The Democratic Party is one of the two major political forces in the United States and the oldest active voter-based political party in the world. Established in the 1830s and 1840s, it has gone through a series of changes over its nearly two centuries of existence. It is renowned for its liberal stance on economic matters, and its platform has been shaped by the ideals of President Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal coalition and President Johnson's Great Society coalition. The Democratic Party's appeal to workers, people with low incomes, and recent immigrants was based on its liberal economic policies.
This was a stark contrast to the Republican Party, which tended to favor big government and appealed more to the middle class, business groups, and white Protestants in the North. The Great Depression served as a catalyst for a transformation of the party system that saw Democrats go from being a minority to being a majority at the national level. The Democratic Party has been more progressive on civil rights issues since 1948, although conservative factions within the party that opposed them persisted in the South until the 1960s. As for foreign policy, both parties have changed their position several times. The Democratic Party's divide between North and South intensified during the 1850s. When a great economic depression hit the United States with the panic of 1873, the Democratic Party made significant gains across the country, took full control of the South, and took control of Congress.
William Jennings Bryan was nominated for president three times by Democrats at the turn of the century as they started advocating for big government. The New Deal realignment of the 1930s reconfigured the party system. The basis of this realignment was President Roosevelt's promise to resign after seven and a half years, and his elected successor, Secretary of War William Howard Taft's popularity. Despite its defeats in presidential elections in the 1970s and 1980s, Democrats continued to control both houses of Congress for most of this period. The Democratic Party platform of the 1960s was largely shaped by President Johnson's Great Society coalition. The party began to embrace civil rights and its blockade in the South was irretrievably broken.
Kennedy was elected president in 1960. During the 2000 presidential election, Democrats elected Vice President Al Gore as their candidate for president. This was their worst performance in a national election since 1946. In 2003, an electoral recall overthrew California's unpopular Democratic governor Gray Davis and replaced him with Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger. The Democratic Party logo, a donkey popularized by cartoonist Thomas Nast in the 1870s, has been widely used but never officially adopted by the party.