Best Democrat in US History (Poll)

I have a question to pose to all MyDDer's out there.  Who is your favorite Democrat in the history of the party, starting in the early 1800's in the time of Andrew Jackson.  We've come a long way since then, going from the states- rights party of the south during the civil war to the early 20th century, to the progressive era and the New Deal.  Then we fought for more and more rights for more and more Americans in the 1960's to today.  So, who is your favorite Democrat?

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45 Comments

Tip Jar
Tips and comments welcome.  Thanks for your participation!
by Max Friedman 2005-11-13 06:45AM | 0 recs
Re: Tip Jar
I'll throw you $100 virtual dollars... good job!
by yitbos96bb 2005-11-13 08:28PM | 0 recs
No MLK?
Not elected to anything but he's pretty high on the list.
by jkfp2004 2005-11-13 07:38AM | 0 recs
Re: No MLK?
I second.
by NeuvoLiberal 2005-11-13 04:44PM | 0 recs
Re: No MLK?
But did MLK consider himself a Democrat?

My understanding is no, but I could be wrong.

Small quibble, I know.
I love MLK.

by v2aggie2 2005-11-13 08:14PM | 0 recs
Re: No MLK?
Yeah... I guess you'd have to be kinduva dick to say  "Damn, I just hate MLK!"
by teknofyl 2005-11-14 03:41AM | 0 recs
Re: No MLK?
Yeah, that Martin Lewis Kennedy is a heck of a guy... oh the OTHER MLK... Yeah he was a great one.
by yitbos96bb 2005-11-14 06:18AM | 0 recs
Re: No MLK?
True -- and I don't think that person would be at this site.

My comment stands.
Not quite sure what you're point is, though I assume you are making a joke

by v2aggie2 2005-11-18 09:28PM | 0 recs
haha
we love our FDR, don't we?
by annatopia 2005-11-13 07:51AM | 0 recs
Listen to some of his speeches at the FDR Library
They are absolutely electrifying.

The man was really articulate. They sound as fresh today as they did then. Thats why the right still hates him.

They are doing everything to cover this fact up, but its obvious to me that his taking the New Deal to the people in 1934 saved this country from the chaos of a bloody revolution.

Thats why I always say that the Democratic Party represents the voice of balance and moderation, the center, not the left at all.

Democracy makes both social justice and capitalism palatable. Its intrinsically based on balancing needs, on compromise, not giving either side everything that might be expected under their respective extreme examples..

And thats what gives democratic government legitimacy.

If we ditch the social contract, we jettison our legitimacy as well.

You can't have your cake and eat it too.

by ultraworld 2005-11-13 09:31PM | 0 recs
dissensus
I picked FDR, too-- but it's important for us to remember that Japanese-Americans may not agree. You  could also argue that Truman took more action to improve black/white race relations than FDR did (or perhaps could). FDR could not have improved the condition of the American working class so much without sometime help from the virulent racists who represented the Southern wing of the Dem party: for all the problems we have with our party these days, it's nice to remember that this time the white supremacists are all on the Other Side.
by accommodatingly 2005-11-13 08:28AM | 0 recs
*YAWN*
FDR wasn't perfect?!? Quick, let me change my vote!
by Paul Goodman 2005-11-13 11:25AM | 0 recs
Panic..
can be forgiven in the aftermath of Pearl Harbor.

lets not forget the EXTREME BRUTALITY of the Japanese troops in Nanjing in 1937, killing by some accounts 300,000 civilans in just a few days in an orgy of killing that even shocked.. no, even terrified their allies the Nazis who were there..

I'm serious. If you don't follow, do a search on the phrase "Unit 731".

The amnesty we agreed to for Japanese war criminals we agreed to in the wake of the Japanese surrender was a huge mistake.. Now the tortured cries of the 'comfort women' for compensation are referred coldly.. to us..

