Conservative Democrat

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In American politics, a conservative Democrat is a member of the Democratic Party with conservative political views, or with views that are fiscally or socially conservative compared to the positions taken by the Democratic Party. Traditionally, conservative Democratic elected officials are disproportionately found within conservative regions like Southern states, rural areas, and the Midwest[1]. However, progressive Democrats like Beto O'Rourke and Stacey Abrams are indicative of a shift from this tradition.[2]

Ideology and polls[edit]

The modern view of a conservative Democrat is a Democrat who is fiscally conservative, with a moderate or conservative foreign policy, but with varying views on social or civil policy. Some members of the progressive wing[clarification needed] of the Democratic Party apply the term "Democrat in name only" (DINO) to conservative Democrats.[citation needed]

According to a 2015 poll from the Pew Research Center, 54% of conservative and moderate Democrats supported same-sex marriage in 2015. This figure represented an increase of 22% from a decade earlier.[3]

A 2015 Gallup poll found that 19% of Democrats identify themselves as conservative, a decline of 6% from 2000.[4]

In 2018, Gallup's ideology polling found that 35% of Democrats self-identified as moderate and 13% identified as conservative; 50% of Democratic respondents described their ideology as liberal.[5]


There were a few conservative Democrats who came to oppose the New Deal, including Senator Harry F. Byrd, Senator Rush Holt Sr., Senator Josiah Bailey, and Representative Samuel B. Pettengill.[citation needed]

During the Roosevelt administration, several radical populist proposals which went beyond what Roosevelt was willing to advocate gained in popularity. It is notable that all four of the main promoters of these proposals, Charles Coughlin, Huey Long, Francis Townsend, and Upton Sinclair, were originally strong New Deal supporters but turned against Roosevelt because they believed the New Deal programs did not go far enough. Like the New Deal programs, these populist proposals were based entirely on single economic reforms, but did not take a position on any other issue and were therefore compatible with those holding otherwise conservative views. Some historians today believe that the primary base of support for the proposals of Coughlin, Long, Townsend, and Sinclair was conservative middle class whites who saw their economic status slipping away during the Depression.[6]

A different source of conservative Democratic dissent against the New Deal came from a group of journalists who considered themselves classical liberals and Democrats of the old school, and were opposed to big government programs on principle; these included Albert Jay Nock and John T. Flynn, whose views later became influential in the libertarian movement.[citation needed]

George Wallace, the segregationist Democratic governor of Alabama, formed the new American Independent Party. In the 1968 presidential election, he received 13.5% of the popular vote and 46 electoral votes, carrying several Southern states.[7] The AIP would run presidential candidates in several other elections, including conservative Southern Democrats (Lester Maddox in 1976 and John Rarick in 1980), but none of them did nearly as well as Wallace.[citation needed]

After 1968, with desegregation a settled issue, conservative Democrats (mostly Southerners) managed to remain in the United States Congress throughout the 1970s and 1980s. These included Democratic House members as conservative as Larry McDonald, who was also a leader in the John Birch Society. During the administration of Ronald Reagan, the term "boll weevils" was applied to this bloc of conservative Democrats, who consistently voted in favor of tax cuts, increases in military spending, and deregulation favored by the Reagan administration but opposed to cut social welfare spending.[citation needed] Boll weevils was sometimes used as a political epithet by Democratic Party leaders, implying that the boll weevils were unreliable on key votes or not team players. Most of the boll weevils eventually retired from office, or in the case of some such as Senators Phil Gramm and Richard Shelby, switched parties and joined the Republicans. Since 1988 the term boll weevils has fallen out of favor.[citation needed]

Democratic Governor of Georgia Jimmy Carter won the 1976 presidential election. Carter was the first candidate from the Deep South to be elected president since before the Civil War. He is a born-again Christian and was (until 2000) a member of the Southern Baptist Convention. While the Republican Party began to pursue a strategy of wooing born-again Christians as a voting bloc after 1980, led by activists Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson, in 1976, 56% of the evangelical Christian vote went to Carter. However, he had both liberal fiscal and social policies with liberal views on peace and ecology, with foreign policies that made him unsatisfying for most Southern conservative Democrats.[citation needed]

