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US Democratic Party Looks to the Future


Donald Trump’s election as president of the United States came as a shock to many Democratic Party activists.

Now, Democrats are considering what the party did wrong and what its future might be.

Most Democrats -- and even some Republican Party activists -- believed Hillary Clinton would win the election last month. The former Secretary of State was the Democrats’ presidential candidate.

But Republicans, under businessman Trump, won the presidency and kept control of the U.S. Senate and the House of Representatives.

It will be two years before Democrats can try to take control of Congress.

John Fortier works at the Bipartisan Policy Center in Washington, D.C. He says the Democrats must now decide how they will oppose the policies of Trump and the Republicans.

“Where does the party go? Is it a party that really looks to some of its more progressive figures -- (Massachusetts Senator) Elizabeth Warren and others who would lead the party or (Vermont Senator) Bernie Sanders (who) would lead the party in a more left direction -- or would they go in a direction more like you saw from Hillary Clinton, which is somewhat more in the middle of their party?”

Political observers say most working-class Americans voted for Donald Trump. In a recent speech, Senator Bernie Sanders said Democrats must find a way to persuade working-class Americans to vote for Democratic candidates again.

“There are millions of people today, working-class people, middle-class people, low-income people, who are living in despair.”

Many Democrats believe Trump and his supporters will cancel parts of the Affordable Care Act. The act, known as Obamacare, is one of President Barack Obama’s top legislative measures.

Democrats also believe the Republicans will reduce taxes on businesses.

Chuck Schumer of New York is the new leader of the Democrats in the Senate. He has said the party is ready to oppose Trump’s policies. But he says Democrats may cooperate with the future president on issues like spending on roads or other infrastructure. Such spending is popular with Democrats because they believe it provides jobs for many people.

The party must also prepare for elections in 2018, in which many more Democratic senators will seek re-election than Republicans. Many of the Democrats are from states that Trump won in the 2016 election.

Tim Ryan is a Democratic congressman from Ohio. He was unsuccessful in his attempt to replace longtime California congresswoman Nancy Pelosi as top Democrat in the House of Representatives.

Like Sanders, Ryan is worried about how to get Americans to vote for Democrats. He spoke after losing his campaign to remove Pelosi.

“And I believe it in my heart that if we are gonna win as Democrats, we need to have an economic message that resonates in every corner of this country.”

Almost one-third of the Democrats in the House voted for Tim Ryan. New York Congressman Joseph Crowley was not one of them. But he agreed with Ryan that, in Crowley's words, “Democrats are the party with ideas and a vision -- but we need to do a better job of connecting with people on the ground who made it clear they weren’t listening or couldn’t hear what we had to say.”

Because Clinton was defeated, the Democrats do not have a national leader. Some experts believe Barack Obama may work on energizing the party after he leaves the White House. Obama said recently that Democrats must continue to keep their promise of ensuring economic fairness.

“So there are gonna be a core set of values that shouldn't be up for debate -- should be our North Star. But how we organize politically, I think, is somethin' that we should spend some time thinkin' about.”

Trump won the northern states of Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania. All three states had voted for a Democrat in every presidential election since 1992. This year, many white working-class voters in those areas voted for Trump.

Political commentator Fred Barnes spoke about the U.S. president-elect on VOA’s “Issues in the News” program.

“And he did something that I thought Republicans were gonna maybe never be able to do, and that is win Pennsylvania, win Ohio, win Michigan and win Wisconsin -- the Rust Belt, the industrial belt, where there's so many working-class people, a number of them out of work, but, but still an awful lot of 'em.”

Trump had success with voters who felt ignored by the Democratic Party. Rebecca Thoeni of Iowa voted for Democratic candidates for many years. But last month, she voted for Trump.

Theoni told the Associated Press that “Trump got out there and showed he was serious about keeping jobs. He explained things in layman’s terms. That’s what changed me.” Many people in America’s Upper Midwest said similar things.

Fortier says Democrats should be successful in the future because of the predicted continuing growth in the non-white population.

In the months to come, Congressional Democrats will have to decide on what issues they will oppose Trump, and on which ones they will work with him.

Maryland Senator Ben Cardin, a Democrat, recently told VOA that the party will not support Trump on his economic, civil rights and immigration policies.

I’m Caty Weaver.

And I'm Dan Friedell.

VOA Correspondent Jim Malone reported this story from Washington. Christopher Jones-Cruise adapted his report for Learning English. George Grow was the editor.

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Words in This Story

infrastructure – n. the basic equipment and structures (such as roads and bridges) that are needed for a country, region, or organization to function properly

resonate – v. to have particular meaning or importance for someone; to affect or appeal to someone in a personal or emotional way (usually + with)

corner – n. area (often used figuratively)

core set of values – expression beliefs

North Star – expression (often used figuratively) a bright star that can be seen in the sky in northern parts of the world when you look directly toward the north; unifying principle

industrial belt – n. expression an area of the United States where many factories are located

layman’s terms – n. in simple language that anyone can understand

diversity – n. the state of having people who are different races or who have different cultures in a group or organization

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