On the eve of electing a new chairman, the party is gripped by Trump-era angst.
"We have a tremendous amount of energy out there ... but ... don’t have the infrastructure ... to accommodate that," says Oregon Democratic Party chairman Frank Dixon. | Getty
They’re energized by the marches and excited about the crowds showing up at town halls held by Republican lawmakers. But not far below the surface, Democrats are just as anxious, depressed and strung out as they’ve been since the night Donald Trump won the presidential election.
Gathered here for the Democratic National Committee winter meeting at which they’ll elect a new chair and other officers on Saturday, state leaders and top operatives can’t go long in the hallways or at the hotel bar without sighing, grimacing, shaking their heads at how bad the situation still is.
“I am excited by the energy that has come out of the marches and that has come out of the resistance — and Georgia is no exception — but we have to remember that animosity toward Trump is not a strategy for winning elections,” said Stacey Abrams, the Georgia state House minority leader here who addressed the opening party of the DNC meeting Thursday night. “We cannot get distracted by this wave of engagement to believe that can automatically translate into turnout in election cycles.”
“I’m worried,” said Howard Dean, the former Vermont governor who was DNC chair from 2005 to 2009. “All these young people, they’re not Democrats. They didn’t come out for Hillary, they don’t come out for lower people on the ballot, they don’t come out for off-years.”
He argued that it was this concern that drove him to endorse Pete Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Indiana, for DNC chair, as someone who can bring young people into the party in ways that Washington politicians don’t understand. “The Trump win,” he said, “basically repudiated every value that young people have in this country, and this is an opportunity to get them interested in institutions that they don’t like.”