In 1988, Joe Lieberman defeated Republican U.S. Senate incumbent Lowell Weicker of Connecticut by running to the right of Weicker and receiving the endorsements of the Moral Majority and the National Rifle Association. Colorado governor Richard Lamm, and former Minnesota Senator and presidential candidate Eugene McCarthy both took up immigration reduction as an issue.[8] Lamm wrote a novel, 1988, about a third-party presidential candidate and former Democrat running as a progressive conservative, and Lamm himself would go on to unsuccessfully seek the nomination of the Reform Party in 1996. McCarthy began to give speeches in the late 1980s naming the Internal Revenue Service, the Federal Communications Commission, and the Federal Election Commission as the three biggest threats to liberty in the United States.[citation needed]

Arthur Schlesinger Jr., known during the 1950s and 1960s as a champion of "Vital Center" ideology and the policies of Harry S. Truman and John F. Kennedy, wrote a 1992 book entitled The Disuniting of America that was critical of multiculturalism.[9]

During the 2006 midterm elections, the Democratic Party ran moderates and even a few conservative Democrats for at-risk Republican seats.[10]

In 2015, The New York Times asserted that the party as a whole had shifted to the left.[11]

Blue Dog Coalition[edit]

In 1994 after the Republican revolution, moderate and conservative Democrats within the U.S. House of Representatives organized themselves into the Blue Dog Democrats, in response to the Republican victories at the polls that November. The explanation was that the Blue Dogs felt the party had moved so far left that it had "choked them blue." The name is a reference to an earlier term, Yellow dog Democrat (typically, a southerner who would vote for a Democrat even if a "yellow dog" were the Democratic candidate) and also to the "blue dog" paintings of a Louisiana artist. The Blue Dog Coalition is not considered as conservative as the earlier Dixiecrat and Boll Weevil incarnations of conservative Democrats.[citation needed]

Conservative endorsements of Democratic candidates[edit]

During the 2004 election, several high-profile conservative writers endorsed the Presidential campaign of John Kerry, arguing that the Bush Administration was pursuing policies which were anything but conservative. Among the most notable of these endorsements came from Andrew Sullivan and Paul Craig Roberts. A series of editorials in Pat Buchanan's The American Conservative magazine made a conservative case for several candidates, with Scott McConnell formally endorsing Kerry,[12] and Justin Raimondo giving the nod to independent Ralph Nader.[13]

In 2006, Democratic Nebraska senator Ben Nelson received the endorsements of groups such as the National Right to Life Committee and the National Rifle Association, respectively a pro-life group and pro-gun group, that both typically endorse Republicans.[citation needed]

In South Carolina in 2008, the Democratic candidate for United States Senator was Bob Conley, a traditionalist Catholic and a former activist for the presidential candidacy of Ron Paul. Conley failed in his bid to defeat Republican Lindsey Graham, receiving 42.4 percent of the vote.[14]

In his 2010 campaign for reelection, Walter Minnick, the U.S. Representative for Idaho's 1st congressional district, was endorsed by Tea Party Express, an extremely rare occurrence for a Democrat.[15][16] Minnick was the only Democrat to receive a 100% rating from the Club for Growth, an organization that typically supports conservative Republicans.[17] Minnick ultimately lost to Raúl Labrador, a conservative Republican, in the general election.[citation needed]

Also in 2010, Travis Childers, the U.S. Representative for Mississippi's 1st congressional district, was endorsed by the National Right to Life Committee[18] and the National Rifle Association[19] in his reelection campaign. Childers lost to conservative Republican Alan Nunnelee.[citation needed]

Democrats described as conservatives[edit]


U.S. Senators[edit]

Members of the U.S. House of Representatives[edit]

