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Engaging Ideas

Democrats' Turning Point?

Party struggles to find direction after losing presidency

This Engaging Idea explores the Democratic Party's internal struggle to find direction after losing the presidential election in 2016.


Seth Masket

Seth Masket is a professor in the Department of Political Science and director of the Center on American Politics at the University of Denver.

He is the author, most recently, of The Inevitable Party: Why Efforts to Kill the Party System Fail and How They Hurt Democracy. He teaches and studies political parties, state legislatures, and campaigns and elections, and is currently working on a book about the Democratic Party's responses to the 2016 election.

Masket is a regular contributor at Vox's "Mischiefs of Faction" blog, as well as Pacific Standard and FiveThirtyEight. 


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Questions for personal reflection or group discussion

  1. If the Democratic Party is trying to make primaries and caucuses more open to participation by independent voters, what kind of candidates would do well in such an environment?
  2. What are some of the possible, if unintended, consequences of such reforms?
  3. "Superdelegates" are generally elected officials and members of the DNC who have a long history of experience within the party. How much weight should they have in helping a party select its presidential nominees? Would they pick someone whom primary voters didn't pick?
  4. After the Democratic Party's reforms between 1968 and 1972, the party went on to nominate George McGovern for president, who lost in a landslide to Richard Nixon. Could Democrats face a similar fate in 2020? How are these elections similar or different?

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