- The Democratic Party is one of the two major political parties in the United States, the other being the Republican Party. After a number of years in the 1890s as the second party, the Democrats gained control first of Congress and then of the White House with the election of Woodrow Wilson in 1912. They held a majority in both the Senate and the House of Representatives from 1913 to 1917 and maintained a majority in the Senate from 1917 to 1919. However, after 1919 the Democrats were divided on the issues of prohibition, the League of Nations, and ethnic and racial issues and lost the presidency in 1920, 1924, and 1928 to overwhelming defeats. The divisions between rural and urban areas and the South and North persisted throughout much of the 1920s, and the party was not able to unite again until the election of 1932 when, in the face of the Great Depression, they unified behind Franklin D. Roosevelt and recaptured control of both the House with 310 seats and the Senate with 60. Their control of Congress increased with larger majorities in both houses in 1934, and again in 1936 (331 in the House, 76 in the Senate).Under Roosevelt’s New Deal, the Democratic Party moved away from its traditional laissez faire position and notions of limited federal intervention to one of support for economic regulation and federal provision of social welfare for the unemployed and elderly. The party was increasingly identified with the urban, ethnic, and immigrant population; African Americans; women; and trade unions. It also continued to be the party of the South, and with this combined strength it was able to dominate both houses in Congress until the election of the postwar 80th Congress in 1946, and again with the 83rd Congress in 1952. However, following the “court packing” attempt in 1937 and the further recession that year, from 1938 the southern element often combined with Republicans to form a “conservative coalition” and block reforms, and the divisions became increasingly strained on issues of civil rights. In a foretaste of things to come in the 1960s, in 1948 the Dixiecrats bolted from the party because of Harry S. Truman’s creation of a Committee on Civil Rights and his subsequent order to begin the desegregation the armed forces. Although they returned to the fold after the election, the fragile structure disintegrated in the 1970s and 1990s with further political realignments along regional and ideological lines.
Historical Dictionary of the Roosevelt–Truman Era . Neil A. Wynn . 2015.
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