Since the founding of our country we have predominantly had two large political parties. Fringe or “third” parties occasionally gain some notoriety but never replace one of the two major parties.
See the Republican Party page for information on third parties.
THE DEMOCRATIC PARTY
The current Democratic party had its origins in the the 1790’s as the Democrat Republican (or Jeffersonian Republican) party and elected Thomas Jefferson as its first president. The party originally supported popular government and opposed monarchism. It evolved into a conservative and agrarian based party and split over the issue of slavery in the era preceding the Civil War.
The “Progressive” Democrat Woodrow Wilson moved the party left during his time in office during WWI. Wilson craved American entry into WWI and used the war as an excuse to institute many large government programs. Citizens were pressured to put “government first”, exposed to incredible amounts of government sponsored propaganda, the Sedition Act prevented any criticism of the government and effectively muzzled the press and led to the imprisonment of dissidents, and the American Protective League (with over a quarter million members) operated as a secret police agency and spied on American citizens.
New Deal Era
Franklin Delano Roosevelt moved the Democratic party even further left during his nearly four administrations. He used the financial crisis initiated by the massive stock market selloff of 1929 and exacerbated by the protectionist policies of Republican president Herbert Hoover to enlarge the Federal government even further than Wilson. For FDR, as Wilson, the state transcended the individual. FDR increased taxes on business and the wealthy, instituted myriad government programs to employ the masses, regulated anything that gave a hint of profitability, and never saw the unemployment rate below double digits until America’s entry into WWII.
Italy’s Benito Mussolini and founder of the Fascist movement was an ardent admirer of FDR’s New Deal and the social reorganization he had accomplished. Roosevelt’s New Deal was a social success for the left but an abysmal failure as an economic recovery tool. Most of the world suffered a depression in that time but we are the only country who had it so bad and so long we had to call it The Great Depression. Roosevelt was particularly gifted at inspiring our country during WWII and managed to instill an iron will and confidence that had wilted during the depression.
John F. Kennedy moved the party somewhat to the right as he was a believer in tax cuts. His inaugural speech, when read today, seems miles away from current liberal doctrine. JFK credited God for our rights rather than the state, he spoke of America’s greatness rather than our faults, he promised to fight for freedom abroad and to help new countries learn to help themselves. He did not ask Americans to put our country above ourselves. He did however try to manage things as if there were always a crisis and often smudged the lines between state and private enterprises.
Great Society Era
Lyndon B. Johnson, Kennedy’s successor, helped lurch the Democrats back to the left with his Great Society. Once again the state was the paramount item on the agenda and buying votes with handouts and subsidies for victim classes were rampant. Government experts were expected to solve societies woes and inequities. Their solutions, to no great surprise, entailed unintended consequences. Modern welfare was developed as part of the Great Society’s pledge which thus ensnared millions of minorities into generational poverty.
Carter and Clinton Eras
Jimmy Carter was personally far to the left but failed miserably to move his party or the country significantly to the left. He did manage to make the world a more dangerous place by helping bring radical Islamists to power in Iran and he still to this day stands side-by-side with the worst state sponsors of terrorism in the Middle East.
Bill Clinton had his efforts to move the country to the left blunted by the Republican takeover of Congress. By the Clinton era the country had shifted to center right after Ronald Reagan’s revitalization of the conservative movement.
Barack Obama campaigned on promises of creating a new way to govern and ushering in a new era of bipartisanship and transparency. In other words he promised to do the opposite of what his political record up to that point had indicated. Obama has proven in his short time in office to be the furthest left president yet. He fervently believes that himself, a couple dozen of his appointed czars, and a few leaders in the Democratic Congress are expert enough to significantly change this country to a far left entity with massive government control over society.
During the inaugural honeymoon he requested and signed a huge stimulus bill designed not so much to stimulate the economy as to reward those who helped get Democrats elected. He furthered the automaker bailout begun by George W. Bush by handing out new wads of cash to failing business models, having the government become major partners in the car companies, and giving his union allies a major stake in GM. He also saw it as part of his authority to fire the CEO of GM. The financial crisis (brought on by legislation) gave him the opportunity to take over large parts of the financial sector and bullied some financial institutions into taking bailouts they did not want. He also used his powers to unlawfully try to change contracts between the financial institutions and their executives over pay issues.
Obama has championed three legislative priorities:
- National Healthcare
- Stimulus Package
- Cap and Trade
These three pieces of legislation are designed to dramatically increase the size of the federal government and the scope of government control over large parts of American’s lives. The rush to pass these landmark pieces of legislation has rekindled a native streak of government distrust.
The Democratic Party has moved further left toward the European model. At this point they may as well change the name of their party to “Social Democrats” to complete the ideological alignment. Then the pretense will be over.