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DNC Chair Tom Perez ’83 talks bipartisanship, future of DNC

Perez discusses confirmation of Judge Neil Gorsuch, importance of local, national elections

By
senior staff writer
Sunday, April 9, 2017

Recently elected Chair of the Democratic National Committee Tom Perez ’83 came to Rhode Island Thursday to deliver a lecture with Gov. Gina Raimondo. After the lecture, Perez spoke with The Herald for an exclusive interview touching on the Trump administration, the future of the DNC and education reform. Prior to becoming Chair of the DNC, Perez served as the U.S. secretary of labor from 2013 to 2017 and the assistant attorney general for the Civil Rights Division of the United States Department of Justice.

The Herald: How should Democrats position themselves for future elections?

Perez: The difference between Democrats and Republicans is that we know how to govern and they don’t. And we’ve seen that. What we have to do is make sure that we’re building a strong party so that we don’t lose elections, whether they are local or national. Bad things happen to good people. We see that every single day with the carnage of the Trump administration. That is why I ran for the chairman of the Democratic party. When we have strong parties, and when we elect Democrats that put their values into action like Governor Raimondo, we enable people to get access to opportunity. We grow economies. We make sure people have access to healthcare as a right. Good things happen across the country.

The Senate just employed the nuclear option to confirm Judge Neil Gorsuch. Given this, how can we revive bipartisanship?

It would be nice if the current president did what Obama and Clinton did. When there was a nominee for the Supreme Court, they reached out to Republicans and said, “What do you think. What ideas do you have?” (Trump) didn’t reach out to Dems — the only person that the president reached out to was the Heritage Foundation. (Gorsuch) is a nominee that is way outside of the mainstream. If he’s confirmed, it will be a great day for large corporations and a terrible day for workers that are trying to make ends meet. He shows disdain for average workers. He has a consistent pattern of ruling in favor of corporations over the little guy. This is why the Koch brothers are investing so much money in his confirmation because it enables their empire to have a major seat in the Supreme Court for life.

How can Democrats balance a centrist philosophy with the more left-wing Sanders faction? Does he think the DNC is unified enough to put up that resistance?

When I see this administration cut funding for higher education, it makes no sense. Democrats and Republicans everywhere have gotten the message that college affordability isn’t just an issue for Democrats, it’s an issue for Democrats and Republicans alike. We need to communicate the fraud that is Donald Trump. He talks a mean game about making America great again, but he is simply making the politico ads great again, and that’s not the America we need. College affordability isn’t just an issue for Democrats. We need to work hard to communicate our message to everyone.

Do you think it’s crucial for Democrats to regain white working class support?

You have to work in every zip code with every person across America. It’s not simply a matter of white working class voters. I think our message of economic diversity and inclusion is a message that resonates everywhere. We have to be inclusive everywhere, and I think our message does just that. We need to put our values into action every day. That’s why I was out there today because I strongly support college affordability, and we can’t let that platform go to dust. We need to regain trust with many categories of voters — do it by leading with values, by showing what we stand for, such as college affordability, and making sure we preserve the environment for future generations. They have created an alternative reality that doesn’t really reflect what is going on. Their pattern of lies over seven years finally collided with the reality on-the-ground in communities.

This interview has been edited for clarity and length.