In Defying the Odds, we talk about the social and economic divides that enabled Trump to enter the White House.
The irony was difficult to miss: on the same day that racist images surfaced from Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam’s medical school yearbook page, Senator Cory Booker announced his bid to become the nation’s second black president and entered what is the most diverse campaign field in history.
The largest class of women were just sworn into Congress last month. The congressional black and Hispanic caucuses are as big as they have ever been. Several Democratic candidates for president — female, black, Hispanic, Asian-American, gay — reflect the diversity of the country. And on Tuesday night, a leading African-American politician, Stacey Abrams of Georgia, will appear before millions to give the Democratic response to the State of the Union.
But the president is also reshaping Democratic politics in far-reaching ways: His divisive behavior, and the Republican silence that often meets it, has pushed Democrats to try to set an example by aggressively confronting current and past misconduct in their own ranks, as they did with Mr. Northam, the Virginia leader who has admitted to one racist episode — wearing blackface at a dance contest — and has struggled to explain a racist photo and the nickname “coonman” on his yearbook pages.
And since Mr. Trump’s election, Democrats are also speaking far more bluntly about issues of race and identity at a time when their base is increasingly made up of people of color and white progressives.
In doing so, Democrats have been giving no quarter to their own. Al Franken, the former Minnesota senator, found that out in 2017, when his own colleagues gave him little choice but to resign in the wake of sexual harassment accusations. Some Democrats were concerned that party leaders like Senator Kirsten Gillibrand were moving too fast against one of their own, Mr. Franken; Ms. Gillibrand defended her stand and is now running for president, partly on her commitment to gender equality.