Donna Brazile knows partisan politics up close—she twice served as interim chair of the Democratic National Committee, and she managed the presidential campaign of Democrat Al Gore in 2000. But the longtime political strategist says the hyper partisanship gripping the U.S. today is threatening the country’s democracy.
“We’re at the point where I believe we’re being tested,” Brazile said during an address at the 2019 SVIA Fall Forum in Washington, D.C., in mid-October. “The only way to make progress is to find a leader who will unite, not look for ways to further polarize us or make us hate each other.”
Brazile said both political parties share some blame for the current state of acrimony, pointing to gerrymandering practices that reduced voters to partisans according to their party affiliation. She called for politicians “to move back to center,” arguing that “divided government should not be dysfunctional government.” If the winning side continues to worry more about accruing power and destroying the opposition rather than about governing, she added, “we won’t have a democracy and we will not be able to fight the true enemies of freedom.”
Brazile includes foreign nations interfering in U.S. elections among those enemies—something she saw firsthand while serving as interim chair of the DNC during the 2016 presidential election. Prior to that election, the committee’s emails were stolen by hackers alleged to be working for a Russian intelligence agency, according to indictments executed by the Mueller investigation. They were then made public.
“You know that investments are only as good as the faith that people have in them,” Brazile told her audience of investment professionals. “We have spent over 200 years investing in this democracy—an investment that has been paid in blood, sweat and tears. We must protect our country, our democracy. It’s important to remember that the goal of our foreign attackers is to make us all losers, because they want us to lose confidence in our election systems. To lose faith in the concept of democracy itself.”
Brazile contended that foreign interlopers don’t need to “win” an election to accomplish their goals. “All they have to do is ruin an election,” she said. “And all they have to do to accomplish that is to successfully interfere. That’s one of the reasons they haven’t gone to extraordinary measures to cover their tracks. Letting us know that they’re interfering sows as much distrust as the result of the interference itself.”
Looking ahead to the 2020 presidential election, Brazile insisted she’s not looking for a leader for the Democratic Party. “I’m looking for a leader who will lead us through the 21st century,” she said. “We (Americans) are partisans, but we want to come together because we know we share common values. The future will only be brighter if someone can lead us forward.
Brazile has shown a willingness to try to help bridge divides. She served on the Louisiana Recovery Commission during the tenure of President George W. Bush, a Republican, and later praised him for his handling of that disaster despite what she called a slow start. She now serves as a contributor to Fox News, whose talk show hosts have been staunch supporters of Trump. Challenged on that decision by her colleagues on the left, Brazile argued in a published letter that “you cannot make progress, let alone reach compromise, without first listening to and understanding those who disagree with you on critical issues.”