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Emerging From Tumult With An Uncertain Future: The Fate Of The Democratic Party

photo of tom perez speaking at a microphone, an american flag in the background
Andrew Harnik
AP Photo
File photo of former U.S. Labor Secretary Thomas Perez speaks at a news conference at the Treasury Department in Washington, Wednesday, June 22, 2016, on the annual Social Security and Medicare Boards of Trustees report.

Former U.S. Secretary of Labor Tom Perez took the helm of the Democratic National Committee in early 2017 when its reputation was in tatters. The Clinton-Sanders primary created a rift in the party, which was further devastated by the Russian email hacking scandal and big losses in the 2016 election.

Organize early. Organize everywhere. Flood the zone. - Tom Perez on the DNC's strategy to win seats in North Carolina

So, where does the Democratic party stand now? Democrats have picked up dozens of state house seats since President Donald Trump took office, but its pocketbooks do not look as healthy. The Republican Party has outraised the Democratic Party by more than $120 million for the 2018 election cycle, and the DNC is still millions of dollars in debt. Host Frank Stasio talks about the state and strategy of the Democratic Party with DNC Chair Tom Perez, who was in North Carolina to deliver the Terry Sanford Distinguished Lecture at Duke University in Durham.
Interview Highlights:

Conor Lamb won Pennsylvania after running as an anti-Nancy Pelosi, pro-gun candidate. When asked whether there is a unified message from the Democratic Party, Perez said:
Conor Lamb won in Pennsylvania because he was talking about the right to organize the union. He was talking about healthcare. He was talking about pension security, bread and butter issues of the Democratic Party. Republicans don't think healthcare is a right for all, they think it's only a right for a few. Democrats believe that healthcare is a right for all. That's how Conor won.

When you have Democrats fighting for the issues that people care about and you have Republicans, like Roy Moore, who want to fight the culture wars, that's why we're winning elections.- Tom Perez

When asked if the Democratic Party will take a stand on gun control, Perez said:
I personally believe that common sense gun-violence reduction measures and the second amendment freedoms can coexist. And we saw this in Florida, where even a Republican-dominated legislature began the process of passing common-sense gun violence reduction measures ... When you look at what's on people's minds in those states it's jobs, jobs, jobs. It's healthcare. The opioid epidemic is crippling West Virginia, and what do Republicans want to do about it? They want to take away your healthcare. What do Democrats want to do? They want to make sure we're treating the problem and helping people out.

When asked about what the DNC's strategy is to win seats in North Carolina, Perez said:
Organize early. Organize everywhere. Flood the zone. This is remarkable that this is the first time all 170 districts have a Democratic candidate at least in recent memory. And we saw in Virginia when you flood the zone, when you field quality candidates across the state ... When you are organizing early in these districts and talking about the issues that people care most about, that's when we're at our best.

When asked about President Trump's tariffs and where Democrats will stand in November when the tariff issue comes up in elections, Perez said:
The president has a ready-fire-aim approach to governance on these issues. China is a chronic cheater ... They've been cheating for years, and there is a right way to go after them, and there is a way that has a lot of collateral damage. And what this president is doing now ... Is gonna hurt soybean farmers, is gonna hurt pork farmers in this state. It's gonna hurt tobacco farmers in North Carolina ... What we see here again is governance doesn't matter to this administration, and people are gonna suffer from that. We should absolutely be holding China accountable on steel and aluminum and solar panels and other areas – intellectual property where they are absolutely cheating. But there's a smart way to do it that doesn't victimize farmers and others in North Carolina and elsewhere.

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Anita Rao is an award-winning journalist and the host and creator of "Embodied," a weekly radio show and podcast about sex, relationships & health. She's also the managing editor of WUNC's on-demand content.
Longtime NPR correspondent Frank Stasio was named permanent host of The State of Things in June 2006. A native of Buffalo, Frank has been in radio since the age of 19. He began his public radio career at WOI in Ames, Iowa, where he was a magazine show anchor and the station's News Director.
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