One year into his mission to fix the Democratic National Committee, chairman Tom Perez says the task is far more challenging than he anticipated.
“I knew it was a turnaround job when I ran, but I undeniably underestimated the depth of the turnaround job,” Perez told Politico. “We had to rebuild almost every facet of the organization, and equally importantly, we had to rebuild trust. Not just people who had invested in the DNC, but others, they just felt the party had let them down.”
The DNC has struggled to regain trust after reports former presidential candidate Hillary Clinton manipulated the structure to win the nomination over Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders. Former President Barack Obama depleted the party’s funding to pay his own polling and consultants during his second term, and former chairwoman Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida is seen as a weak leader.
The chief challenge for the party is to regain trust and a strong network of local chapters. The organization became very much a top-down organization leading up to the 2016 presidential campaign, according to former interim party chair Donna Brazile.
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Clinton’s campaign, headquartered in Brooklyn, N.Y., became the de facto leaders of the party after it made a deal to pay some of the DNC’s debt, Brazile wrote in her 2017 book “Hacks.” During her tenure as chair of the party, Brazile referred to Clinton’s campaign as the “high command of Brooklyn.”
The Republican National Committee has done well compared to Democrats in recent years, which Perez hopes to study and replicate it. “If we don’t understand as Democrats how they were able to leapfrog us, then we will not succeed in leapfrogging them and sustaining our own success,” Perez told Politico.
Part of that success is due to the RNC’s extensive database of potential donors. The DNC has been hoping to get Sanders’ massive email list, but so far, the Vermont Independent hasn’t been willing to play ball.
“I don’t think you should expect that to happen,” Jeff Weaver, Sanders’ finance manager in 2016, told Politico. “If people think the Sanders list is just an ATM, they’re sadly mistaken. It’s a list of millions of people who are motivated by a certain policy agenda. If they think it can be easily transferred, I think it’s a fantasy.”
The DNC’s money trouble imperil’s the party’s ambitious plan for 2018 and 2020, while the Republicans continue to rake in money with President Donald Trump in the White House.
“If you want to write a story that says RNC out-raises DNC, that is the quintessential dog bites man story, and has been for some time,” Perez said. “They’ve got a lot more wealthy people. Am I content with that? Absolutely not. We have a size 12 vision that can enable us to win everywhere, and we currently have a size 9 budget.”
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