Skip to main content

Main Area


Democratic Party history from the year you were born

  • 1971: Nixon installs taping system

    Republican President Richard Nixon installed a taping system in the White House’s Oval Office and Cabinet Room, and in the Executive Office building. Three years later the House Judiciary Committee subpoenaed the tapes that covered the break-in at the Democratic National Committee’s headquarters in 1972, and the later efforts to cover it up.

    [Pictured: President Richard Nixon in a Cabinet meeting on Dec. 6, 1971.]

  • 1972: Nixon trounces McGovern

    Democratic presidential candidate George McGovern, a liberal and an opponent of the Vietnam War, lost badly to Republican incumbent Richard Nixon, taking only Massachusetts and the District of Columbia. Nixon’s downfall, however, was already set. The June break-in at the offices of the Democratic National Committee in the Watergate Office Building began the Watergate scandal that would force his resignation in 1974.

    [Pictured: President Nixon campaigns in Westchester County, New York, on Oct. 23, 1972.]

  • 1973: Jordan goes to Congress

    Democrat Barbara Jordan was the first African American to take a seat in Congress from Texas after Reconstruction. She served three terms and became known for her argument for the impeachment of President Richard Nixon during the Watergate scandal. A member of the House Judiciary Committee, she said in a speech: “My faith in the Constitution is whole, it is complete, it is total, and I am not going to sit here and be an idle spectator to the diminution, the subversion, the destruction of the Constitution.”

    [Pictured: Barbara Jordan of Texas sits on the House Judiciary Committee as a freshman during the Watergate hearings in 1974.]

  • 1974: Detroit elects a Black mayor

    Coleman Young was elected the first Black mayor of Detroit. He served until 1994, admired by many African Americans, but distrusted by many whites who believed he hated them. Detroit struggled with a shrinking population, plummeting revenues and services, and businesses that moved away, but it also began the renaissance it is experiencing today.

    [Pictured: Mayor Coleman Young speaking at a press conference on July 29, 1975.]

  • 1975: Chicago’s Daley wins a sixth term

    Richard J. Daley was elected to his sixth term as Chicago’s mayor in 1975. He was praised for sparing Chicago the problems of other Rust Belt cities, but reviled for his harsh response to the riots after the death of Martin Luther King Jr., the protests during the 1968 Democratic National Convention, and for resisting desegregation.

    [Pictured: Mayor Richard J. Daley makes a victory speech after winning the Democratic primary for mayor in his campaign headquarters in Chicago on Feb. 25, 1975.]


  • 1976: Carter defeats Ford for president

    Jimmy Carter, the Democratic peanut farmer from Georgia, defeated incumbent Republican President Gerald Ford for the presidency. Carter achieved the Camp David agreement between Egypt and Israel, created the Department of Education, and deregulated the trucking and airline industries. In international affairs, he stressed human rights and earned the ire of the Soviet Union in particular.

  • 1977: Carter creates energy department

    President Jimmy Carter signed the Emergency Natural Gas Act passed by Congress that allows him to deregulate the price of natural gas, of which there was a shortage. Carter proposes creating a Department of Energy, which was founded that year.

    [Pictured: President Carter speaks to members of a Congressional energy panel on Oct. 19, 1977, at a White House conference on the U.S. energy crisis.]

  • 1978: San Francisco mayor and supervisor assassinated

    San Francisco Mayor George Moscone and Supervisor Harvey Milk, California’s first openly gay elected official, were assassinated by Dan White, a former supervisor who had clashed with them. Dianne Feinstein became the first woman to serve as mayor of San Francisco after Moscone’s death. In 1992, Feinstein and fellow Democrat Barbara Boxer were elected to the U.S. Senate, the first women to represent California.

    [Pictured: Recently elected members of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, Harvey Milk and Carol Ruth Silver, pose outside City Hall in San Francisco, March 1978.]

  • 1979: First woman elected mayor in Chicago

    Jane Byrne was elected mayor of Chicago, the first woman in the job. She was known for besting the Democratic machine that ran Chicago and for a term in office that included encouraging movies like “The Blues Brothers” to film in the city, but later for alienating the coalition of liberals and African Americans who helped her get to City Hall.

    [Pictured: Chicago's Democratic mayoral candidate Jane Byrne campaigning on April 2, 1979, in Chicago.]

  • 1980: Carter loses to Reagan

    Ronald Reagan defeated incumbent Democratic President Jimmy Carter by winning 489 electoral votes to his 49. The end of Carter’s presidency was marred by persistent inflation and the taking of hostages among the staff at the American embassy in Iran. They were held for more than a year before being released on the day that he left office.

    [Pictured: Ronald and Nancy Reagan wave from a limousine during the Inaugural Parade in Washington D.C. on Inauguration Day 1981.]