The future of the Democrats in a post-Clinton era
Washington: The election of Republican Donald Trump to the US presidency stunned the Washington political establishment. Observers had expected the centre-right party to be licking its wounds; instead Democrats are the ones regrouping as they ask how to rebuild while in the opposition.
Hillary Clinton’s loss leaves the party without a clear path forward after eight years of President Barack Obama and decades under which Clinton and her husband, former president Bill Clinton, have been at the party’s forefront.
The party is now engaged in a series of leadership votes that, along with significant soul searching, will help determine the path forward.
Democrats in the House of Representatives last month chose Nancy Pelosi to stay on as minority leader, keeping a familiar face at the helm despite her most serious challenger yet.
Attention now shifts to the head of the Democratic National Committee, which oversees the party’s political operations and came under fire for favouring Clinton over left-leaning underdog Bernie Sanders in primaries earlier this year.
Keith Ellison, a Minnesota congressman and the first Muslim in Congress, faces Labor Secretary Tom Perez, whom Barack Obama praised without outright endorsing ahead of the February vote. Three other lesser known party officials have thrown their hats in the ring andothers are also weighing bids.
Perez, a civil rights attorney, is considered the favourite of the party establishment, while Ellison has drawn support from the party’s left, including Sanders.
Perez, 55, touted his widespread appeal to all wings of the party in announcing his candidacy and Obama praised him as “tireless” and “wicked smart.”
“He has been able to work across the spectrum of labour,business, activists,” Obama said, pointing to work on wages, benefitsand other economic issues.
Ellison, 53, is considered a younger voice within an aging party but could be burdened by his past support of controversial Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, who is known for his anti-Semitic remarks.
Ellison is touting his ability to increase voter turnout and in an interview with NPR said the party needs to “build a durable relationship of trust with voters” on issues such as “how to make a living and how to be respected and treated fairly in this society.”
Clinton lost to Trump as a handful of industrial states shifted their allegiances from the Democrats to the Republicans, with working-class voters drawn to Trump’s populist economic message and put off by Clinton’s deep roots in the political establishment.
Obama said the party must make the case for its policies in areas where Democrats are seen as “coastal, liberal, latte-sipping,politically correct, out-of-touch folks.”
The party must now weigh whether it chooses to make an economic play for those working-class voters, who had traditionally been part of its base, or instead focus on building up a larger coalition of young, minority voters and liberals.
Among those arguing for the former is Tim Ryan, the Ohio congressman who unsuccessfully challenged Pelosi for leadership of the House Democratic caucus.
Ryan, who represents Ohio, had said the party needed to do more to push an economic message that appeals to the working-class voters who accepted Trump’s populist message.
The loss by Clinton and Pelosi’s triumph demonstrate another major challenge for the party — a lack of young, up-and-coming lawmakers totake the reins after eight years led by President Barack Obama.
There are no clear contenders for who might lead the party’s presidential ticket in four years. Sanders was the only challenger who seriously made a play against Clinton and he is already 75 years old, while Vice President Joe Biden, 74, has clarified he has no real interest in running after choosing not to run this year.
The party is also remarkably short on potential candidates for highoffice at local and state level after years of decline in the number of governors and state legislatures controlled by the party. — dpa