The two wings of the Democratic Party are having more difficulty reconciling their differences in the weeks following November's midterm elections, with both sides struggling to control the identity and direction of the party heading into the 2016 presidential election, political experts are saying.
The divide began widening after Democratic candidates were soundly trounced in the midterms, and came to a full head in last week's vote for the $1.1 trillion spending bill, with President Barack Obama pushing for the bill and a House faction led by California Democratic Rep. Nancy Pelosi
taking a rare stance against their party's leader, reports The Washington Post
The battle has been coming for a while, said William Galston, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and policy adviser to former President Bill Clinton.
"It is a conflict that was looking for an occasion," Galston told The Post. "The election provided the occasion."
One one side are the moderates, who are best personified through presumptive presidential frontrunner Hillary Clinton. On the other is the more populist side of the party, such as Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who the left is pushing to challenge Clinton for the 2016 nomination despite Warren's protests that she is not seeking the higher office.
The spending bill was opposed by many Democrats because it rolled back the Dodd-Frank financial regulatory law while adding a provision to allow rich donors to give more money to national political parties.
"What we saw over the last couple of days is an example of a debate that is probably going to go on for a while in the party," said Jim Manley, a former aide to outgoing Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.
In the Senate, Warren fought hard against the bill, saying that Wall Street insiders are getting "key position after key position" and complaining about the "cronyism we have seen in the executive branch."
Her opposition drew some comparison with that of Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz, who was against the bill because it failed to defund Obama's immigration actions, although some Democratic leaders denied the comparison.
Some Democrats say the fight is about shaping the party's future.
"I think the overarching narrative that is most powerful right now is that everyday citizens are being left out — almost locked out — of their own democracy, when you look at Washington, when you look at the influence that special interests have," said Maryland Democratic Rep. John Sarbanes.
"Democrats want to find a way to give people their voice back."
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