democratic party

Cultural Dictionary

Democratic party definition


A political party that arose in the 1820s from a split in the Democratic-Republican party. Andrew Jackson was the first president elected from the Democratic party. The other Democratic presidents elected before the Civil War were Martin Van Buren, James K. Polk, Franklin Pierce, and James Buchanan. The party generally opposed the national bank, high protective tariffs, interference with slavery, and federal aid for internal improvements in the nation — all measures that the Whigs came to favor. The Democrats' greatest strength was with farmers, laborers, and people of the frontier.

American Heritage
Cultural Dictionary

Democratic party definition


One of the two major political parties in the United States; the Democrats. The origins of the Democrats are in the Democratic-Republican party, organized by Thomas Jefferson in the late eighteenth century; the first president elected simply as a Democrat was Andrew Jackson. Always strong in the South, the party was severely damaged by secession, the Civil War, and Reconstruction, and did not produce a winning presidential candidate between 1861 and 1885, when Grover Cleveland was elected. In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, in contrast to the Republicans, the Democrats tended to be the party of the South and West, opposed to the interests of business and the Northeast. Woodrow Wilson, the next Democratic president, was part of the Progressive movement. In the period of the New Deal, in the presidency of Franklin D. Roosevelt, the Democratic party reached enormous strength among labor union members, minority groups, and middle-income people. The Democratic presidents since Roosevelt have been Harry S. Truman, John F. Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson, James Earl Carter, and William Jefferson Clinton.

Note: Since the New Deal, Democrats have emphasized the role of the federal government in promoting social, economic, and political opportunities for all citizens. They generally support a tax system that places a greater burden on the rich and large corporations, and they prefer spending on social programs to spending on defense. Today most blacks, along with Jews, liberals, and labor unions, support the party, which since the 1930s has been strong in major cities. The Democrats' strength in the white South, its strongest base before 1950, has slipped significantly, and in the 1970s and 1980s many blue-collar workers shifted to the Republican party.
Note: Under President Clinton, the Democratic Party shed some of its New Deal legacies in order to win back white working-class and middle-class voters lost to the Republicans.
Note: The Democrats' party symbol is the donkey.
The American Heritage® New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition
Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
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