According to dictionary.com, the technical definition of Democrat is “a member of the Democratic party.” This is not exactly helpful, especially if you are new to politics and trying to figure out where you fit in the political spectrum. At the risk of sounding partisan and getting the political bloggers on my back, the basic difference between Democrats and Republicans is that Democrats want bigger government while Republicans want smaller government. Obviously there are plenty of ways to incorporate both philosophies into a political belief system, so don’t think that this article is going to favor the Democrats over the Republicans. We only want to explore what makes Democrats…well, Democrats!
It might be hard to believe with all of the partisan bickering happening in Congress, but Democrats were, once upon a time, members of a party called the Democratic – Republican Party, which was founded by Thomas Jefferson and James Madison. The Democratic Party officially separated from the Republican Party when Andrew Jackson was elected.
That’s all fine and good, but what do Democrats really believe? We can’t speak for individuals within the Democratic Party, but the party defines itself as believing in the following:
Raising the minimum wage
Investing in and favoring renewable energy over oil
Lower taxes for the middle class
Higher taxes for the wealthy (currently defined as those who make more than $250,000 per year)
Public funding for Welfare, Medicaid, Medicare and Social Security
National/Universal health care
Lower pharmaceutical costs
Protection of the environment
Lower costs for Higher Education
North American Free Trade Agreement
Central American Free Trade Agreement
Adjusting the Alternative Minimum Tax
Equal Opportunity regardless of gender, age, race, orientation, nationality or religion
Making gay marriage legal
Stem cell research
Ending the war in Iraq
Decolonization of Puerto Rico (if Puerto Rican citizens want that)
This is simply a quick laundry list of what Democrats believe in as a party. All of these points have paragraphs of complicated policy behind their headlines (which we do not have time to explore in this article). Within both political parties there are members who do not agree with every facet of a party’s political platform.
The 2008 election has caused the balance in Washington to tip toward the Democrats’ side of the aisle. Americans have elected a Democratic President and both the House of Representatives and the Senate will have Democratic majorities when everyone has been sworn in to session. Many Republicans worry about how this will shift the balance for laws and policy in the United States. It is important to remember that you cannot paint all Democrats (or all Republicans) with the same brush. It is also important to remember that being “liberal” and being “a democrat” do not always mean the same thing. In the last few decades the “liberal” brush has been used against Democrats and it is important to remember that liberals can be found in the Republican, Constitution, Green and Libertarian parties as well!