U.S. Governors[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ NW, 1615 L. St; Washington, Suite 800; Inquiries, DC 20036 USA202-419-4300 | Main202-419-4349 | Fax202-419-4372 | Media. "Political ideology among adults in the Midwest - Religion in America: U.S. Religious Data, Demographics and Statistics | Pew Research Center". Retrieved 2019-06-05.
  2. ^ Kilgore, Ed (2018-11-09). "A Different Kind of Democratic Party Is Rising in the South". Intelligencer. Retrieved 2019-06-05.
  3. ^ "Changing Views of Same-Sex Marriage | Pew Research Center". Retrieved February 23, 2016.
  4. ^ Newport, Frank. "U.S. Liberals at Record 24%, but Still Trail Conservatives". Retrieved February 23, 2016.
  5. ^ Inc., Gallup,. "Conservative Lead in U.S. Ideology Is Down to Single Digits". Retrieved August 6, 2018.
  6. ^ Voices of Protest: Huey Long, Father Coughlin, and the Great Depression. Alan Brinkley. Knopf Press (1982).
  7. ^ The Politics of Rage: George Wallace, the Origins of the New Conservatism, and the Transformation of American Politics. Dan T. Carter. Simon & Schuster Press (1995).
  8. ^ A Colony of the World: The United States Today. Eugene J. McCarthy. Hippocrene Books (1992).
  9. ^ The Disuniting of America. Arthur Schlesinger Jr. Norton Press (1992).
  10. ^ Hook, Janet (October 26, 2006). "A right kind of Democrat". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on October 14, 2009. Retrieved September 1, 2013. See also: Dewan, Shaila; Kornblut, Anne E. (October 30, 2006). "In Key House Races, Democrats Run to the Right". The New York Times. Retrieved November 10, 2006.
  11. ^ "Have Democrats Pulled Too Far Left?". The New York Times. Retrieved February 23, 2016.
  12. ^ McConnell, Scott (November 8, 2004). "Kerry's the One | The American Conservative". Retrieved February 23, 2016.
  13. ^ Raimondo, Justin (November 8, 2004). "Old Right Nader | The American Conservative". Retrieved February 23, 2016.
  14. ^ "South Carolina – Election Results 2008". December 9, 2008. Retrieved February 23, 2016.
  15. ^ Stein, Sam (April 15, 2010). "Walt Minnick Tea Party Endorsement: Minnick Campaign Accepts". Huffington Post.
  16. ^ "Walt Minnick: The Tea Party's 'token Democrat'?". April 22, 2010. Retrieved February 23, 2016.
  17. ^ Cadei, Emily (August 13, 2009). "Minnick Earns Perfect Score on 'RePork Card'". CQ Politics. Archived from the original on August 16, 2009. Retrieved October 7, 2014.
  18. ^ "Miss. Right to Life Grades The Candidates". Archived from the original on October 29, 2013. Retrieved October 6, 2014.
  19. ^ West, Phil. "Travis Childers receives NRA endorsement". Retrieved October 6, 2014.
  20. ^ Chaffin, Tom (October 3, 2012). "Mitt Romney: The Second Coming of James K. Polk?". The Atlantic. Retrieved July 26, 2016.
  21. ^ Busick, Sean (October 14, 2013). "Franklin Pierce, Forgotten Conservative". Nomocracy In Politics. Retrieved February 23, 2016.
  22. ^ "Reconstruction: Radicalism versus Conservatism". Retrieved February 23, 2016.
  23. ^ Michael Lind (February 8, 2011). "How Reaganism actually started with Carter". Retrieved February 23, 2016.
  24. ^ Grant Schulte. "Ben Nelson Retiring Ahead Of 2012 Election". Retrieved February 23, 2016.
  25. ^ "2004: PRESIDENTIAL PROSPECTS -- Joseph I. Lieberman; Trying Out the Perilous Leap From No. 2 to No. 1". The New York Times. December 24, 2002. Retrieved April 15, 2018.
  26. ^ Kennedy, Robert F. (September 30, 2014). "Joe Manchin boosts fellow red-state Dems". Politico. Retrieved February 23, 2016.
  27. ^ Eisele, Albert. "Jessamyn Conrad: political daughter, political author (with political future?)". MINNPOST. Retrieved October 22, 2018.
  28. ^ Chafets, Zev. "CHAFETS". Newsweek. Retrieved October 22, 2018.
  29. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r "Conservative Democrats Warn Against Funding Abortion in Healthcare Reform". US News. Retrieved February 23, 2016.
  30. ^ Walsh, Deirdre (November 14, 2014). "No more white Southern Democrats in Congress". Retrieved February 23, 2016.
  31. ^ Litten, Kevin. "Conservative Democrats Hope John Bel Edwards' victory means New Direction for State Party". NOLA Media Group. Retrieved April 1, 2016.

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