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Democrats Consider How To Move Forward After Trump Victory


After Donald Trump's inauguration in January, Republicans will control the House, the Senate and the White House. So Democrats are asking where their party should go from here. We'll have several conversations about this in the weeks ahead. This afternoon, we called two people who come from different parts of the Democratic Party. Congressman Xavier Becerra of California is chairman of the House Democratic Caucus. Tamara Draut is with the progressive advocacy group Demos Action. As I spoke to them, it became clear that the area where these two disagree most is over how close their party should be to Wall Street. First, here's Draut.

TAMARA DRAUT: We need to shed any remnant of a more Wall-Street-friendly approach to the economy. And I think that's why you saw so much support for Bernie Sanders and why you have Elizabeth Warren as sort of the new leader of the Democratic Party. We need to make it clear to people that we believe the heroes of our economy are janitors and home health aides, not Wall Street CEOs. And that wasn't clear to people. We had a problem with the trade issue on the Democratic Party. We had been the party of these trade agreements that Trump was running against.

SHAPIRO: Congressman, do you agree that the Democratic Party should distance itself from Wall Street more than it has?

XAVIER BECERRA: My sense is that Democrats should be prepared to stand by the things that give Americans reassurance that we're going to fight for them. We don't want to...

SHAPIRO: Does that mean closer or farther from Wall Street?

BECERRA: Well, we - what we don't want is to drive business out of the country. And I think it's important to recognize that all of our different business sectors, whether it's the financial service sector, whether it's communications, whether it's construction, hospitality - we want to fight to have businesses start up here in America, to create jobs here.

SHAPIRO: Including Wall Street.

BECERRA: Including Wall Street. I think every sector that helps create more opportunity to build the economy and create jobs - and good-paying jobs - that's what we want. And Wall Street can do that, too. We just don't want to let Wall Street to take advantage of any American who's working really hard.

DRAUT: So, Ari, I would have answered that question completely differently. And I actually think that this is an important thing that the Democratic Party needs to have a debate amongst ourselves. And that is that Wall Street is not helping create jobs in America. It is enriching itself. And if we can't answer a question about our posture towards Wall Street and how it has been so destructive - let's not forget the Great Recession that most people are still feeling deeply. And if we cannot say as a party that we are going to reform Wall Street and not let it play this outsized role in the values that our companies practice, then we have a problem.

SHAPIRO: Congressman?

DRAUT: You can't operate a business and open a new establishment without credit these days. And you need a bank that will help you do that. You know, every sector of our economy has a role to play. It's when it becomes abusive that we have to take action. And so I would simply say that whether it's a bank or whether it's the mom-and-pop down street, we want to make sure they can all succeed without exploiting the American worker who works very hard.

SHAPIRO: It's that without-exploiting-the-American-worker phrase that I think might be the source of the disagreement because I think that there's a big portion of the country that feels that Wall Street is inherently exploitative and that saying Wall Street is great as long as it doesn't exploit the American worker is saying, in the view of these voters, that wolves are great as long as they don't eat sheep. Well, that's what wolves do.

BECERRA: If you can name me a society and a particular civilization that hasn't had someone who's helped finance the building and construction of that civilization, then I'm willing to look at it. But we all rely on the help of someone, whether it's the federal government - our government - or the private sector, to help us move forward because we don't always have the collateral - the cash - in our pocket.

SHAPIRO: Tamara Draut, what do you make of that?

DRAUT: Well, I would have started maybe with that point, right? I think that long exposition about how we need banks in our lives to do things is absolutely right. Of course, we do, but that actually happens to be what banks aren't mostly doing in our economy today. But the big banks aren't playing this ma-and-pop role in our society. And I can tell you people would love it if they did - if they actually went back to being able to go down the street and say, I want to start a new enterprise. Will you give me a small business loan? I think everybody hungers for those days, but that's not the banking world that we are living in right now. And if the Democrats want to fight to get back to that day, to being able to go to a neighborhood bank, then we have to start with that point and make it really clear that that is not how the banking system is operating.

SHAPIRO: Tamara Draut is author of "The Sleeping Giant: How The New Working Class Will Transform America," and she's also with a think tank Demos action. Thank you.

DRAUT: Thank you, Ari.

SHAPIRO: And Congressman Xavier Becerra, a Democrat from California, thank you for joining us.

BECERRA: Ari, thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.