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Politics & Government

Democrats Have Lost Focus, A Candidate To Lead The DNC Says


And since the election, we've been listening to the voices of those trying to revive the Democratic Party after their big losses in November. Not only did Democrats lose the White House, they were unable to win majorities in the House and the Senate. Democrats are also in a weak position in statehouses across the country.

Leading the DNC in this moment, the Democratic National Committee comes with a lot of pressure, and it can be a fairly thankless job. That has not deterred Sally Boynton Brown. She's the executive director of the Democratic Party of Idaho. And she is running to be the chair of the DNC.

SALLY BOYNTON BROWN: I think, having done politics in Idaho for the last six years, that it is a very thankless job. We have more red states in our country than we have had in a very long time and that what really needs to happen is we need to re-envision what the organization of the DNC can do for the people of this country and the people in our party, and really focus on building an organization.

MARTIN: So what's your vision? I mean, Democrats took some huge and quite unexpected losses in this past election. How would you position your party to regain those losses?

BROWN: Well, they were definitely unexpected, I think especially the amount of races that we lost. I don't think that we got here overnight. We didn't all wake up on November 8 and suddenly there was a problem. The problems that are facing our party have been with us for a while. And this is just the culmination of that. And so...

MARTIN: What are the problems, before we get to your solutions?

BROWN: Well, I really think that we have lost focus as a party. I don't think we have any overarching identity message. We've let the Republicans frame the debate and frame our party for a really long time. And, frankly, I will say that in losing the amount of statehouses that we've lost, we've also allowed them to legislate. And what we know is that they've been passing really dangerous voter suppression laws, really stripping Americans of their rights and their freedoms.

And we have not had an organization who's designed to fight back. We have 57 state parties who have been doing that to the best of their abilities. But it's time that we had a DNC really designed to look at not just the president of the United States and that seat but every single seat all the way down to school board and city council and county commissioner seats.

MARTIN: You said that Republicans, for too long, have been framing what it means to be a Democrat. So what does it mean to be a Democrat? What are you about?

BROWN: The reality is is that the Democratic Party has always been a party of the people and that we really need to make sure that our support structures are pushing down so that our actions and our values are in alignment with that. We absolutely believe in equity and fairness and transparency and collaboration. And we need to make sure that everything that we're doing then promotes our values. And I think we've been out of alignment for a while.

MARTIN: Donald Trump and the Republican Party - to a lesser degree - but Trump in particular was able to synthesize what it meant to be part of his movement, Make America Great Again, put America first. What does it mean to be the Democratic Party now? What does it mean to be a Democrat? What is the vision?

BROWN: Ultimately, I think the Democratic Party's job is to save democracy and to be the fighters for freedom. Republicans have been stripping us of our freedoms. There's a lot of evidence to suggest that our constitutional rights can be under fire in this next administration. And we absolutely must be of powerful voice to push back on anything that potentially is going to come down the road.

MARTIN: Sally Boynton Brown is the executive director of the Idaho Democratic Party. Thank you so much for talking with us.

BROWN: Absolutely. It really was a pleasure. Thanks for having me. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.