What’s the Problem with the Democratic Party?

11/30/16 | James Kuznecoff | Regular Correspondent

On the Surface

The Democratic Party is a balloon, and it’s floating away from the people. In their most rudimentary sense, political parties exist to represent their constituents. In recent years however, the Democratic Party’s very foundation has drifted away. At its current state, the Democratic Party is detached from the people. This became clear in the 2016’s presidential election, when Democrats lost all three branches of government.

A Case Study: The General Election

Despite winning the popular vote, Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton lost the electoral college to Republican strongman, Donald Trump. Although many have resorted to lamenting the electoral college, this ignores the flaws in the Democratic party’s identity. The fact that Hillary Clinton, a candidate with 30 years of political experience, lost to someone who openly advocated assault indicates problems.

Looking at Donald’s campaigning, it’s obvious that he has more appeal. Yes, I acknowledge that he is very controversial, but his overall message was very relatable. His campaign slogan “Make America Great Again”–a clear throwback to Reagan’s 1980 campaign–is something to which most all Americans can relate. In conjunction with recent dissatisfaction fostered by Democratic policies and more progressive cultural movements, this election served as a knee-jerk reaction towards the right. In short, Trump’s slogan was able to capture a wide scope of the electorate: the everyday man. Thus, in addition to the traditional Republican electorate (wealthy whites), the GOP picked up a traditionally Democratic electorate (blue-collar, working, whites). The relatability aspect of Donald’s campaign was in short, a success.

Hillary’s campaign, and by extension, the Democratic Party suffered in the election because their appeal was limited in scope. Despite years of experience, Hillary was not an appealing candidate. Criticisms of her identity ranged from being the living, breathing, establishment; to speculations about corruption and scandals. Many of her programs were limited in scope, focusing on individual organizations and demographics. While an undoubtedly good strategy, the issue was that Hillary, and the Democratic party, had no central identity. By promising too much, the facade was revealed, and the Democrats bit off more than it could chew. The fact that Bernie Sanders did so well in the primaries illustrates the party’s lack of appeal.

In a General Sense

Democrats in congress are making the electorate feel alienated. Although many liberals lobby for socially progressive changes such as higher minimum wages and expanded health care systems, an equal number, if not more, are being lobbied by large corporate interests. Thus, policies are becoming less and less attached to the population, and are uprooting the democratic party from its foundation. To put this into context, Hillary received millions in “donations” from the Clinton Foundation, whereas more progressive democrats petitioned for more radical socialist programs (Sanders and Warren).

As a result of this party fragmentation, the Democrats have had less relative influence over Republicans; issue-based factions have created dissonance on voting issues, effectively stifling progress. The future appears to be a continuation of the trend of fragmentation as left-oriented Democrats are pitched increasingly against the centrists (whose constituents just voted for Trump) on wedge issues, leaving the party with an undefined identity, and opening the door to more GOP dominance.

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