Politics & Government

‘Maybe we should try something a little different:’ Trump energizes new mix of candidates

Jaime Harrison, associate chairman of the Democratic National Committee, is working on developing the party’s strategy for winning back red states and rural districts.
Jaime Harrison, associate chairman of the Democratic National Committee, is working on developing the party’s strategy for winning back red states and rural districts. AP

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Donald Trump’s candidacy is inspiring an unusually diverse crop of Democrats to jump into the political fray this cycle, Democratic National Committee associate chair and senior counselor Jaime Harrison told McClatchy’s “Beyond the Bubblepodcast this week.

“In some aspects, Donald Trump’s the best recruiter for the Democratic Party we’ve had in a long time,” Harrison said. “He has really galvanized a lot of folks, and energized people, and has demonstrated why it’s important to have a strong Democratic Party, why it’s important to be able to push back on...Republican policy and orthodoxy. “

Those comments came the same week that a host of female candidates won their Democratic primaries, from Michigan to Kansas.

“We’re going to see a lot of diversity this year in terms of the new crop of elected officials. Just unprecedented numbers of women running for office,” he said.

But in a conversation with McClatchyDC’s Alex Roarty and Ozy’s Daniel Malloy, Harrison disputed the idea that 2018 is a choice between either the Year of the Woman or the Year of Color. 

(Listen to the last episode of Beyond the Bubble: PolitiFact calls out July’s lies)

“I think it’s both,” he said, going on to add that “we’re also seeing a lot of people of color, particularly on the Democratic side, pushing back on trends and the rhetoric we’re hearing from the White House and Capitol Hill.”

Harrison also acknowledged that the party has more work to do in showing core constituencies — black women, for instance — that the Democrats don’t take them for granted. He pointed to electoral opportunities to demonstrate party commitment, including the Georgia governor’s race, where Democrat Stacey Abrams, who won a contested primary earlier this year, could become the country’s first black female governor but faces a competitive general election in a traditionally Republican state.

“I was surprised by Georgia, I really was, to have Stacey come out, and to come out as strong as she did, out of that primary,” he said. “That’s a real indication that there’s been some progress made in that state.”

Harrison, the former chair of the South Carolina Democratic Party, is African American. He said that there are still some “people who don’t believe an African American can win statewide in the South. That is crazy.”

He pointed to Sen. Tim Scott, a Republican of South Carolina, and now-U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley, the former GOP governor of South Carolina. Both are people of color.

“If they’re able to vote for Tim Scott in South Carolina or Nikki Haley in South Carolina, why wouldn’t African American Democrat be able to win?” he said. “The problem is, white Democrats haven’t been able to win. So maybe we should try something a little different.”

McClatchy’s Beyond the Bubble show is produced by Jordan-Marie Smith and Davin CoburnAlex Roarty and Katie Glueck, national political correspondents for McClatchy, recorded this episode at McClatchy’s Washington Bureau on August 7, 2018.

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