What are New Democrats?

Kristin Wood
Kristin Wood
Former U.S. President Bill Clinton is considered a 'New Democrat'.
Former U.S. President Bill Clinton is considered a 'New Democrat'.

The New Democrats are a subsection of the American Democratic Party. Typically, their political ideals fall into middle grounds between the extremes of the far left progressives and far right conservatives, while still moderately favoring the left. Some New Democrats wish to distance themselves from the bipartisan left to right spectrum and will not identify themselves with either side. Most also hold tightly to values such as equality and community. Some ideas a New Democrat might support would be charter schools, work-based welfare and incentives for individuals and businesses to protect the environment.

New Democrats are said to be a response to the political success of former Republican President Ronald Reagan.
New Democrats are said to be a response to the political success of former Republican President Ronald Reagan.

The class formed in response to former US president Ronald's Reagan's political victories in the 1980s. Some Democrats reported that they felt their political position was becoming out of touch with the modern American culture, and a small group of politicians determined to reform the Democratic Party. Soon after, the Democratic Leadership Council (DLC) was created and lead by New Democrat Al From.

Notable New Democrats have included Bobby Kennedy, Bill Clinton and Hillary Rodham Clinton. US President Barack Obama requested his name be removed from the DLC's membership list in 2003. He later referred to himself as a New Democrat in March 2009, however.

Health care is a major concern for many New Democrats. Coverage for all is usually the goal of these politicians and voters, and they typically believe this is best achieved through federal action. Three pillars have been suggested by some New Democrats.

The first pillar is a nationwide requirement that all adults and children purchase private health insurance if it can be afforded. Second, states would offer government assistance in finding insurance for those below a certain income line. Finally, the government will create insurance pools that foster competition between private companies while also keeping prices affordable.

Educational reform is also discussed among New Democrats. Two concepts are typically promoted: charter schooling and teacher incentives. The DLC believes that these two ideas will create a more competitive nature among public schools for better quality and encourage the best-performing teachers to continue instructing with enthusiasm and creativity. Teacher incentives might also lure higher-quality teachers into more challenging subject areas or school districts.

New Democrats typically support federal efforts to encourage environmentally-conscious behaviors. This might include tax breaks for businesses with eco-friendly policies or offering financial reimbursements for individuals who trade in older cars for a more environmentally-sensitive vehicle. Some New Democrats also promote using energy efficiency to create new jobs and help stimulate the economy.

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Discussion Comments


It seems to me like the New Democrats are more of a social progressive group than in the past and their platform is the liberal way of appealing to families and and appealing to particular parts of society that have direct bearing on most people's normal lives.

I see they focus a lot of their attention on education and the idea of merit pay for teachers. This appeals to a lot of people because they want what is best for their children and a lot of people have resentment towards teachers that are tenured and are terrible. This is one example of something they have in their platform that appeals to families and there are many others such as welfare as well as affordable insurance for the common American.

I find this to be a bit like modern populism and an attempt by the Democrats to combat the perceived notions of the Republican party that seems to support big business and the rich and promotes animosity among the lower classes of people.


@jmc88 - Yes you are right it is politics and their name is trying to put a positive spin on their ideals to try and make people more informed of their modern ideas, but why single them out for doing it?

Every political organization throughout times has had to adapt their agenda and platform to conform to society at the time.

They have to appeal to their constituents or else they will be voted out or their actions taken will be outdated and useless.

The New Democrats are simply the modern form of Democrats and although there are a few other groups of Democrats they are definitely in the minority.


@jcraig - I have somewhat of the same feeling except for one major facet and detail to some things that I have noticed.

If you notice nowadays most of the high ranking Democrats in power refer to themselves as New Democrats and preach these particular values and ideals to the nation, but in reality I see this as a political tool that is being used to adapt to the ever evolving society around the nation and try to garner votes for the Democrats.

No one is going to vote for out of date ideals or settle on old fashioned political mumbo jumbo. They are going to want relevant ideas and a platform to reflect the times and this is where the title of New Democrats come into play.

New Democrats is simply a term used to reflect a positive spin on liberal ideas and make people that are uniformed think that their ideas are new and innovative.

This is my interpretation of it and it is simply politics at work to try and appeal to people and has not changed for decades.


It seems to me like New Democrats are simply an evolution of the parties ideals that have occurred over time and reflect the modern times in which we live in.

If you would notice the two major leaders of the Democratic party, those being Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, as well as the face of the Democrats in the 1990's, Bill Clinton, claim to be New Democrats and claim to have the liberal ideals that are relative to the country in these current times.

This is not at all unusual and I do not find it to be that unique at all simply because the parties change and adapt to the times and they allow themselves to change their platforms and ideals based on the issues of the nation and the way society is at the time.

The platform of the New Democrats nowadays simply reflects these evolutions in American society and simply shows where the party is at the time and what the liberal side of the issues are.

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    • Former U.S. President Bill Clinton is considered a 'New Democrat'.
      Former U.S. President Bill Clinton is considered a 'New Democrat'.
    • New Democrats are said to be a response to the political success of former Republican President Ronald Reagan.
      New Democrats are said to be a response to the political success of former Republican President Ronald Reagan.