Despite the important role of the Democratic Party in US political history, only few Americans can state the basic facts about its history. The democrats were dominating US politics in two distinct periods: between 1828 and 1860 and between 1932 and 2000. The establishment of the Democratic Party happened in 1829 when Andrew Jackson became the President of the Unites States. If many Americans did not like the ideas of Jackson in the 1820s ad 30s, the Democratic Party would never have been formed. Together with his followers, Jackson founded the Democratic Party. In those days, the democrats were definitely in favor of slavery and had widespread support in the southern states where slavery was still a normal aspect of daily life.
After the Civil War, the democrats became the party of big business and this was the main reason why it alienated the less prosperous voters in the north. Moreover, the democrats were able to perfect the urban political machine long before the Civil War by getting loyal votes from immigrants and others who were given jobs and services. This clever combination of large urban support in the north and the unquestionable support in the south, paved the way for the democrats to sometimes win the presidency or control Congress. This became explicitly apparent in the presidential elections of 1884 which was won by the democrat Grover Cleveland. He got the solid support from the south, the Border States, and even Indiana, New York, Connecticut and New Jersey.
In the era between the Civil War and the Depression, the democrats did not really stand for anything except the oppression of African Americans. The power of the democrats in those days was also facilitated by the prohibition of African Americans to vote in the south. This was obviously clear with the election of Woodrow Wilson who remained in office between 1913 and 1920. Wilson became president because he had the massive support from the south and gained significant advantage from the division among in the Republican Party. Despite the fact that he only received 41% of the popular vote, he got the presidency and thanks to the First World War he became a historic figure. After Wilson’s presidency, the democrats played a marginal role in US politics and this bad fate was turned around with a man-made disaster: the Great Depression.
When the democrat Franklin D. Roosevelt was elected, the American electorate was already blaming the republicans for all the misery. The US was ready to make a shift towards a welfare state like those already existing in several European countries. The New Deal proposed by the democrats merely filled a social security gap which existed long before in the US. The time was ripe for the introduction of the New Deal program of the democrats which was necessary to bring the US closer to the advanced European countries in providing social safety nets for those unfortunate ‘victims’ of the ruthless side effects of the industrial economy.
Southern African Americans were aligned with the Republican Party until the 1960s. But the democrats under President Lyndon Johnson finally enacted and enforced a meaningful civil rights act. Johnson also led the democrats to extend the New Deal. The War on Poverty was truly a democratic program to alleviate poverty in the US. Unfortunately, the cost of this program had to be combined with the costs of the Vietnam War and this led to the rise of stagflation in the 1970s. It was another democrat elected to the presidency who finally dismantled Johnson’s Great Society programs: Clinton. What happened during the Clinton administration was the move of the democrats to the right side of the political spectrum using an Orwellian excuse for this shift called ‘welfare reform.’