WHY DO WE CODDLE FASCISM?

by ultraworld 2005-11-13 09:36PM | 0 recs
Thomas Jefferson
Why cut it off with Andrew Jackson?  I'd say the first Democratic (or Democratic-Republican, as we were called back when the other major party was the Federalists) President has a good claim to being the greatest.  Barring that, I'd have to go with FDR.
by Alex 2005-11-13 08:33AM | 0 recs
Re: Thomas Jefferson
Some people say that the wacky system of "checks and balances" that people like Thomas Jefferson got us into has been our undoing. I think they are correct. The system is such a labyrinth that it can only be controlled in top-down mode.

I also think that Wilson's WWI was the beginning of the warfare state. It was a very bad show indeed.

I would go with F.D.R., Ted Kennedy, and Al Gore.

by blues 2005-11-14 02:14AM | 0 recs
Other
Grover Cleveland.  Right up there with the greatest Democratic Presidents from New York; a group that hopefully will expand its membership to include Eliot Spitzer in the future.
by LoganFerree 2005-11-13 10:47AM | 0 recs
Re: Other
ohh come on... Yeah sure, it probably was because of Grover Cleveland that the Democratic party started to include the economic interventionists, populists, and socialists to the party (he brought the mugwumps on board)... But to say he was really the greatest democratic president?
by KainIIIC 2005-11-13 11:38AM | 0 recs
Re: Other
Grover Cleveland was a complete reactionary. He represented the days when the Democratic Party was the conservative party. His ascension to office meant that rights for African Americans would no longer be protected by the Federal Government.
by elrod 2005-11-13 06:36PM | 0 recs
Sam Rayburn?
Rayburn was the greatest Speaker of the House ever, and served longer/did more than the majority of those mentioned.
by JRyan 2005-11-13 11:51AM | 0 recs
Why are we even having a poll?
Apart from some kids who clearly haven't cracked a history book in their whole lives (and hence are voting for the good doctor from Vermont) what is the damn point? Yes I know we have annual Jefferson-Jackson dinners and I fully understand the quip that would have the smartest table parties in White House history those nights that Jefferson dined alone, but one guy alone brought this party from darkness to a force for progress. He didn't do the whole job, Truman, Keneddy and Johnson did some much needed cleanup work but if you don't understand that FDR was The Man, you just don't understand.

In 2006 we are going to have a replay of 1940. In this corner is Prescott Bush, in that corner is Franklin Delano Roosevelt. I am betting for the guy in the wheechair.

Unleash your inner FDR. Teddy wasn't the only Roosevelt who came with a Big Stick. And if you want to be very afraid, remember that Eleanor's maiden name was Roosevelt as well. I love the Kennedy's but I still spell 'Democrat' with a capital 'R'.

by Bruce Webb 2005-11-13 01:28PM | 0 recs
Re: Why are we even having a poll?
Apart from some kids who clearly haven't cracked a history book in their whole lives (and hence are voting for the good doctor from Vermont) what is the damn point?

Well, because those 'kids' are here on his account, and he inspires and empowers people.

by NeuvoLiberal 2005-11-13 04:15PM | 0 recs
I suspect Howard would laugh and laugh
if asked if he was a better Democrat than FDR.
by Bruce Webb 2005-11-13 05:03PM | 0 recs
Re: I suspect Howard would laugh and laugh
I am sure that if someone asked him, he would even object to being put such as list. But that goes more to his humility than anything else.

The question asked here is whom the reader would pick as her/his favorite, GIVEN what he/she knows at the moment.

by NeuvoLiberal 2005-11-13 05:12PM | 0 recs
Corr: 'being put on such a list.' n/t
by NeuvoLiberal 2005-11-13 05:33PM | 0 recs
Re: I suspect Howard would laugh and laugh
But the title says "best democrat in U.S. history".
by dmccarthy 2005-11-13 05:51PM | 0 recs
Re: I suspect Howard would laugh and laugh
True. However, the poll says: "Favorite Democrat in History?"

I guess the diarist wasn't expecting his/her wording to be examined this closely :)

by NeuvoLiberal 2005-11-13 07:29PM | 0 recs
DFA veteran & $1600 contributer
And I was planning to max out, and continue to speak out for Dean who for me really does represent the current "Democratic Wing of the Democratic Party".

