A conservative Democrat is a member of the Democrat Party in the United States who holds conservative views on social or economic issues. Conservative Democrats are extremely rare today, if any exist at all. However, despite that party's longstanding reputation as a liberal political party, the Democrat Party had a conservative wing for much of its history. Conservative Democrats were organized into the Blue Dog caucus in the House. Previously they were known by other names including "boll weevil Democrats" during the 1980s, when a large number of conservative Democrats voted with President Reagan on fiscal and social policy.
The American South had a long tradition of electing conservative Democrats to office, including in presidential elections until they broke from the Democrats in 1964 to vote for Barry Goldwater, the Republican nominee. From 1948 to the 1970s an even more conservative wing of the party, mostly from the South, was called "Dixiecrats". This Dixiecrat wing of the party has been essentially defunct since the 1970s, when the House contingent was led by the late Joe Waggonner of Louisiana. A few former Dixiecrats, including Strom Thurmond and Jesse Helms, were early converts to the Republican Party, foreshadowing a long trend of conservatives leaving the Democrats and joining the Republicans that continued through the 1980s and 1990s.
Today there are several caucuses of people with relatively conservative views in the Democrat Party. These conservative Democrats often find themselves at odds with the liberal majority of their party. The Blue Dog caucus in the House was organized in 1994 by conservative Democrats who believed the liberal wing of the party had "choked blue" conservative voices in the party. There is also a pro-life caucus within the Democrats called Democrats for Life of America currently led by Nat Hentoff, a pro-Second Amendment caucus called Amendment II Democrats which supports gun rights, and even a minority-held position within the environmentalist and organized labor movements opposed to unregulated immigration into the United States on environmental or job protection grounds, although it should be noted that these voices have been all but shut out by the current leadership of those movements.
The Democratic Leadership Council is occasionally referred to as "conservative" but it has some liberal views on both social and economic issues. It includes among its ranks Bill Clinton, Bill Richardson, and Hillary Clinton.
Notable conservative Democrats in the 21st century
Zell Miller is a conservative Democrat who wrote a book, A National Party No More: The Conscience of a Conservative Democrat, about his differences with the current party leadership.
A more recent book (published October 2007) in the Conservative Democrat column is Why the Democrats Are Blue by Mark Stricherz, a conservative pro-life Catholic and a Democrat. He traces the Democrat Party's takeover in the 1968-1972 period by wealthy secularist liberals who pushed the party's traditional socially conservative working class coalition of northern Catholics and southern Protestants out of the party leadership, and made pro-abortion, gun control, and similar liberal positions the dominant views in the party.
In 2008, the Democrat nominee for U.S. Senate in South Carolina, Bob Conley, ran to the right of the Republican incumbent Lindsey Graham. The paleoconservative Bob Conley narrowly won a contested Democrat primary over the liberal Democrat activist, Michael Cone, who was supported mainly by out of state liberal bloggers.
Charley Reese is a conservative newspaper columnist who recently announced his retirement from writing.
Ruben Diaz, Sr. is a socially conservative DINO and member of the New York City Council who ran for New York's 15th congressional district on a platform opposing abortion and homosexuality. However, he finished third place in his party's primary.
- Scaliger, Charles (August 3, 2018). Done With Conservative Democrats. The New American. Retrieved August 6, 2018.
- Briggs, Vernon. Immigration and American Unionism. Cornell University Press, 2001.
- Beck, Roy and Leon Kolankiewicz. The Environmental Movement's Retreat from Advocating U.S. Population Stabilization (1970 - 1998): A First Draft of History. Journal of Policy History, (ISSN 0898-0306) Vol 12, No 1, 2000
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