The definition of a person who qualifies as a liberal depends on whom you ask, but there are some key beliefs that knit liberals together. When those beliefs are joined with someone who is registered Democrat, you'll have yourself a liberal Democrat.
Origin of Liberalism in America
The writings of Thomas Paine, John Dewey and John Maynard Keynes, among other scholars, have greatly influenced modern liberal ideas and have also helped to shape the party platforms of the Democratic party. Also, the terms and legislation passed during the presidencies of Theodore Roosevelt, Harry Truman and Franklin D. Roosevelt are cited as having an effect on the political positions of today's Democrats and the beliefs of those who have liberal views.
Most liberals champion similar social causes. Many who fall into that category want to keep abortion legal. Most liberals support a ban on assault weapons. A majority of liberals agree with positions and laws that support same-sex marriages and civil unions. It is common that some, though not all, liberals and Democrats are against military intervention in other nations, and liberals and Democrats alike are usually for the separation of church and state. Many liberals support full government funding for the advancement of scientific technologies and nearly all liberals and a good portion of Democrats support pro-environmental legislation.
Influence on American Government
The Democratic Party has had a significant effect on all three branches of U.S. government in the past 40 years. Democrats bill themselves as progressives, believing that as time passes, values, attitudes and social systems change with them. Republicans and conservatives tend to lean toward traditional and historical values. Most liberals who are either Republican or independent will support some of the positions of their fellow liberals, but likely won't agree with all of them.
Early 20th Century
There are several various origins of modern liberalism that had 20th century origins. The post-Great Depression policies and ideals of President Franklin Roosevelt began the social programs many liberals champion and policies Democrats strive for. Government-run institutions such as Social Security and Food Stamps, which help older and less fortunate Americans, are often championed by Democrats.
Events that occurred in the decade of the 1960s also had a significant effect on modern liberal ideas. The civil rights movement, anti-Vietnam War protests and beginnings of community organizing were led by people many consider to be icons of the Democratic party. The presidency of John F. Kennedy and the positions of his family are usually held in high regard by liberals and Democrats. During the presidency of Ronald Reagan, liberals championed such causes as HIV awareness, homelessness and the rebuilding of decaying metropolitan areas. With Bill Clinton's election in 1992, a rebirth of liberal ideas occurred and many social programs flourished during that time. After the election of Republican George W. Bush, liberals and Democrats spoke out vehemently against military interventions, especially in Iraq. The election of Barack Obama as well as a majority in both houses of Congress in 2008 gave Democrats control over the government, and liberals had reason to hope their views would be passed through swift legislation.
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