But in large part the Democratic Party has been bent over since Reagan unleashed "Government is not the solution, government is the problem". And the ascendancy of the DLC is a result of that "please sir can I have another" mentality that turned its back on the legacy of the man who made this Party.

We are right on the verge of opening a whole big can of FDR whoop-ass on the Rethugs just as they don't expect it. Enquiring minds can check my diaries here or at dKos or check my website. The seventy year dream of burying FDR's legacy is just about to blow up in their faces. And I for one can't wait.

by Bruce Webb 2005-11-19 08:20AM | 0 recs
Lyndon Baines Johnson
The Architect of The Great Society:

Johnson took office determined to secure the measures that Kennedy had sought. Immediate priorities were bills to reduce taxes and guarantee civil rights.

Using his skills of persuasion and calling on the legislators' respect for the slain president, in 1964 Johnson succeeded in gaining passage of the Civil Rights Bill. Introduced by Kennedy, it was the most far-reaching piece of civil rights legislation enacted since Reconstruction.

Soon Johnson addressed other issues as well. By the spring of 1964, he had begun to use the name "Great Society" to describe his reform program, and that term received even more play after his landslide victory over conservative Republican Barry Goldwater in the presidential election of that year.

On the economic front, Johnson pushed successfully for a tax cut, then pressed for a poverty program Kennedy had initiated. "This administration today, here and now, declares unconditional war on poverty in America," he announced. The Office of Economic Opportunity provided training for the poor and established various community-action programs to give the poor themselves a voice in housing, health and education programs.

Medical care came next. Truman had proposed a centralized scheme more than 20 years earlier, but had failed to gain congressional passage. Under Johnson's leadership, Congress enacted Medicare, a health insurance program for the elderly, and Medicaid, a program providing health-care assistance for the poor.

*Similarly, Johnson succeeded in the effort to provide aid for elementary and secondary schooling where Kennedy had failed. The measure that was enacted gave money to the states based on the number of their children from low-income families. Funds could be used to assist public- and private-school children alike.

The Great Society reached even further. A new housing act provided rent supplements for the poor and established a Department of Housing and Urban Development. An immigration measure finally replaced the discriminatory quotas set in 1924. Federal assistance went to artists and scholars to encourage their work.

The Johnson administration also addressed transportation safety
issues, in part because of the efforts of a young lawyer, lobbyist and consultant named Ralph Nader. In his 1965 book, Unsafe at Any Speed: The Designed-In Dangers of the American Automobile, Nader argued that many cars could cause death or damage in even low-speed accidents. Nader said that automobile manufacturers were sacrificing safety features for style, and he named specific models in which faulty engineering contributed to highway fatalities.

In September 1966, Johnson signed into law two transportation bills. The first provided funds to state and local governments for developing safety programs, while the other set up federal safety standards for cars and tires.

In all, the Great Society was the greatest burst of legislative activity since the New Deal.

by Gary Boatwright 2005-11-13 03:18PM | 0 recs
Re: Lyndon Baines Johnson
yeah, but what a damn centrist he was! All of those programs were nothing but espoused centrism... right? :P

I wish democrats could enact more programs to expand, fix, and create new programs to help out people. We'll just have to wait until 2009 for that, though.

by KainIIIC 2005-11-13 07:00PM | 0 recs
Re: Lyndon Baines Johnson
We have to redefine LBJ as a centrist, which he was. The Great Society was and is a centrist program that is still supported by a very substantial majority of Americans.
by Gary Boatwright 2005-11-14 08:16AM | 0 recs
Re: Lyndon Baines Johnson
Nah... Oliver Stone says he was one of the people involved in the conspiracy to kill Kennedy.  Hmm, by choosing him, are you in fact admitting your participation in said conspiracy?  ;-)
by yitbos96bb 2005-11-13 08:33PM | 0 recs
Re: Lyndon Baines Johnson
Is Lyndon Baines Johnson to be assessed according to what he did, or to what was inside of him? The black little guy who cleaned the bathroom of Air Force One for him said he was a bastard.
by blues 2005-11-14 01:51AM | 0 recs
Re: Lyndon Baines Johnson
I would assess him according to what he did.

