With President Trump in the White House and Republicans in control of Congress, Democrats have limited power in Washington. The party is looking to harness the anti-Trump protest movement and turn it into votes for Democrats in 2018 and for the presidential election in 2020.
Here & Now’s Jeremy Hobson talks with Democratic strategist Guy Cecil (@guycecil), chairman of the super PAC Priorities USA, about those plans.
On why Hillary Clinton lost the presidential election
“I think there’s probably more than one reason whenever you lose an election by 70,000 votes across three states, and one can certainly acknowledge that the activities from the FBI director over the last week were not helpful to the cause. But ultimately, I think at the end of the day, it was still a change election, that there were a lot of people around the country who were still hurting financially from the economic crisis from 2008, they hadn’t seen their wages rise, they hadn’t seen the type of economic opportunity that they expect for themselves and for their kids, and ultimately decided that they wanted to move into a different direction. And I think that’s highlighted by the fact that Donald Trump was still unpopular with many of these folks, they were simply willing to take the risk just to have change at almost any cost. And ultimately, he was a good messenger for that in a way that Hillary just couldn’t be.”
“If you look at two factors that really took place, first of all, you did have millions of people who voted for President Obama who then went on to vote for President Trump, no question these voters, in many cases, voted for Trump for the same reason they voted for President Obama, which I know sounds crazy, but ultimately they wanted change — they wanted change in Washington, they wanted change with the establishment, they wanted their lives to get better. And the second group are folks that simply just didn’t turn out to vote, and I do think that a big part of the reason for that was they simply thought Hillary Clinton was going to win. When you looked at the public polling, when you looked at the coverage of the race, when you look at the way newspapers, radio, television, all cover the race, most of them covered it as if it was fate accompli, and ultimately I think it discouraged a lot of folks from turning out.”
On who Democrats’ leader should be
“I don’t think we need to have a leader right now. Honestly, I think that part of the beauty of what’s happening around the country is that you have groups like the organizers of the Women’s March, a group of former congressional staffers who formed the organization called Indivisible, which has led to hundreds if not thousands of small community meetings and town halls, you have dial-up campaigns — the three largest phone days in the history of the United States Congress have happened in the last week — all of these things have been happening because of grass-roots enthusiasm. And I think Democrats should spend some time over the next few months not focused on what organization or what single person is going to lead, or frankly even what person is going to be the chairman of the DNC, and we should be more focused on how we empower and harness the energy and enthusiasm that is happening in cities and towns across the country. And so I’m less concerned about who is the singular leader of the party, and more interested in, how do we continue to harness this enthusiasm over the next two years leading into the elections?”
On whether Democrats should try to obstruct President Trump and Republicans
“I think in some respects this is a false choice, because we haven’t seen much from the Trump administration that most Americans would actually agree with, and so, when you are nominating someone for United States attorney general who has engaged in what could be kindly called racist behavior, or you have a secretary of education nominee who doesn’t know basic tenets of public education, or you have a president who is in support of a Muslim ban, then yes, I think Democrats should be unanimous in their opposition to Trump, when it comes to Medicaid block grants, when it comes to cutting [the Affordable Care Act] — I mean there hasn’t been much effort on the part of Donald Trump or the Republicans to reach out to Democrats to find common-sense solutions, and until that happens, we should oppose them at every chance we get.”
On what type of candidate Democrats should run against Trump in 2020
“Honestly, I’ve tried to avoid all conversation about 2020, because I think part of the problem that we have as Democrats is an obsession with winning the presidential race that frankly has blinded us from what have been historic losses at the state legislative and governor and congressional level that we must address in a systemic way. But there’s no question that, looking to 2020 — whether it’s someone that happens to be in office from Washington, D.C., or happens to be at a state capitol — we need to look to the future, and [find] fresh leadership for our party. And frankly the most important thing for my perspective is someone that can present a comprehensive message about what it means to be a Democrat, what it means to be a modern-day Democrat that is about more than just ticking off demographic boxes, or becoming a confederation of the agreed, that can deliver a strong economic message without walking away from our commitment to equality and justice. And I think the person that can find the way to that is gonna be successful whether they’ve been in elective office in D.C., or in a state capitol around the country.”
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