Editor’s Note: This is the first of a three-part series featuring a discussion with famed Democratic strategist and former Chair of the Democratic National Committee Donna Brazile on Liberty Nation Radio.
How would you like to be thrust into a leadership position through no choice of your own, with little to gain and everything to lose, in the midst of scandal surrounding the person you replaced, with your hands tied and the most powerful position in the world at stake?
That was the perilous situation facing Donna Brazile, widely respected Democratic strategist for almost four decades who took over as chair of the Democratic National Committee for a second time after her predecessor Debbie Wasserman-Schultz was forced out under a cloud of scandal, and just as Hillary Clinton was about to become the party’s nominee for President.
In an exclusive interview on Liberty Nation Radio, Ms. Brazile discusses the disastrous campaign of Mrs. Clinton, as chronicled in her explosively controversial page-turner of a book, Hacks: The Inside Story of the Break-ins and Breakdowns That Put Donald Trump in the White House. It is a story of personal anguish, of how she endured the drama, scandals, and hacking of a uniquely bitter, draining and contentious campaign. It is a narrative that has raised the hackles of former Clinton campaign officials and establishment Democrats:
Tim Donner: Donna, you and I met just as the first excerpts of your book were being released and you were preparing for the slings and arrows from your fellow Democrats that were sure to follow – and did. But I’ve followed your career for a long time, from your work with Jesse Jackson in the 80s to heading up the Gore for President Campaign in 2000 to where we are today. And one thing that always stood out was that even though you’re a lifelong Democrat, high ranking Democrat strategist, you seem to be not just respected but liked by a lot of people around Washington, including conservatives. So let me ask you this. How can we return to the point where, like with you, people can discourse with their political opponents in a civil manner again, or are we so bitterly divided that we’re past the point where that can even happen again?
Donna Brazile: Well first of all, again, I want to just say thank you for having me on your show and I respect your voice as well. I have been around a long, long time. I came up at a time in American politics when you saw a lot of bipartisan cooperation, a lot of bipartisan friendships. I remember when Tip O’Neill told me I was a kid after bringing seven million signatures up to Capitol Hill to designate January 15th as Doctor King’s birthday. He said, “Now you know I’m going to have to go and talk to Ronald Reagan.” A few months later, I was in the White House with Tip O’Neill and Ronald Reagan and I saw the King Holiday Bill signed into law. From that moment forward, I always believed that you cannot just basically cut off anybody simply because they are in the opposing party, opposing gender, opposing race or whatever.
We are God’s children. We are created in a way in which we must learn how to love each other and listen to each other. I have learned so much over the years, not just from my friends who are progressive or liberals, but also my friends who are conservative. I would not be the person I am today if I didn’t have friends from across the board, across all political bandwidth. And as long as they believe in our basic values as Americans and I think we all do share those basic, common sense, common decency values, then I want to listen to people. I want to listen to George Will. I want to listen to Laura Ingraham. But I also want the George Will’s and the Laura Ingraham’s and the Sean Hannity’s to listen and learn from the Donna Brazile’s of the world as well. We have a lot to learn from each other and I have a lot to learn from you. I’ve been reading stuff about you as well, so I want to thank you for your service as well.
Tim Donner: Well thank you so much. I’m delighted to hear that you’re reading some of our stuff at Liberty Nation. Let’s talk about your book because it really is a page-turner. I could barely put it down. You talk a lot about the Hillary Clinton campaign as a soulless enterprise driven almost entirely by data and evacuated of personality, a campaign which essentially took over the Democratic National Committee a year before the nominee was selected and shut you out. Now you write that no one was to breathe or move unless Brooklyn okayed it, Brooklyn being the home of Clinton headquarters. Brooklyn didn’t want anyone who could second guess them. Everyone in the Clinton leadership worshiped the data and the analytics while you’ve always relied on feel and touch and instinct. And you wrote that the campaign was marked by self-satisfaction and inevitability. Now I don’t want to re-litigate this whole thing because you’ve been talking about it for some time. But let me ask you this. After Barack Obama’s brilliant use of data in his two campaigns, data became the big thing. Do you think the failure of the data in the Clinton campaign will return the party back to being more personal and less computer-driven?
Donna Brazile: Well you know, look, there’s a great deal we can learn from data and algorithms and learning about voter habits and preferences. But there is no substitute as you well know from actually talking to people, getting to understand their views, their values and to cater a campaign strategy simply to see numbers and analytics and now knowing that Mr. Joe down the street or Miss. Mary around the corner are the driving force in persuading people to vote, persuading people to get involved, persuading people period because they are part of the neighborhood, part of the community. The Obama campaign was quite organic. It was organic in the sense that everyone felt like they could make a difference.
In this campaign, it was almost as if asking for a poster or yard sign felt like you were creating mutiny, like why do you need that? Well, of course, you want some signs of visibility ’cause visibility is viability. And so throughout the term that I served as chair, I wanted the campaign to recognize that in addition to the data and the analytics, we needed stuff on the ground. We needed people to feel excited and the only way to get that excitement was to really engage people where they live, where they work, where they play like go to the bowling alley, go to games and of course where they pray. And those are the fundamental things that I’ve learned about politics throughout my 40 plus years working across the country.
In part two of this series tomorrow, Donna Brazile discusses the DNC hacking ordeal she was forced to endure, and whether the ultimate purpose of her tell-all book is to force the Democratic party to move beyond the Clintons.