In the United States, a member of the Democratic Party who holds personal political views that are conservative in comparison to those of the majority of his or her political party is known as a conservative democrat. Although views considered typical for a conservative democrat change over time, many support gun rights, a strong military, education, free market capitalism, smaller government, and fiscally conservative policies and may be anti-abortion with a demonstrably stronger religious orientation than moderate and liberal Democrats. Like liberal Republicans, conservative Democrats are a minority wing in the party but may provide deciding votes on divisive political issues.
Although conservative Democrats are elected all over the United States, most come from Southern states and have been previously known as “Dixiecrats” or “Boll Weevils.” These terms were not always used in a complimentary fashion by Democratic Party representatives who drew attention to conservative Democrats that did not vote with the party on key issues. For example, the term “boll weevils” was frequently applied to conservative Democrats in the 1980s who consistently voted in favor of then Present Ronald Reagan’s increase of military spending, tax cuts and deregulation of the financial system.
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Before 1964, both major parties were broken down into liberal, moderate and conservative factions. As the conservative wing of the Republican Party slowly rose to prominence and eventual dominance with the 1980 election of Reagan, Democrats underwent realignment. Rather than grow its conservative wing, the Democrats became markedly more moderate and most members joined the conservative and moderate Democratic Leadership Council.
As a partial result of the Democratic Party realignment, a conservative Democrat may sometimes find him or herself at odds with the party and more in agreement with Republicans. One of the main points of distinction between conservative Democrats and Republicans is the former’s adherence to economic views that are liberal in comparison to those of the latter. In addition, a conservative Democrat may support increasing spending on education and other social programs that a moderate or conservative Republican would not.
Beginning in 1994, conservative Democrats in the House of Representatives and the Senate began organizing themselves in coalitions and caucuses. One of the most well known of these groups in the House is the Blue Dog Democrats whose members profess to support national and financial security as well as bipartisanship. There are other conservative Democrat single-issue caucuses in the House that were formed by pro-life members or those that support gun rights. In the Senate, members of the Democratic Leadership Council generally adopt centrist positions on most issues and promote neo-liberal fiscal policy.