bobbs-Merrill.
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