The Democratic Party was organized by Thomas Jefferson in the late 1700s. While the party has changed largely over the centuries, it is commonly known today as the “party of the people,” touting themselves as supporters of the common man. They are also known as believing that the federal government should take a more active role in people’s lives, or seeking more governmental control. So what exactly does that mean?
The Democratic National Committee Platform is based around a set of common beliefs that the party as a whole stands for. The platform states, “Our vision is simple. We want an America that gives all Americans the chance to live out their dreams and achieve their God-given potential. We want an America that is still the world’s strongest force for peace and freedom. And we want an America that is coming together around our enduring values, instead of drifting apart.” One of the strongest goals of the Democratic Party is to achieve equality on all fronts. Democrats believe in equal opportunity despite race, religion, gender, or sexual orientation. They also believe in equal educational opportunity for all.
Democrats believe in protecting the environment from those who would exploit it for its resources. They believe in a larger tax gap between classes, as well as a significant decrease in government spending. They believe in a woman’s right to choose whether or not to have an abortion, as well as universal access to health care. Democratic beliefs are largely centered around renewing a sense of community among Americans to improve opportunity for the general public.
History of the Democratic Party
Formed in the late 1700s, the Democratic party was, funnily enough, originally called the Jeffersonian Republicans, or sometimes just the Republican party. Their adversaries later renamed them the Democratic-Republican Party in an attempt to identify them with the disorder created by the radical Democrats of the French Revolution. In 1798 they officially adopted the Democratic-Republican title.
During the 1820s, a rivalry between Andrew Jackson and John Quincy Adams created factions within the party. Adams’ supporters called themselves the National Republicans. Jackson, on the other hand, referred to his followers simply as Democrats, giving rise to the party under the name we know it today.
Democratic Views On Gay Marriage
The Democratic Party supports full equality under the law for same-sex couples. This includes not only the right to marriage, but the right to the same financial benefits as straight married couples. However, Democrats believe that gay marriage should be left to the states to vote on. They disagree with having a federal mandate for legalizing gay marriage as much as they disagree with a federal ban on gay marriage, stating, “in our country, marriage has been defined at the state level for 200 years, and we believe it should continue to be defined there.”
This being said, Democrats would prefer to see gay marriage legalized in every state, stating, “we oppose discriminatory federal and state constitutional amendments and other attempts to deny equal protection of the laws to committed same-sex couples who seek the same respect and responsibilities as other married couples. We support…the passage of the Respect for Marriage Act.” Read more about Democrats and gay marriage.
Democratic Views On Immigration
The Democratic Party’s views on immigration are based on the idea that the United States is a country built around immigrants, and as such it should value and support its present and future immigrants. The 2012 Democratic Party Platform states, “the Democratic Party stands for comprehensive immigration reform that intelligently prioritizes our country’s security and economic needs.” Democrats believe that in order to embrace and allow for the continuation of the diversity in our country, “we need to fix our broken immigration system.” They believe in providing a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants, especially those who were brought here as children. They wish to greatly reform the current immigration laws, stating that “today’s immigration laws do not reflect our values or serve our security, and we will work for real reform. The solution is not to establish a massive new status of second-class workers; that betrays our values and hurts all working people. Undocumented immigrants within our borders who clear a background check, work hard and pay taxes should have a path to earn full participation in America.” Read more about Democrats and immigration.
Democratic Views On Abortion
The Democratic Party believes firmly in a woman’s right to decide whether or not to abort a pregnancy. The Democratic views on abortion strongly support Roe vs. Wade, and include a woman being given the right to abort a pregnancy regardless of whether or not she is able to pay for it. The party strongly opposes any efforts or legislation that might undermine this right, stating, “abortion is an intensely personal decision between a woman, her family, her doctor, and her clergy; there is no place for politicians or government to get in the way.” However, the party also supports initiatives to decrease the number of unintended or unwanted pregnancies. Because of this they support sex education programs that explain birth control options and how couples can obtain them. They also support programs such as Planned Parenthood that help those in need of birth control options reduce the cost and feel comfortable asking questions. They do hope to reduce the number of abortions being performed, but not at the cost of a mother’s right to choose. The party has stated, “our goal is to make abortion more rare, not more dangerous. We support contraceptive research, family planning, comprehensive family life education, and policies that support healthy childbearing.” Read more about Democratic views on abortion.
Democratic Views On Welfare
For many decades, Democratic views on welfare were not overly positive. The Democratic Party first embraced welfare programs widely after the election of Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1932 as the party rallied around the New Deal.