That is the legacy, and it affects all of us.

And LBJ wasn't always a nice guy on a personal level.  This is no secret.

But that doesn't diminish his legacy.

by v2aggie2 2005-11-16 07:58PM | 0 recs
Re: Lyndon Baines Johnson
Except, of course, that his dirty knife slipped into our back at the last possible moment. Think "Southern strategy."
by blues 2005-11-17 09:31PM | 0 recs
Re: Lyndon Baines Johnson
With regards to the Republican "Southern Strategy" -- what really changed in the South?

A bunch of segreationist Democrats we really didn't like anyway became Republicans.

We failed to change down here in the South.
And we paid the price.

by v2aggie2 2005-11-18 09:24PM | 0 recs
My takes
First few words and phrase that came to my mind for each name:

------------

Franklin D. Roosevelt: Great visionary, courage under fire, consummate leader

John F. Kennedy: Charm, strength, Marilyn Monroe

Lyndon Johnson: Civil rights, How did JFK die?

Jimmy Carter: Gandhian, noble soul

Bill Clinton: Great policy wonk, brilliant mind, blue dress

Howard Dean: Pure, Courage, conviction, practical idealism

Robert F. Kennedy: Courage, conviction, bleeding heart idealism

Edward Kennedy: liberal stalwart, champion of education, booze

Al Gore: Great visionary, professor, honorable person (+ hopefully a great future president!)

Andrew Jackson, Woodrow Wilson, Harry Truman: History used to be my least favorite subject.

by NeuvoLiberal 2005-11-13 04:08PM | 0 recs
History's my favorite subject...
so let me fill in the blanks:

Andrew Jackson: During his term, the Supreme Court decided to recognize the Cherokee, who by that time had a written constitution and a Jeffersonian democracy, as a soverign nation.  Jackon disagreed.  He marched a division of the Army to the steps of the Supreme Court, and said to the cheif justice, basically, "when you get your own army, you can tell me what to do."  He then kick the Cherokees off their land, sent them on the brutal Trail of Tears - a forced march from Georgia to Oklahoma during which countless people died.  The history books tend to gloss this incident over and merely say he "expanded the power of the Presidency."

Woodrow Wilson: Got us into WWI (eventually), which tipped the balance in the Allies' favor.  On the negative side, was a white supremecist who purged all African American federal employees and basically undid any racial progress made during Reconstruction, and cemented the Democrats as the party of institutional racism for the first half of the 20th century.

Harry Truman: On the plus side, finished the job FDR started and won WWII.  More controversially, used two atom bombs when one would have done the job; started the Cold War by re-militarizing Germany over the other Allies' wishes (Stalin's direct response was to build the Berlin Wall); essentially built the Military-Industrial Complex that Ike later warned about by creating an unaccountable National Security State (primariliy the CIA).  I actually think Truman, despite his good points, represents as much as anyone Where We Went Wrong as a country (ie the shift from Republic to Empire), but I'm probably in the minority there.

by schroeder 2005-11-13 07:18PM | 0 recs
Re: History's my favorite subject...
agree on wilson and jackson being racists.  TJ was no saint on this matter, btw.

in defense of truman:
 there is little evidence that the first bomb would necessarily have been sufficient to bring about japanese surrender.  hiroshima was august 6, 1945.  vj-day was 9 days later, 6 days after nagasaki.  many on the japanese general staff argued for continued, suicidal defiance, until hirohito finally intervened.

as for truman's remilitarization of germany -- it was the least he could have done in response to stalin's refusal to allow free elections in poland, breaking the yalta agreement.  don't go blaming the cold war on truman -- blame the autocrat who killed millions.

