Democrats Adjust To New Role As Minority Party After Election The election of Donald Trump was a surprise to pollsters, pundits and perhaps most of all, the Democratic Party. With Republicans in power in the White House, Senate and House of Representatives, Democrats will have to figure out their role as the minority party.
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Democrats Adjust To New Role As Minority Party After Election

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Democrats Adjust To New Role As Minority Party After Election

Democrats Adjust To New Role As Minority Party After Election

Democrats Adjust To New Role As Minority Party After Election

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  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/501476877/501476878" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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The election of Donald Trump was a surprise to pollsters, pundits and perhaps most of all, the Democratic Party. With Republicans in power in the White House, Senate and House of Representatives, Democrats will have to figure out their role as the minority party.

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

We're going to hear now about what happens next for the Democrats with NPR national political correspondent Mara Liasson. She joins us now. Welcome, Mara.

MARA LIASSON, BYLINE: Hi, Robert.

SIEGEL: Let's listen to just a bit more from Clinton's concession speech today because it may provide a hint for what's next for Democrats under a Trump administration. This is what she said.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

HILLARY CLINTON: Our constitutional democracy enshrines the peaceful transfer of power, and we don't just respect that. We cherish it. It also enshrines other things - the rule of law, the principle that we are all equal in rights and dignity, freedom of worship and expression. We respect and cherish these values, too. And we must defend them.

(CHEERING, APPLAUSE)

SIEGEL: Law, freedom, rights - what do you hear in that?

LIASSON: I heard Clinton making a very gracious concession speech but also a kind of veiled prediction of resistance to Trump if necessary if he abrogates any of those rights. I think she was hinting at the kind of conflict that might come.

SIEGEL: So for the party to move forward, how are Democrats assessing why they lost last night?

LIASSON: I think it's a little early for that. They're all still in a state of shock. You know, we all were writing these circular firing-squad articles about Republicans or getting ready to write them. Now we have to write them about Democrats.

But Democrats have already identified some scapegoats - James Comey, Anthony Weiner, WikiLeaks, Gary Johnson and above all, Hillary Clinton. When they're looking for a reason for their loss, she was a weak candidate with tremendous baggage, very high unfavorable ratings. She was a status quo candidate with a status quo campaign in a change election.

SIEGEL: Well, what does the loss mean for the coalition of groups that the Democrats count on to win elections?

LIASSON: There's a lot of talk among Democrats now about how to reach white, working-class voters, white, non-college voters. Clinton underperformed with that group compared to Obama. It's possible that Joe Biden or Bernie Sanders might not have had the same problems. But the percentage of white, working-class voters keeps shrinking as a portion of the electorate.

And Democrats are also saying this was not an election about two ideologies; it was really about values, about inclusiveness and respect and diversity and tolerance. And it really divided the country in a very deep way.

You know, Donald Trump talks a lot about Brexit as an analogy. He talked about the kind of working class rising up against the elites and globalization. But I think the Brexit analogy could be applied in a different way because Brexit in England perfectly cleaved the population there just like this election did here - young versus old, rural versus urban. This election completely divided the country on race, gender and education, which is the new proxy for class.

So the Democrats look at their coalition of young people, minorities. They see it's growing. They have to figure out how to turn them out without Obama on the top of the ballot. But they also say they have won the popular vote in 6 of the last 7 presidential elections. So that's where they're going to start.

SIEGEL: What about Democrats in Washington? What kind of strategy might they pursue in dealing with a Trump administration?

LIASSON: Their strategy is opposition to Trump. It's a pretty simple task to oppose when you're the minority in Congress. They want to block the majority party and the White House when they disagree with them. Republicans have been excellent at this. They created a path to get the majority back in the midterm elections of 2010 and 2014. And Nancy Pelosi, if she decides to stay on as minority leader, might do the same thing as Mitch McConnell and John Boehner did.

The other thing Democrats are looking for is the new generation of leaders. This is the end of the Clinton era, and they're looking at people like the Castro brothers, like Kirsten Gillibrand, like Amy Klobuchar, Tulsi Gabbard, Tim Kaine, Cory Booker. There's no one leader now. The Democratic bench is pretty decimated. That's why you had two fairly old people - Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton - running for the nomination. But they're looking for new leadership.

SIEGEL: That's NPR national political correspondent Mara Liasson. Mara, thanks.

LIASSON: Thank you.

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