Today, Democratic views on welfare revolve around a Keynesian approach, meaning that demand dictates economic growth, and the federal government should use its power to spur said demand when necessary. Examples of this approach include: President Lyndon Johnson using the expanded role of government in his Great Society program to institute civil rights reforms for African-Americans and women; the 1964 Voting Rights Act and the 1965 Civil Rights Act outlawing discriminatory voting tactics and prohibiting discrimination on the basis of race, color and gender respectively. President Johnson also created the Medicare Act of 1965, perhaps the signature act of this movement from the Democratic Party. These acts were designed to combat financial inequality in the country. President Johnson in particular launched them as part of a War on Poverty, including legislation to establish food stamps, the creation of the Office of Economic Opportunity (Job Corps, VISTA, Head Start, Legal Services), and various educational initiatives all geared to reducing economic inequality. Read more about Democratic views on Welfare
Democratic Views On Medicare
As stated in the 2012 Democratic platform, “Democrats believe that Medicare is a sacred compact with our seniors.” Democrats support preserving and strengthening the current institution of Medicare. They believe that “America’s seniors have earned their Medicare and Social Security through a lifetime of hard work and personal responsibility,” and should therefore reap the benefits of those earnings. They support President Obama’s plans to preserve Medicare. They oppose efforts to privatize Medicare, as well as plans to voucherize it. They also oppose plans to raise the amount of money seniors are paying into Medicare.
They are strongly in support of reforming Medicare part D, so that it ensures better coverage of prescription drugs to seniors and does more to bring down the cost of prescription drugs, as it currently does very little to lower these costs. Democrats believe that drug companies should not be allowed to change prescription costs more often than seniors can change their Medicare D plans. Democrats believe that the current structure and failings of Medicare D are what is driving seniors into HMOs. They believe that “elderly Americans deserve a real prescription drug benefit – one that uses the government’s purchasing power to lower costs and ensures access to new therapies for their illnesses.” Read more about Democrats and medicare.
Democratic Views On Taxes & Spending
The Democratic Party believes in cutting taxes for the middle and lower classes and raising them for the upper class. Democratic views on taxes also include the belief that an overhaul to the tax code and system are necessary. They vehemently oppose tax cuts such as those made by George W. Bush that provide relief to the wealthy in addition to the middle and lower classes, stating that the United States needs “a tax code that rewards work and creates wealth for more people, not a tax code that hoards wealth for those who already have it. With the middle class under assault like never before, we simply cannot afford the massive Bush tax cuts for the very wealthiest.” Democrats believe that, seeing as the 1990s were a prosperous time for America, tax code should be brought back to its state during this era.
Democrats believe in restoring the budget structure that existed in the 1990s, stating, “we believe in balanced budgets and paying down our national debt, while Republicans continue to put huge burdens on future generations by borrowing hundreds of billions of dollars from foreign nations. We want to restore the budget discipline of the 1990s that helped eliminate deficits and spur record economic growth.” This disciplined budget, according to Democrats, must be built upon a tax structure that taxes the upper class more heavily and the lower and middle classes less. Democratic plans to cut the deficit include a strategy to “restore commonsense budget rules that this Administration has abandoned, like “Pay-As-You-Go” rules that require the government to pay for new initiatives. We will commit to living within tough budget caps-real and enforceable limits on what the government can spend. We are committed to cutting the deficit in half over the next four years.” Democrats had plans to eliminate publicly held debt by 2012 as of 2000. The 2000 Democratic Party platform stated, “because of the Clinton-Gore Administration, a debt-free America is within reach. This would free businesses to invest and innovate, it would provide an ever more sturdy foundation for future economic growth, and it would create good jobs. That’s why Al Gore is determined to completely eliminate the publicly-held national debt by the year 2012.” Read more about Democratic views on taxes.
Democratic Views On The Environment
Democrats are dedicated to protecting the environment by reducing the effects of climate change, protecting America’s natural resources, and safeguarding the quality of our air, land, and water for current and future generations. Democratic views on the environment are focused around working to tackle our biggest environmental challenges by investing in clean energy and protecting our ecosystems to pave way for a sustainable America.
Democrats understand that climate change is one greatest challenges faced by our great nation and they want to protect and build on the advancement made by President Obama. By tackling the issue of climate change with the urgency needed, it can make America a superpower in clean energy and create millions of well-paying jobs. Read more about Democrats and the environment.
Democratic Views On Energy
Democratic views on energy revolve around the concept of preserving our energy sources and our environment for future generations. Democrats believe in balancing environmental protection with resource development. They wish to see America energy independent, and do not believe this is possible through the use of oil as a main energy source. Therefore, Democrats support the development of alternate energy sources and more energy efficient machinery.
Democrats firmly stand behind America achieving energy independence, stating “We will create a cleaner, greener and stronger America by reducing our dependence on foreign oil, eliminating billions in subsidies for oil and gas companies and use the savings to provide consumer relief and develop energy alternatives, and investing in energy independent technology.” They also believe that being energy independent will allow the U.S. to more easily pursue alternate and clean energy sources. Read more about Democratic views on energy.
Democratic Views On Education
The Democratic Party is dedicated to reforming the educational system, including reform to tax benefits and financial aid programs for college tuition, saving and creating more teaching jobs, expanding education options for low-income youth, and revamping standardized testing to test more complex skills. Democrats hope to turn around the public school system and make it more successful and sustainable, as well as to expand public school options for low-income children by creating and maintaining more magnet schools, charter schools, teacher-led schools, and career academies.
