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The Future Of The Democratic Demographic


We're in the throes of an election season, but some people are already contemplating the day after and the future of the Democratic and Republican parties as they seem to divide the electorate by increasingly sharp demographic patterns. Bill Richardson, the former Democratic governor of New Mexico, has said that his party is, quote, "losing the white male vote in droves." He doesn't like that. Governor Richardson joins us from Santa Fe. Thanks very much for being with us, Governor.

BILL RICHARDSON: Nice to be with you, Scott.

SIMON: And why does this concern you? What do you think the Democrats are losing?

RICHARDSON: Well, I think we're losing the white male vote. There are a lot of Southerners, Midwesterners that I believe we can bring into the Democratic Party with a more appealing economic message, wages - not minimum wage necessarily, but job creation. It just seems that the perception of many of these voters is that we're a party of special interests, of minorities, of environmentalists. These are groups that I'm very closely allied to. I was a Hispanic governor up until a few years ago. But it worries me that that base of voters - that Bernie Sanders is also appealing to - white progressive voters that somehow are leaving the Democratic Party.

SIMON: And what do you say to those people who say, well, you know, white males are overrepresented in government and maybe in American life already?

RICHARDSON: Well, I say that may be the case. And I'm for affirmative action. I'm for giving opportunities to minorities. I'm for immigration reform. I'm a very proud Hispanic. But I just think the Democratic Party has to communicate a better message of economic populism, of helping small businesses. Somehow the centrist white male, the conservative white male that used to vote Democratic from the South and the Midwest is eluding us. And we've got to get that base back or get some portion of the base because they're leaving us in droves.

SIMON: And what about those politicians that might say, hey, look, we won a couple of national elections with the demographics that we have in the Democratic Party.

RICHARDSON: Well, what I say to them is that's great. But we've lost the Congress. We've lost the House. We've lost the Senate. We lose governorships. And, you know, it's not just the presidency that has the power in this country. It's local officials, it's county commissioners, it's governors. It's not just the Congress. It's a whole range of offices where we're not competing because we - we need a stronger, compelling economic message. And somehow, that seems to be eluding us if you look at recent elections, especially in the South and the Midwest.

SIMON: You've already cited Bernie Sanders. And I gather you have endorsed Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination for president. How do you think Secretary Clinton addresses these issues?

RICHARDSON: Well, I like what she's doing. She's talking about this new economic populism. Unfortunately, because of this email issue and other issues, I don't think the public is seeing this economic agenda that she has that I think makes a lot of sense.

SIMON: Are there any other Democrats you'd like to mention by name who you think are sounding some themes that might fit in with what you're saying?

RICHARDSON: Well, I think there are many people in the Congress. I think Senator Mark Warner talks about technology jobs. There are many other members of Congress that are saying the right thing. I believe Hillary Clinton, right now, is the one strongest, not just because she's a presidential candidate but she's saying this as a Democrat. We have to bring back those white male Democrats that Bill Clinton - President Bill Clinton - used to attract when he was running and was re-elected twice.

SIMON: Governor Bill Richardson of New Mexico. Thanks so much for being with us, sir.

RICHARDSON: All right, Scott. Take care. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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