STATE HOUSE NEWS SERVICE/WICKED LOCAL LINCOLN: Clark outlines challenges facing Democrats
As originally appearing in Wicked Local Lincoln


For U.S. Rep. Katherine Clark, elevator rides with House Republicans have something in common with car trips she has taken with her three sons — both present good opportunities for heart-to-heart chats.

“Some of my best conversations with Republicans take place in the elevator, and I think that it’s because it’s sort of like driving teenagers,” the Democratic congresswoman said at a New England Council breakfast June 5 at the Hampshire House. “I’m sure you’ve had this experience before. Somehow driving, facing this way, they talk to you more, so in the elevator, when we’re all looking at the floor numbers, somehow they confess and talk more about their anxieties. I don’t know what it is about cars and elevators.”

A critic of President Donald Trump and his policies, Clark said she believes some GOP members are worried about potential Russian interference in the 2016 election and proposed budget cuts and that she is waiting to see a moderate Republican stand up to the White House.

“We are unraveling our democracy, whether it’s through the budget, suppression of the vote, doing things like the travel ban that are unconstitutional and I think it’s going to be upheld by the courts as such,” she said.

Clark, a member of the House Committee on Appropriations, said Trump’s budget proposal contains billions of dollars in cuts that “would really power off the economic engine in New England,” including funding reductions for the National Institutes of Health. She said Trump’s plan would hurt health care, higher education and the innovation economy.

“This is how preeminent economies topple, when we don’t make those investments, when we’re not looking to the long-term and we cut off our pipeline of ideas and workforce and it may be all right for five, 10 years…but there will be a point where we can’t come back and where other countries and other economies are taking our scientists,” she said.

When Clark took questions from the audience, former U.S. Rep. Michael Harrington, a Democrat who represented the Sixth District from 1969 to 1979, grilled her about the state of their own party, asking her when the younger generation will take on Democratic House leadership, which he described as “sclerotic troika of septuagenarians.”

“When is there going to be recognition on the Democratic side that if one looks for a plausible bench, I can find none?” he asked.

Clark said she did not know who would emerge as the party’s standard-bearer, but the party is showing “good signs of life” after Trump defeated Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton last year.

Democrats recognize they have “disconnected in a very dangerous way” with some segments of their voting bloc and are taking a “rigorous” look at how they run campaigns and talk to voters, Clark said.

“We love to tell people about our white papers on our websites but we don’t often connect well,” Clark said. “We don’t talk about the problems that families are facing and we don’t listen because we’re so eager to tell them we have the solutions, and we’ve got to do that better.”

Congresswoman Katherine Clark represents the Fifth District of Massachusetts, which includes the Town of Lincoln.

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