Democrats strive to increase the number of teachers and the respect that teachers receive, to improve the quality of instruction that kids are receiving. In their 2012 platform, Democrats stated, “Because there is no substitute for a great teacher at the head of a classroom, the President helped school districts save more than 400,000 educator jobs. We Democrats honor our nation’s teachers. If we want high-quality education for all our kids, we must listen to the people who are on the front lines. The President has laid out a plan to prevent more teacher layoffs while attracting and rewarding great teachers. This includes raising standards for the programs that prepare our teachers, recognizing and rewarding good teaching, and retaining good teachers. We also believe in carefully crafted evaluation systems that give struggling teachers a chance to succeed and protect due process.” Read more about Democrats and education.
Democratic Views On Gun Control
The Democratic Party wishes to see a stricter regulation of firearms, especially assault weapons. The Democratic views on gun control are centered around the belief that “the right to own firearms is subject to reasonable regulation.” The Democratic Party hopes to “focus on effective enforcement of existing laws, especially strengthening our background check system, and…work together to enact commonsense improvements–like reinstating the assault weapons ban and closing the gun show loophole–so that guns do not fall into the hands of those irresponsible, law-breaking few.” The 2012 Democratic Party Platform did explain that the Democratic Party does not wish to override the second amendment. Instead, they wish to see gun control reform that they believe lies within the scope of the second amendment, stating, “We recognize that the individual right to bear arms is an important part of the American tradition, and we will preserve Americans’ Second Amendment right to own and use firearms.”
The Democratic Party hopes to see a good deal of gun control legislation in the future.
Their goals include to incorporate mental-health criteria into the existing law regarding who can and cannot own guns. They hope to expand the federal prohibition on gun sales to include those convicted of misdemeanor stalking. They also hope to prohibit gun sales to those receiving involuntary mental health services on an outpatient basis, if a court deems them dangerous. Many states have already implemented these restrictions on a state-level basis. Democrats also hope to see states grant money to help local authorities bolster gun-violence prevention programs. Read more about Democratic views on gun control.
Democratic Views On Health Care
The Democratic view on health care is based around the idea that “accessible, affordable, high quality health care is part of the American promise, that Americans should have the security that comes with good health care.” Democrats believe that no American should have to face financial destitution because they fall ill or get injured, stating that “no one should have to choose between taking their child to a doctor and paying the rent.” They are firm supporters of laws that prevent insurance companies from covering Americans with pre-existing medical conditions, capping or cancelling coverage, or charging women more due simply to gender.
They also support allowing young Americans who are just entering the workforce to stay on their parents’ health care plans. They believe in preserving Medicare benefits for seniors. Democrats are strong supporters of the Affordable Care Act and of strengthening Medicare. Democrats stand in support of stem cell research, as well as other medical research, as a means to develop cures and treatments. They also support tax credits to businesses who offer quality, affordable healthcare, and tax credits to Americans who are approaching 65 and are not working, so that they can continue to afford healthcare until their Medicare benefits come into effect. Read more about Democrats and health care.
Democratic Views On Homeland Security
The Democratic Party believes that there are less aggressive ways to handle these threats than many that have been used in the past. Democratic Views on homeland security include combating terrorism without compromising the Constitution with the use of torture, always attempting to solve conflict through diplomacy and using military force only when necessary, increasing benefits for military members, and increasing border security measures. Democrats would also like to see military members trained to handle more modern-day technological threats. Democrats believe in utilizing diplomacy over military force whenever possible, as excessive use of military force only encourages terrorists to use force against us in return, perpetuating the cycle of violence. They believe that diplomacy should be attempted in every situation possible, and military force should be used as a final resort if diplomacy does not work. Even when the nation’s security is threatened, Democrats are against using excessive military force, and instead wish to see force used only to the extent necessary to protect the nation’s people.
They also believe in protecting the country through means beyond military strength, stating, “in addition to our military might, we must deploy all that is in America’s arsenal – our diplomacy, our intelligence system, our economic power, and the appeal of our values and ideas.” Democrats also believe that the United States’ dependence on Middle Eastern oil is a matter of homeland security, and that “to safeguard our freedom and ensure our nation’s future, we must end our dependence on Mideast oil.” Democrats do believe in maintaining the military in order to be prepared if force becomes necessary. They wish to see the military modernized, so that soldiers are equipped to meet the threats of the 21st century. Read more about Democratic views on homeland security.
• What It Means To Be A Democrat – California State University, Sacramento
• Democratic Party on Civil Rights – On The Issues
• IMMIGRATION REFORM – Democrats.org
• Democratic Party on Abortion – On The Issues
• EDUCATION – WhiteHouse.gov
• HEALTH CARE – Democrats.org
• Democratic Party on Homeland Security – On The Issues