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How Democrats have changed since the Bill Clinton years

This week’s Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia will have a “back to the future” feel as another Clinton readies to become a presidential nominee. But, as NewsHour Weekend Special Correspondent Jeff Greenfield reports, the Democratic party of today is not the same as the party of the 1990s.

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  • Bill Clinton

    : In the name of the hard-working Americans who make up our forgotten middle class, I proudly accept your nomination for President of the United States.

  • Hillary Clinton

    : When I look out at all of you, you know what I see? I see America’s future!

  • Jeff Greenfield

    : 100 miles and 24 years separates the 1992 convention in New York from the one that open here in Philadelphia on Monday. But the distance is far greater than a matter of miles or years. Despite the familial link, the Democratic Party that will nominate the second Clinton is sharply different in makeup and philosophy from the one that nominated the first.

    Bill Clinton’s campaign was based on the idea that voters did not trust the Democrats with their safety or their money. He promised a different agenda — middle class tax relief, ending welfare as we knew it, tougher on crime, pro-death penalty.

    Bill Galston was a key architect of that agenda.

  • Bill Galston

    : The move towards fiscal restraint and a balanced budget, which yielded four years of surpluses. A focus on education reform, not just education investment. Welfare reform. The trade agenda, which included not just NAFTA, but also the WTO.

  • Jeff Greenfield

    : The Democrats in Philadelphia are striking sharply different notes.

    The platform calls for: ending mass incarceration, abolishing the death penalty, free college tuition for millions, cracking down on big banks, a public option for healthcare, and the right to an abortion without restrictions.

    Instead of Bill Clinton’s “wall of blue,” mothers whose sons and daughters were killed by police will speak here.

  • Ed Rendell

    : Certainly, a Bill Clinton convention…would never have thought of having those type of speakers.

  • Jeff Greenfield

    : Ed Rendell, former Philadelphia Mayor, Pennsylvania Governor, and national party chair.

  • Ed Rendell

    : There’s no question the left wing is more progressive. It’s more active; it’s more into advocacy than it ever has been.

  • Jeff Greenfield

    :

    I remember Bill Clinton saying endlessly, and Hillary too, abortion should be safe, legal and rare. That’s not in the platform. Rare is out.

  • Ed Rendell

    : We’ve become… The progressive wing of the party is more dominant than it’s been.

  • Jeff Greenfield

    :

    One reason is demographics. Racial minorities, voters under 40, and college-educated whites are an increasingly dominant force.

    When Bill Clinton won reelection in 1996, he lost the White vote to Bob Dole by just 3 percentage points. Barack Obama won reelection in 2012 despite losing the White vote by 20 points to Mitt Romney. Obama won with huge majorities of Blacks, Hispanics, and Asians — who are now a bigger slice of the electorate.

  • Leah Daughtry

    : And now we are the big-tent party and we represent the breadth and the diversity of this country, and here I am, an African-American woman from Brooklyn, New York, as the CEO.

  • Jeff Greenfield

    : Convention CEO Leah Daughtry say the changing approach to an issue like crime reflects a changing reality.

  • Leah Daughtry

    : In those days when President Clinton was advancing the crime bill, everybody was in an uproar about the crack epidemic that was sweeping across the country, and everybody wanted something done about it. And so, you know–I think it’s–it is a mark of the Clintons to say, you know, looking back, no it was not the right thing.

  • Jeff Greenfield

    : There is, of course, another reason why the Democrats have moved Left.

  • Bernie Sanders

    : This type of rigged economy is not what America is supposed to be about.

  • Jeff Greenfield

    : Vermont’s Bernie Sanders, the only avowed socialist in Senate, mounted a surprisingly strong primary challenge to Clinton, winning 12 million votes and more than 18-hundred convention delegates.

    Colorado delegate Terry Tucker was one of them.

  • Terry Tucker

    : The Democratic Party was always a party of the people. It’s become so much like the other party in many respects — the way you chase the big money, the way the establishment, the elite, choose which candidates are going to be put forward. We lost our roots, and we need to get back there.

  • Jeff Greenfield

    : Bill Galston says Hillary Clinton is walking a tightrope between the past and the present.

  • Bill Galston

    : She understands that the party is nothing like the party that nominated and then helped to elect her husband.

  • Jeff Greenfield

    : Her challenge is crystallized by Sanders supporters like Terry Tucker.

  • Jeff Greenfield

    : So if I could get you in a time machine, and you somehow could travel back to 1992, What would you tell them was going to happen to their party 24 years later when there’s another Clinton up?

  • Terry Tucker

    : I believe there were some people that were trying to tell them that you’re shutting out a huge part of the party, and it’s going to have consequences.

  • Jeff Greenfield

    : But if they say to you know what, we did put a two-term Democrat in the White House, so maybe Bill Clinton was onto something?

  • Terry Tucker

    : You’ve got winning elections down. But when did winning elections mean that as a political party we don’t do the right thing?

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