and on the military industrial complex... i mean, is it so bad to have built up the army in the face of a possible expansionist communist dictatorship? our disengagement from european affairs in 1919 was one of the direct causes of the rise of nazi power.  let's not forget that the development of the cia put intelligence gathering firmly under civilian control, where it is less prone to military meddling (part of the problem with bush2).  and truman INTEGRATED the defense department!  and he created the state of Israel (and a Muslim state of Palestine).  the GI bill.  he stood up to the Red-baiters.  he campaigned so well, he forestalled the election of tom dewey and allowed the democrats to solidify the New Deal.  and he rebuilt modern Europe -- he may well have been the greatest american president.

by dmargolis 2005-11-13 07:59PM | 0 recs
Re: History's my favorite subject...
Okay, I guess I was unfair on Truman.  I just think that so many of our foreign policy problems of the last 20 years - Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran, even going back to Castro - were failed American puppet states coming back to bite us on the ass.  And the reason they all exist is because we have an incredibly powerful and totally unaccountable national security apparatus, who propped up people like the Mujadeen without thinking about the long-term ramifications.  Which isn't really all Truman's fault; he was just set it in motion.

Basically, I think if we had meddled less internationally, we'd have fewer problems.  Remember Iran was a democracy before we stuck our noses in.

by schroeder 2005-11-14 10:59AM | 0 recs
Re: History's my favorite subject...
The CIA wasn't that interested in propping up the Afghan freedom fighters. You can thank Charlie Wilson (D-Tex) for that (although I tend to think that our support was a good thing).
by JRyan 2005-11-14 12:15PM | 0 recs
Re: History's my favorite subject...
In addition to being a racist, which was for the most part synonymous with being rich and white at that time, Wilson was a close fascist who regarded anyone who disagreed with him politically as a traitor. Karl Rove probably pulled the theme that anyone who opposes Bush is un-American right out of Wilson's playbook.
by Gary Boatwright 2005-11-14 08:23AM | 0 recs
Re: My takes
Carter: Terrible in office, but if the question was BEST democrat of the last 25 years, he would win my vote hands down.  
by yitbos96bb 2005-11-13 08:34PM | 0 recs
Edward Kennedy Is The Best We Have Now.
I plunked down for F.D.R., but Ted Kennedy is clearly the best politician we have now. I feel very bad about his not getting any votes yet. I this had been an approval voting poll, I would have gone for F.D.R., Ted Kennedy, and Al Gore.
by blues 2005-11-13 06:21PM | 0 recs
The real question is...
not who's #1, but who's #3 after FDR and MLK.  Or, if you count Jefferson (which I think you should), how do you rank FDR, MLK and TJ.

You can debate MLK if you want, but TJ and FDR are to American politics what Newton and Einstein are to physics.   One invented it, the other did it better than anyone.  The fact that anyone reading this has a living wage, safe working conditions, an 8-hour work day, and the chance to retire comfortably, we owe to FDR.  (To be fair, he enacted into law what thousands had fought and died for for generations under the banner of the labor movement).  Throw in that big assist to the USSR and UK in winning WWII, and it's hard to argue that anyone post-Jefferson is even in the same league, save Lincoln.

by schroeder 2005-11-13 07:33PM | 0 recs
As my knee-jerk reaction was...
to view this as a "greatest accomplishments" poll, FDR was the first name to pop into my head.

But I didn't want to vote for someone of whom I knew nothing about except for his accomplishments (i.e. nothing personal about the man himself). Disqualified JFK for same reason.
I was 3 when he died.

This quickly steered me to two Dems I honestly like, Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton with Bill getting the nod for being a great asset to this country in so many different ways. I love to hear of his exhilirating receptions by the masses when he travels to other countries. Fills me with a ton of pride - as opposed to embarrassment and shame when our current nutjob goes abroad.

Bill, while nowhere's near a saint, showed the American public just what a great pres can be and do.

Of course, when the word "great" is used in reference to a person, MLK instantly pops in my head as well.

by desertjedi 2005-11-14 05:31AM | 0 recs

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