The definition of Democrats differs depending on who you talk to. There are conservative Democrats, moderate (or centrist) Democrats, liberal Democrats and then there are those who call themselves Progressives. The subgroups believe roughly the same things, sharing principles and ideals if not always supporting the same legislation or interpretation of the law.
- Conservative Democrats. On the Democrat spectrum, conservative Dems come closest to resembling their Republican counterparts. They generally side with Republicans on social issues such as abortion, euthanasia, and stem cell research. When it comes to fiscal policy, however, the majority of conservative Democrats agree with the standard Democratic platform that promotes social programs and initiatives like welfare, public housing, and government money for education. In the South, conservative Dems are often called “Blue Dog” Democrats. A good example of a Conservative Democrat is Senator Bob Casey, Jr., of Pennsylvania and Senator Ben Nelson of Nebraska.
- Moderate Democrats. Also called Centrist Democrats, Moderates are more aligned to Conservative Democrats and Republicans than Liberal Democrats. Moderates usually judge policy matters on a case-by-case basis. Sometimes they side with Liberal Democrats, sometimes they side with Republicans. Bill Clinton is a good example of a Centrist, as was Joseph Lieberman before declaring himself to be an Independent.
- Libertarian Democrats. This subgroup of the Democrat party unites with the Democratic National Committee (DNC) platform on issues such as civil rights, church and state separation, and pro-choice abortion rights. Libertarian Democrats often sharply disagree with Democrats on entitlement programs, federal spending, and high taxation. Mike Gravel, former Senator from Alaska, is one of the more standout Libertarian Democrats who switched parties in 2008 to seek the Libertarian Party’s Presidential nomination.
- Liberal Democrats. Also called Progressives, Liberal Dems generally adhere to the core policies of the DNC. They are in favor of more government spending, higher taxes, pro-choice abortion rights, social programs, universal healthcare, and decreased military spending, among others. Liberals do not tend to be as “hawkish” when it comes to overseas conflicts and wars, and they oppose free trade with other countries. Howard Dean, Dennis Kucinich, Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, Barack Obama, Dick Durbin, Chuck Schumer, Charles Rangel, and Barbara Boxer are examples of Liberal Democrats.
As you can see, when two people invoke the word Democrat, they may not be talking about the same thing. Dems come in different stripes, just like Republicans do, but all of them fit into one subgroup or another.