′If you cared about voting for Hillary, you have to care about resisting Trump′ | World| Breakings news and perspectives from around the globe | DW | 18.10.2017
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'If you cared about voting for Hillary, you have to care about resisting Trump'

Neera Tanden, senior Clinton campaign adviser, tells Conflict Zone that the role of the Democratic Party right now is to fight Trump and provide alternatives. But how exactly should that work?

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Neera Tanden on Conflict Zone

To say US President Donald Trump's approval ratings aren't the best would be a big understatement. In fact, right now they're the worst for any president at this point in their term in the history of public opinion polling, according to the polling analysis website FiveThirtyEight.

But are the Democrats able to turn Trump's unpopularity into political victories?

"I would say that they were able to so far successfully defeat Trump's various versions of the health care bill," Neera Tanden, an American domestic policy adviser and president of the public policy advocacy organization Center for American Progress, told Tim Sebastian on Conflict Zone.

'There is a big resistance to Trump'

However, the Democrats aren't exactly bursting with popularity either. According to an ABC News/Washington Post poll, more than half of Americans think Democrats don't stand for anything other than being against Trump. Another poll shows that 48 percent of Americans have a negative view of the Democratic Party.

 "Yes, both parties are unpopular," Tanden admitted on Conflict Zone. But she added that Trump had helped unite the resistance to his presidency. 

"I would say that Donald Trump has a strong opposition in the country. We're now at close to 50 percent who strongly disapprove in a variety of polls. And whether that makes people actually vote for Democrats is a big open question. I believe the Democratic Party has to fight Donald Trump but also has to provide an alternative to him as well."

Tanden got even more candid throughout the interview about the role of the Democrats.

"I think the Democratic Party right now is in a battle for the hearts and minds of people and the competition is ugly, xenophobic, racialized politics - whether it's Charlottesville or the Muslim ban or Trump's statements in Puerto Rico. He's trying to appeal to people by attacking and basically mining the hatred of other people. And that's what the Democratic Party is up against. And we have to do a better job."

What's the Democrats' agenda other than opposing Trump?

But how exactly do the Democrats take the fight to Trump?

"Democrats have to offer an agenda for upward mobility, how people who have been struggling, not for eight years or 15 years but for decades, how their lives are going to improve," said Tanden, who has closely worked with former US President Barack Obama as well as presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.

"If you haven't gone to college, if you live in a rural community, if you live in an exurb, you're standing still or falling behind - I think Donald Trump expertly tapped into that anger. The opportunity is that he has done nothing to help those people. In fact, he's made it worse. His health care bill hurts working class people."

Despite bad numbers in recent polls for Democrats, Tanden believes the party is on the right track for mid-term Congressional elections next year.

"We have more people running for office as Democrats in the House than we have ever had. We have more challengers to Republicans than we've ever had. We have candidates running in races they've never run before so that speaks to an enthusiasm in the country and those people run an agenda."

When will the Democratic Party finally move on from its blame game?

The Democratic Party has been criticized for continuing to play the blame game for losses in 2016 instead of offering new policy proposals. Additionally the party is still seeking to soothe the split between mainstream and progressive wings exacerbated in 2016 primaries. But Tanden doesn't agree with this assessment.

"Donald Trump has definitely been more unifying amongst Democrats and you see Bernie Sanders supporters, Hillary Clinton supporters are voting for Democrats,” she said.

USA Hillary Clinton Buchvorstellung Warner Theatre in Washington (Reuters/J. Ernst)

Hillary Clinton's new book "What Happened" is a postmortem on her last campaign

However, critics say Hillary Clinton's new book "What Happened" - a postmortem on her last campaign - doesn't speak for a united party which has stepped away from picking at old grudges.

Jared Huffman, a Democratic representative for California's second congressional district, told Politico that with her book, Clinton is forcing the party to endure endless "media cycles about the blame game, and the excuses."

Tanden, who was policy director for the 2008 Hillary Clinton campaign, doesn't agree with this criticism.

"I actually think for a lot of Hillary supporters the overall message of the book is that this was a defeat for Hillary," she said.

"But there is a movement that was created and that movement needs to engage in politics now. If you cared about voting for Hillary, you have to care about resisting Trump. And I think actually the book has been incredibly helpful in that way."

Hillary Clinton und Donald Trump (picture-alliance/AP Images/Rick T. Wilking/Pool )

Hillary Clinton isn't running for anything anymore, says Tanden, she's lost the race

'Why are you asking about Hillary Clinton at all?'

Tanden doesn't believe Hillary Clinton has broken with the Democratic Party, as some people have suggested.

"I'm sure she's going to raise money for the party. She's going to campaign for candidates and that's the test of these things."

But what Hillary Clinton won't do, Tanden said, is run as a candidate again - as some rumors have suggested.

"Hillary Clinton is never going to be on the ballot again. She's not going to run for president again. She's not running for Senate and she's not running for governor," Tanden said.

When pressed about Hillary Clinton's private e-mail scandal and overall trust in the Democratic Party, Tanden said: "Why are you asking about Hillary Clinton at all?"

Neera Tanden: "With all due respect, the idea that you're spending time focused on Hillary Clinton's veracity when we have a president who lies all the time strikes me as not useful. She's not running for anything. She lost the race. These facts have been established."

Tim Sebastian: "How can you ever claim the moral high ground if you don't tell the truth about everything?"

Neera Tanden: "Oh my god. I mean to be candid with you, I think there are people who have done misdemeanor crimes to have more honesty than Donald Trump. Hillary Clinton was exonerated by the FBI."

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