The Democratic Party | US presidential elections 2016: What do I need to know? | DW | 19.01.2016
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US elections 2016

The Democratic Party

The party of Barack Obama, Lyndon Johnson and Franklin D. Roosevelt has given the United States 13 presidents. The Democrats describe themselves as liberals.

Established: 1828

Symbol: Donkey. Referred to as "jackass" by his opponents, the party's first president, Andrew Jackson, took a liking to the image of the strong-willed animal and began using it on his campaign posters. But it wasn't until cartoonist Thomas Nast popularized it in 1870 that most people began linking it with the party.

Philosophy: Progressivism, liberalism

Party politics: After the excesses of the 1990s and early 2000s, and a fling with centrist politics when Bill Clinton was president (1993-2001), the 2008 financial crisis largely returned to the party its core values: social and economic justice. While the party hasn't experienced any upheaval similar to the Tea Party movement, the party has moved steadily to the left in recent years. But their newfound populism hasn't helped them in the past three Congressional elections, where they've lost control of first the House of Representative and then the Senate.

Typical voter: From the stereotypical kale-eating, soy-latte-sipping "hipster" to the blue-collar worker, the "typical" Democratic voter is difficult to pin down. Generally, however, Democratic voters are more ethnically and sexually diverse, and highly educated. Women are also increasingly turning to the party, as are Hispanics, who make up the US's fastest-growing voter segment. African-Americans have consistently supported the party since the Civil Rights Act of 1964. In 2012, not only did 93 percent of African-Americans vote for President Obama, their turnout rate was also higher than that of whites - for the first time ever.

Party strongholds: Largely dominate the East and West Coasts and urban centers around the country. In recent years, however, as the ethnic makeup of the South has changed, Democrats have also made big gains in historically conservative states such as North Carolina and Texas.

Backed by: Clean-energy industry, civil-rights groups, health-care industry, labor unions, media industry, pro-abortion groups, tech industry.

Where Democrats stand on ...

Civil Rights: Many favor quotas, such as "affirmative action," to level the proverbial playing field for minorities and tackle discrimination on the basis of race or gender. Most have embraced the Black Lives Matter movement, following several instances of police brutality against African-Americans, and are now calling for criminal justice reform.

Climate change: Side with scientists who say the global rise in temperatures is caused by human activities. Support subsidies for clean energy and the Environmental Protection Agency's Clean Power Plan to regulate carbon emissions from power plants.

Economy: Support government regulation to protect the middle class and ensure everyone "gets a fair shake." When it comes to taxes, Democrats generally support the mantra that those who earn more, should pay more. Favor raising the minimum wage from $7.25 to at least $10.10. Democrats passed the most sweeping stimulus program since the Great Depression-era New Deal following the 2008 financial crisis.

Foreign policy: Strongly support soft diplomacy and worldwide coalitions rather than military intervention. Though many voted for republican President George W. Bush's invasion of Iraq, most have since distanced themselves from the so-called "war on terror." Strongly support Israel's right to exist, though many insist a two-state solution is the only way to achieve peace.

Role of government: Believe in the government's right to intervene and regulate for the sake of the common good. Democrats like to point to Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal, Lyndon B. Johnson's Civil Rights Acts, or Barack Obama's Affordable Care Act as examples of when strong government regulation helped, rather than hurt, Americans.