The Democratic Party
Documents Decoded
by Douglas B. Harris and Lonce H. Bailey
October 2014, 281pp, 8 1/2x11
1 volume, ABC-CLIO

Hardcover: 978-1-61069-643-2
$96, £74, 84€, A132
eBook Available: 978-1-61069-644-9
Please contact your preferred eBook vendor for pricing.

Today’s Democratic Party would be unrecognizable to Democrats in the 1800s.

Through an examination of key historical documents, this book chronicles the Democratic Party's complete transformation from the small-government, Jeffersonian party to a party of activist government and social progressivism during the presidencies of Franklin D. Roosevelt, Lyndon Johnson, Bill Clinton, and Barack Obama.

What are the objectives of today’s Democratic Party, and what historic events have guided its evolution from a decidedly different ideological starting point more than 200 years ago? The Democratic Party: Documents Decoded supplies a thorough historical examination of the Democratic Party from its distant origins in George Washington’s administration to the two-term administration of Barack Obama. Told through key documents and speeches, this history comes alive in the words and thoughts of those who built, sustained, and transformed the Democratic Party. No other book uses documents in this way to tell a comprehensive history of this party.

The book utilizes primary documents to investigate a breadth of topics such as the Democratic party’s positions on civil rights, discrimination, voting rights, taxation, representation, immigration, primary elections, caucuses, the Republican opposition, relations between church and state, the role of government, and foreign policy. The scholarly commentary provides essential context that bridges the gaps between documents and insightful explanations and clarifications of specific passages or terms to ensure reader comprehension. A work unlike any other on the history of the Democratic Party, this book will serve advanced high school students in government and history classes as well as undergraduate students taking courses in political science and history.


  • Supplies a chronological history of the Democratic Party over the course of more than two centuries as told in documents
  • Covers presidential and party rhetoric ranging from George Washington's 1796 farewell address to Barack Obama's 2013 inaugural address
  • Details the transformation of the Democratic Party from a small-government party that supported slavery and segregation to a progressive party that defends civil rights and provided the nation's first African-American president
Douglas B. Harris is associate professor of political science at Loyola University Maryland. His research on Congress, political parties, and media politics include articles in numerous scholarly journals and edited collections. He is coauthor of The Austin-Boston Connection: Five Decades of House Democratic Leadership, 1937–1989 and coeditor of Doing Archival Research in Political Science.

Lonce H. Bailey, PhD, is assistant professor of political science at Shippensburg University of Pennsylvania. His research focuses on U.S. democracy and political institutions. His published work includes the chapter, "Running Right in Pennsylvania: Pat Toomey's Early Blueprint for Electoral Success," in Tea Party Effects on 2010 U.S. Senate Elections: Stuck in the Middle to Lose. He holds a doctorate in political science from the University of Massachusetts Amherst.


"This book's unique and chronological approach in aligning key historical documents side-by-side with modern-day commentary facilitates an active relationship between readers and the material at hand. . . . This book is recommended for high school and academic libraries."—ARBAonline, May 29, 2015
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