Members of the Democratic National Committee will meet in Denver this weekend for the first time since Election Day. They’ll certainly talk about what went wrong in 2016, but they’ll also begin the process of finding a new committee chairman.
Rep. Keith Ellison has generated the most buzz so far, but Ellison’s part-time availability for the job has left some DNC members looking for a Plan B.
That could come in the candidacy of Jaime Harrison, the 40-year-old chairman of the South Carolina Democratic Party. Harrison is a protege of Rep. Jim Clyburn, who endorsed him for the DNC job this week, more than 20 years after Harrison first met Clyburn as a high school student in Orangeburg, South Carolina, where they’re both from.
Harrison discussed his impression of where things stand, and what needs to change:
Q: Let’s talk a little bit about where you’re from.A: I grew up in Orangeburg, South Carolina. My mom was about 16 years old when she had me. She dropped out of high school and my grandparents helped to take care of me.
My grandfather finished fourth grade and my grandmother finished eighth grade. Both of them had to stop school in order to work to help take care of their families. If you ever drive on [Interstate] 95 in South Carolina, you’re probably driving on roads my grandfather helped pave. He didn’t have a lot of money or a lot of education, but in terms of core values, you can’t find a better person.
[Keith Ellison Vying for DNC Chairman]
Q: How did you end up at Yale?A: Yale was never on my radar at all. But I started receiving information from them after I took the College Boards. We didn’t have money for campus visits, so the first time I stepped on the Yale campus was the day I had to be there for orientation. A lot of friends told me, ‘You’re not going to get in.’ But I have always been one of those people who, if you tell me something I can’t do, it adds fuel to the fire and it means I’m going to do it.
Q: I know you had scholarships, but was Yale a struggle for you financially or culturally?A: It was very hard. On the social front, I felt like a Wal-Mart kid. At Yale, there’s old money and new money, and I had no money. I had always been a confident person, but my confidence was shaken my fist year. But I got involved with the Yale Political Union and the Black Political Forum. I found my voice, my confidence came back, and I started knocking it out of the box.
Q: How did you end up on the Hill?A: I was running a nonprofit in Washington and going to Georgetown Law School at night when Clyburn’s office reached out to me. He became House [Democratic] Caucus Chair in 2006 and I became executive director. When Democrats won the majority, Clyburn was elected whip and I ran his floor operation. He’s been that person who trusted in a young person and he provided me an opportunity.
Q: So let’s fast forward to 2016. You were a state party chair. What went wrong for Democrats?A: We could have forecast 2016 in 2014 or 2012 or 2010. People want to say Hillary Clinton didn’t talk to these voters or Hillary Clinton wasn’t Barack Obama. If you have a healthy organization, it doesn’t matter if you have a charismatic leader like Barack Obama or a policy wonk like Hillary Clinton. You can still win.
Q: What’s not healthy about the DNC?A: For almost a decade now, we have ignored state parties, which are the foundation for our party. It is the engine that keeps us running forward. As a result, there’s an idea that every two or four years you can flip a switch and win an election. That is not the case.
Q: What’s your idea to change that?A: The big thing is the Democratic Party cannot simply be a political organization that begs for votes every two or four years. It also has to be a community organization, talking to voters and helping them address the pocketbook issues and barriers they face on a day-to-day basis.
You have to address people, not based on what you think, but on the feelings they actually have.
[Pelosi Remains but 'Winter is Coming' for Democrats]
Q: What role should the DNC play in the Trump era?A: It’s going to be about organization, it’s galvanizing grassroots to push back on Trump and the people who support Trump. I think people are overanalyzing this election. There wasn’t a surge of Trump supporters who came out, that wasn’t the case when you look at turnout. The base of our party, which looks like America, has not been mobilized, hasn’t been talked to, hasn’t been listened to, haven’t been given something to believe in so that they can go out and vote, and vote in force.
Q: Do you put yourself on the moderate to progressive spectrum for Democrats?A: I hate all of that. I’m not a Bernie Democrat or a Hillary Democrat or any of those things, I’m a Democrat who believes in opportunity for all and I will fight for that.
Q: Are you a still working as a lobbyist?A: Yes. I started working for the Podesta Group, heading up their transportation practice. Some of my clients were US Air, GM, the South Carolina Ports Authority, University of South Carolina. When we moved to South Carolina, I went to a part-time basis. But when you’re a young guy with $160,000 of student debt and a grandma to take care of, you’ve got to have a job that allows you to do all of that and also your life’s work, which is what I’m doing as party chair.
Roll Call columnist Patricia Murphy covers national politics for The Daily Beast. Previously, she was the Capitol Hill bureau chief for Politics Daily and founder and editor of Citizen Jane Politics. Follow her on Twitter @1PatriciaMurphy.
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Congress returned from Thanksgiving and began decorating for the holidays (inside and outside the Capitol Building), prepping for office moves for the 115th Congress and deciding where freshman House members’ will have their offices.
Vice President-elect Mike Pence was on the Hill to meet with his Republican colleagues.
Here is the week in photos:
Population trends are working against the Republican Party — at least that’s what we’ve been told.
But a combination of the 2016 presidential results and early looks at reapportionment after the 2020 census shows that the short-term changes may not be as dramatic as once believed.
Fifteen states are likely to gain or lose a congressional seat next decade due to population shifts, according to Election Data Services. Those changes will also impact how many electoral votes are allocated to each state.
Texas is poised to gain three seats and Florida two seats, according to EDS analysis done at the end of 2015. Arizona, North Carolina, Colorado and Oregon are likely to each gain a single seat.
Alabama, Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and West Virginia are likely to lose a seat. (Updated census data and analysis are expected in the next few weeks.)
This year, Donald Trump scored a 306-232 victory over Hillary Clinton in the Electoral College, with the Associated Press finally calling Michigan for Trump on Monday, where he won by less than a quarter of a percentage point.
If this race were played out under the post-2020 census lines and Trump won the same states, he would emerge with a slightly larger 308-230 victory.
Trump won four states (Texas, Florida, Arizona, and North Carolina) this year that are poised to gain seven seats collectively. He won five states (Alabama, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia) that are poised to lose a seat each. That would be a net gain of two seats/electoral votes.
Clinton won two states (Colorado and Oregon) that are likely to each gain a seat, and four states (Illinois, Minnesota, New York, and Rhode Island) that are on track to each lose a seat, for a net loss of two seats/electoral votes.
The 2020 presidential race will be held under the current map and the current number of electoral votes.
Of course, no two presidential races are alike and Trump’s Electoral College path may be difficult to replicate by a more typical GOP politician in 2024 against a less polarizing Democratic nominee.
But taking a broader look at the new potential map, the news isn’t terrible for Republicans.
Three safe Democratic states (Illinois, New York, and Rhode Island) look likely to lose three seats collectively, while just one safe Democratic state (Oregon) is on track to pick up a seat, for a net loss of two seats/electoral votes.
Two safe Republican states (Alabama and West Virginia) are likely to lose a pair of seats collectively while Texas is poised to gain three seats for a net gain of a single seat.
In the potential battlegrounds, four states (Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, and Pennsylvania) are likely to lose a seat each while four states (Arizona, Colorado, Florida and North Carolina) would gain five seats collectively for a net gain of a seat.
There’s an argument to be made that Michigan and Minnesota aren’t really battleground states, that 2016 was an aberration and that they should be in the Democratic column. That would take the safe Democratic states down to a net loss of four seats/electoral votes.
It’s hard to see how Republicans can stay in power while losing growing minority populations by large margins. But it’s probably good to put the “demographics are destiny” theory on ice for a little while.