By Daniel V. McClain
The party of Andrew Jackson has changed several times over the years. It began as the party of the common man, committed to eliminating property and tax requirements for voting, pushing for popular election of judges, fighting for national security from hostile tribes, and opposition to banking monopolies. Jacksonians were also for strict constructionism and limited government, however in fighting political elites in other branches Jackson often chose to expand executive power to win his battles. Most importantly Jackson did the impossible and brought our nation to zero debt. An unprecedented and ne’er repeated feat.
After Jackson, the Democratic Party became the party of slavery and Jim Crow in opposition to Lincoln and the Republican Party.
After the turn of the century Woodrow Wilson and the Democrats returned to power with a vengeance. Wilson pushed segregation and brought back national banking under the Federal Reserve Act. The income tax was also introduced by the Dems during Wilson’s tenure. Wilson did push for women’s suffrage, however, his party was split while the Republicans were overwhelmingly in favor which was enough for passage.
Without getting too deep into FDR, I would say this era left us with Democrat policies like Social Security, many banking regulations, and payroll tax. By the end of his run, 8 of 9 Supreme Court Justices were appointed by FDR resulting in a liberal landslide of which the effects are still being felt.
Kennedy launched the space program and advocated for civil rights splitting the party. Johnson who had been against civil rights until he was Senate Majority Leader signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 after ascending to the presidency. He also passed the Great Society,which was his version of the New Deal, aimed at ending poverty.
The Democrats controlled both the House and Senate from Kennedy through Carter, allowing the expansion of the federal government with the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency, Department of Education as well as continued spending.
It is clear that the Democratic Party of today, like the last 50 years, is still committed to increasing government in size and scope and increasing taxes. They also continue to claim to be the party on civil rights by pushing for transgender rights, fighting against voter id laws, and welcoming illegal immigration.
At the DNC chairman debate, in late February, the short term future of the party became evident. All the candidates made it quite clear that they are completely opposed to Trump and his cabinet by hurling accusations of racism, anti-semitism, fascism, bigotry and every other insult they could think of. They apparently believe that they can capitalize on all of the post-election division by doubling down on partisanship. Several candidates, including “co-chairman” Keith Ellison, expressed support for continued mass protests. That appears to be their strategy for gaining support from millenials.
As for issues immigration appears to be the most important issue to the democrats going forward. They fully oppose a border wall and travel bans. They are for sanctuary cities, no candidate mentioned enforcing any immigration law. They also seemed to be interested in helping the American worker, but didn’t say much about it. I infer they will continue to push minimum wage and be pro-union. The democrats also seemed to be together against voter id laws with most candidates saying the concept is discriminatory. The candidates also claimed they will continue to be a party of inclusivity and civil rights for various groups.
One interesting trend that seemed to develop was that several candidates indicated gun control shouldn’t be harped on as much. They were still for what they call “common sense gun legislation”, but all they really said was that military style weapons shouldn’t be readily available.
Another interesting tidbit was when runner-up Keith Ellison also claimed Trump won on the democratic platform of protecting social security, more jobs, building infrastructure, and fair trade. I would have to call that a stretch, but I would wager democrats use that message going forward.
On foreign policy, new Chairman Tom Perez suggested that the party should embrace agreements like TPP in the future. It also seems the party will support a two state solution to the Israel-Palestinian conflicts, and a smaller footprint in the Middle East all together.
The consensus seemed to be that the party is in bad shape, disorganized, and unfocused. Tom Perez plans to rebuild the party by getting back to basics of house calls, year round campaigning, and a message of economic opportunity. He said, “we bring people in, but we don’t listen to them.” He addressed the Podesta and DNC leaks revelations including Donna Brazile feeding debate questions to Hilllary and Debbie Wasserman Schultz working against Bernie Sanders, by calling for increased transparency and neutrality throughout the primary election process.
Perez also called for a culture of service in the party and more work at the local level of the party. Some lower tier candidates mentioned being anti-elite, but the front runners didn’t go that far indicating they will get off that message for fund-raising purposes. Ellison indicated he is banking on Trump’s policies to fail. If the plan of the party is to obstruct, continue on the same platform, and wait for Trump’s policies to fail, then the Republicans have a good start toward increasing their majorities in 2018.