Democrats are doing some soul searching after Donald Trump’s surprising victory sent shock waves through the party. One of the biggest questions now facing Democrats is who’ll lead the party as head of the Democratic National Committee.
Ray Buckley chairs the New Hampshire Democratic Party. He also serves as a vice chair of the Democratic National Committee. He joined NHPR's Morning Edition.
Let’s start with your reaction to the news of the day: Donald Trump has named Republican National Committee chair Reince Priebus his Chief of Staff, and former Breitbart CEO Stephen Bannon.
I think a lot of Americans are horrified over the selection of Mr. Bannon, who is a racist anti-Semite. He has been engaged in some of the most anti-American activities in the last two years. It is extraordinarily troubling and sends a very strong signal that everyone who had fear on election night when they saw the results, that their fear was justified. It is the responsibility of the American people to band together and protect each other from what is clearly an assault on our values.
And how do they do that?
I think that by making sure the world knows what is happening within Washington. People need to be more engaged and involved. I think you’ll see responsible Republicans standing up and taking a stand against some of the more outrageous behavior; the rounding of millions of folks here in the country, allegedly starting right away. I think that’s deeply unfortunate.
Trump comes into the White House with Republicans maintaining control of both chambers of Congress. In your view, what went wrong for Democrats last week?
I think there are a number of things we did in New Hampshire that needed to be done across the country. Our grassroots-based party and organization I think made it possible for the first time in New Hampshire history that all four members of our Congressional delegation are Democrats: Maggie Hassan, Jeanne Shaheen, Carol Shea-Porter, and Annie Kuster. They’ll be working together and standing up for New Hampshire and against any sort of activity in Washington that would be harmful to the people of New Hampshire and the people of the country. We had 27 regional offices. Our campaign was based on actual conversations with voters, not some computer-generated analytical data that somebody from some other part of the country sends us, telling us these are the people you need to speak to. We believe in neighborhood organizing and grassroots, old-fashioned communication, one neighbor talking to another neighbor. And that’s a stark difference from what’s happened across the country.
New Hampshire did buck the trend last week by electing Maggie Hassan to the U.S. Senate, as well as picking up a House seat with Carol Shea-Porter’s victory.
But your party lost the governorship the first time in more than a decade, with Chris Sununu beating Colin Van Ostern. And Republicans now have full control of the statehouse.
So how do you assess last week’s election in New Hampshire?
I think the thing to understand is in the governor’s race and everybody in the legislature, including the executive council, is up in two years. So they have two years to prove they can govern responsibly. The last time Republicans had majorities in the legislature you had Bill O’Brien and the overreach and the reaction of the voters was quite swift in 2012 and Democrats came roaring back. I have faith and belief that the people of New Hampshire will be able to judge how Republicans act when they have control. We’ve had complete control three times in the last 15 years, and so the tide comes in and the tide goes out, but I think at the end of the day, 2018 will be a good year here in New Hampshire.
You’ve said you’re being strongly encouraged by some in the party to run for DNC chair. Is this a job you want?
I think it is a job that needs thorough and thoughtful discussion. Trying to decide who should lead the party for the next four years in the hours after the election I don’t think really allows people to engage in that conversation. We’ve got three months. I think there are a lot of people considering entering the race, and I encourage that. I think there should be discussion about whether this is a D.C.-based party or a grassroots-based party. My argument is and has been for the last eight years as the representative of the state parties is that it should be grassroots-based. It should be based within the state parties and should be based in neighborhoods across the country.
When do you expect to make a decision?
Certainly within the next week.
Whether it’s you or someone else, what’s the biggest challenge for whoever ends up leading the party?
In my opinion, our biggest challenge is to disassociate ourselves with a lot of the activities of the establishment within the beltway and allow the grassroots to flourish in the party. If we fail to do that, we are not going to meet the success that we could in 2018 and other years.