Bill Clinton’s 1992 election to the presidency as a Democrat ended a series of defeats for that party on the presidential level. Clinton may have won the White House, but he did not do it alone. In the decade before his victory, the “New Democrats” worked to moderate the Democratic Party from within, responding to the presidential losses of 1980, 1984, and 1988. Scholars have explored this topic from many angles, but none have explored it from the perspective of these “New Democrats” in a way that traces their story from Al From and Gillis Long to the DLC and finally to Clinton with an overarching focus on loss. This independent study employs a discourse analysis of various speeches and policy manifestos in the 1980s to study how this group reacted to Democratic presidential losses. The study ultimately concludes that “New Democrats” pressured the party to moderate key policy positions as a direct result of election losses on the presidential level. In the wake of growing calls to reform a party that is still largely dominated by “New Democrats”, this project is more relevant than ever.


Biro-Walters, Jordan

Second Advisor

van Doorn, Bas


History; Political Science


American Politics | Political History | United States History


The Presidency, 1980s, Bill Clinton, DLC, Democrats, White House, Election Loss

Publication Date


Degree Granted

Bachelor of Arts

Document Type

Senior Independent Study Thesis Exemplar



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