יום שני, 25 ביולי 2016

What’s a ‘Democrat’ Anymore?

 Dem Roundtable lede

By Susan B. Glasser and Glenn Thrush

The GOP isn’t the only party having an identity crisis in outsider-friendly 2016. We asked six big thinkers to sit down and hash it out.

In June, when Politico Magazine convened six Democratic thinkers at The Monocle, the storied Capitol Hill restaurant, the mood in the room was surprisingly upbeat. It was exactly one year after Donald Trump had announced the against-the-odds campaign that by May would see him anointed the Republican Party’s presumptive presidential nominee. Now, the candidate appeared to be flailing, criticized for his latest inflammatory comments about the Orlando shooting and the Mexican origins of a federal judge. For the Democrats, the general election was starting to look more and more winnable.

Then again, it was also just 10 days since Hillary Clinton had finally become the Democrats’ presumptive nominee after an unexpectedly hard-fought primary. Clinton’s insurgent challenger, the septuagenarian socialist Senator Bernie Sanders, not only held on much longer than anticipated (and was still hanging on at that point in June, if in name only), but also went to war with the Democratic Party itself, declaring its leadership in the tank for his “establishment” opponent. That leadership—along with President Barack Obama—has been accused of letting the party languish at the state and local level, where Republicans are ascendant. Meanwhile, both the Sanders and Trump campaigns exposed severe weaknesses in the Democrats’ ability to appeal to white working-class voters, the same ones who in past elections were key supporters of Bill and Hillary Clinton.

Where does the Democratic Party go from here, and what will it look like years from now? Can it win back the white working class? Should the party even try to—or is it better off embracing diversity in a country on its way to being majority-minority? These are just some of the questions Politico Editor Susan B. Glasser and chief political correspondent Glenn Thrush asked the six smart thinkers we called together last month— Democratic campaign veterans, writers and one sitting Cabinet member—for a spirited conversation about the future of their party.


Susan Glasser: Today marks exactly one year since Donald Trump entered the presidential campaign, upending certainly the credibility of all political pundits, but in addition to that, really making this, whatever the outcome, an election year for the record books. My guess is that this election season will have consequences that are no less significant for the future of the Democratic Party than for the Republican Party. So, what do you think about where the Democratic Party is headed in the age of Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton?

Michael Kazin: Democrats got very lucky with Trump because—I mean, who knows what would’ve happened with Marco Rubio, but clearly Republicans would’ve been doing much better in the polls right now. But having Trump there makes Democrats think that they haven’t really got a problem, which—I think they still do have a problem. They have since the ’60s, in many ways, which is: They have intellectual, upper middle-class well-educated people, and they have black people and Latinos. And the broad middle is still up for grabs. Democrats have not found a way to win those people over in any kind of convincing way. And Trump has made it easy for Democrats to run against him, but they haven’t yet figured out how to run for themselves.

Neera Tanden: I don’t know, we have won the popular vote in five of the last six elections …

They have intellectual, upper middle-class well-educated people, and they have black people and Latinos. And the broad middle is still up for grabs. Democrats have not found a way to win those people over.” Michael Kazin

Glenn Thrush: You’ve got a guy here, Mitch Stewart, who was one of the architects of Barack Obama’s elections. Do you agree with that assessment of the broad middle?

Mitch Stewart: No. So if you just look at the numbers, this notion that Democrats have to overperform with whites isn’t backed up by the data. So in 2008, 26 percent of the electorate was non-white. In 2012, 28 percent was nonwhite. In 2016, it will probably be 30 or 31 percent nonwhite. We’re going to be a majority-minority country in 2050. And so that trend isn’t slowing down or plateauing. It’s actually relatively linear, and it’s pretty easy to predict.

Tanden: That issue is actually something that’s driving Trump, but also that Democrats have to figure out a response to, which is: The most salient thing in the Republican primary that separated Trump from other Republicans was a sense that whites were losing out. So I do think the Trump phenomenon is a response to two trends. One is an economy that has not been producing good results for the white working class, and also a country that’s becoming more and more diverse. I think that the idea that we’re going to have—it may only be 30 or 35 percent—truly angry people going forward in the United States is actually going to alter our politics. I think Hillary will win this fall, but it’ll alter our politics for some time.

E.J. Dionne is a columnist for the Washington Post, senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, professor of government at Georgetown University and author, most recently, of Why the Right Went Wrong: Conservatism—From Goldwater to the Tea Party and Beyond.

“The challenge is that no one has figured out a better way to organize small-d democratic government than through political parties.”

Anita Dunn: Trump is, to some extent, redefining what we think of as polarization in this country. Where polarization has been seen as ideological, it is now being seen almost as behavioral. (Laughter.) No, seriously, though. Neera talked a little about the angry white voter appearance of “that’s who supports Trump.” I actually think Trump’s support is a little more nuanced than that with some people.

Tanden: They’re men.

Dunn: They are men. But I think that what he is doing is, his campaign has been basically issueless with a few exceptions, immigration and trade—that he’s actually taken polarization much more toward attitudes than toward ideological gridlock. And I think that Neera’s right that because he’s dragging his party so far in one direction along that spectrum, that it creates a new center. And that new center actually is farther along than it has been in the past. When you have an extreme, it creates a new center. And you’ve got an extreme here.

Kazin: What’s the content of it?

Dunn: OK, so here is the deal. Has anybody else been struck at the language that mainstream establishment Republicans have been using since the Orlando shooting to talk about the LGBTQ community and rights and how we have to stand with our brothers and sisters? This is just not something that they have been comfortable talking about. But suddenly with Donald Trump far over here, everybody’s comfortable being in the middle here on that issue, right? And that, to me, has been extraordinary.

Tanden: They’re more in the middle because of him?

Thrush: Because he’s pulled it away from ideology and into attitude.

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