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In the politics of the United States, the New Democrats are an ideologically centrist faction within the Democratic Party that emerged after the victory of Republican George H. W. Bush in the 1988 presidential election. They are identified with more centrist social/cultural positions and neoliberal fiscal values.[1][2] They are represented by organizations such as the Democratic Leadership Council (DLC), the New Democrat Network, and the Senate and House New Democrat Coalitions.



After the severe electoral losses to Ronald Reagan in the 1980s, a group of prominent Democrats began to believe their party was out of touch and in need of a radical shift in economic policy and ideas of governance.[3][4] The Democratic Leadership Council (DLC) was founded in 1985 by Al From and a group of like-minded politicians and strategists.[5] They advocated a political "Third Way" as an antidote to the electoral successes of Reaganism.[3][4]

Although the label "New Democrat" was briefly used by a liberal reformist group including Gary Hart and Eugene McCarthy in 1989[6], the term became more widely associated with the policies of the Democratic Leadership Council, who in 1990 renamed their bi-monthly magazine from The Mainstream Democrat to The New Democrat.[7] When Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton stepped down as DLC chairman to run for president in the 1992 presidential election, he presented himself as a "New Democrat".[8]

Bobby Kennedy as the first New Democrat

Many have claimed Robert F. Kennedy to be the first "New Democrat". As President Bill Clinton described in his book My Life:

"In the 1968 Indiana primary, Bobby Kennedy became the first New Democrat. He believed in civil rights for all and special privileges for none, in giving poor people a hand up rather than a handout: work was better than welfare. He understood in a visceral way that progressive politics requires the advocacy of both new policies and fundamental values, both far-reaching change and social stability. If he had become President, America's journey through the rest of the twentieth century would have been very different."

Bill Clinton as a New Democrat

Bill Clinton was the single Democratic politician of the 1990s most identified with the New Democrats; his promise of welfare reform in the 1992 presidential campaign, and its subsequent enactment, epitomized the New Democrat position, as were his 1992 promise of a middle-class tax cut and his 1993 expansion of the Earned Income Tax Credit for the working poor.[4] New Democrat and Third Way successes under Clinton, and the writings of Anthony Giddens, are often regarded to have inspired Tony Blair in the United Kingdom and his moderate policies, which became the New Labour party.[9]

New Democrats were more open to deregulation than the previous Democratic leadership had been. This was especially evident in the large scale deregulation of agriculture and the telecommunications industries. The new democrats and allies on the DLC were responsible for the ratification of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).[10]

An important part of New Democrat ideas is focused on improving the economy. During the administration of Bill Clinton, New Democrats were responsible for passing the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1993. It raised taxes on the wealthiest 1.2% of taxpayers,[11] while cutting taxes on 15 million low-income families and making tax cuts available to 90% of small businesses.[12] Additionally, it mandated that the budget be balanced over a number of years, through the implementation of spending restraints. This helped oversee the longest peace-time economic expansion in USA history.[13] Overall, the top marginal tax rate was raised from 31% to 40% under the Clinton administration.

New Democrats today

Some of those identified as New Democrats had vied for the 2008 Democratic nomination for President, including Hillary Rodham Clinton and New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson.

In 2003, Barack Obama (at the time serving in the Illinois State Senate), asked the Democratic Leadership Council to remove his name from its New Democrat Directory. He said that his name had been added without his knowledge, and that he was removing his name because it implied membership in the DLC, which he had never joined.[14] In March 2009, Obama reportedly told a White House gathering of 65 members of the New Democrat Coalition that he is a "New Democrat."[15]

New Democratic Governors

See also


  1. ^
  2. ^ |accessdate=2006-11-10
  3. ^ a b Wayne LeMieux, The Democrats' New Path, 2006, ISBN 978-1419638725
  4. ^ a b c John F Harris, The Survivor:Bill Clinton in the White House, Random House, 2005, ISBN 978-0375508479
  5. ^ Al From, Founder of the DLC and New Democrats
  6. ^ Herman, Steven L. (December 4). "The "New Democrats" are Liberals and Proud of It". Associated Press. 
  7. ^ Rae, Nicol C. (1994). Southern Democrats. Oxford University Press. p. 117. ISBN 0195087097. 
  8. ^ Kelly, Michael (September 28). "The 1992 Campaign: The Democrats; Clinton Uses Farm Speech to Begin New Offensive". New York Times. 
  9. ^ Sidney Blumenthal The Clinton Wars, 2003, ISBN 0-374-12502-3
  10. ^ Livingston, C. Don, Kenneth A. Wink; "The Passage of the North American Free Trade Agreement in the U.S. House of Representatives: Presidential Leadership or Presidential Luck?" Presidential Studies Quarterly, Vol. 27, 1997
  11. ^ 1994 State of the Union Address
  12. ^ Presidential Press Conference - 08/03/1993
  13. ^ April 2, 1999: The Longest Peacetime Expansion in History
  14. ^ "Obama to Have Name Removed from DLC List: Says 'New Democrats' acted 'without my knowledge'". Black Commentator, Issue Number 48. Black Commentator. June 26, 2003. Retrieved March 13, 2009. 
  15. ^ Martin, Jonathan; Carol E. Lee (March 10, 2009). "Obama: 'I am a New Democrat'". Politico (Politico). 

External links



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