The Chair of the Democratic National Committee let a packed audience know that he was counting the days—528—to the 2020 Presidential Election.
“I’m counting because the world is watching,” Tom Perez said.
Perez spoke about his, and the DNC’s strategies to take back the White House in 2020—by redoubling the DNC’s efforts and refocusing on electing officials “up and down the ballot.” Though the Democratic party won big in the 2018 midterm elections, Perez wants to focus on elections across the nation in 2020, he said.
Perez described becoming a “50 state party” as one of his key strategies–along with winning.
“We understand that our mission is to elect Democrats up and down the ballot, from the school board to the oval office,” Perez said.
He gave the example of the state supreme court election in Wisconsin–the state hosting the 2020 Democratic National Convention. Perez said that as he spoke, he had DNC members working on the election. The conservative candidate declared victory on Tuesday in the state’s supreme court race, though the election may qualify for a recount, according to a Chicago Tribune Article.
Perez also spoke about engaging voters who were persuaded by President Donald Trump’s message that he “had your back,” Perez said.
“He said he had your back but he actually had a knife in your back,” Perez continued.
Perez also criticized Republicans who went along with Trump’s policies. “They are cowardly,” he said. “History will judge Mitch McConnell, Paul Ryan and all the other cowards who refused to stand up to the president and allowed the party of Lincoln to die.”
But instead of focusing on Trump and Republicans, Perez wanted to bring the conversation back to the democratic party’s ideas. “We win by talking about who we stand for and what we’re fighting for,” he said.
And looking to 2020, Perez was optimistic. He described how, like other eras of leadership, the Trump administration must too come to an end. “They came to an end because people stood up,” Perez said.
“They said you know that Lady Liberty? That is who we stand for that is who we are. We can be a nation of laws we can be a nation of immigrants. We are a nation of laws, we are a nation of immigrants. And when we stand up for that and we make sure our leadership does and that’s how we succeed,” he continued.
He then spoke about the issue of inequality, drawing from his experience as Secretary of Labor during the Obama administration fighting income inequality to help the “everyday American struggling to make ends meet.”
But income inequality isn’t the only issue, said Perez. Racial, LGBTQ+ and disability inequalities are all issues to focus on–and are inequalities Perez misses addressing during his time in the Obama administration. “I miss helping people at scale,” he said.
Perez moved on to talk about mobilizing voters—especially millennials, as they represent the largest voting block, he said. Healthcare and climate change are key issues, he explained, and described a strategy of grassroots engagement to organize millennials behind the DNC, while making sure they had not just a voice at the table, but “a megaphone at the table.”
He went on to speak directly to the millennials in the room. He spoke about a question from an audience member earlier that day, asking if there was room for Muslim Americans at the table in Trump’s America.
“That question embodies why I love your generation,” Perez said. “Because it’s not simply about how is my life going to be better but my brother and sisters who are Muslim, my brothers and sisters who are LGBTQ, my brothers and sisters with disabilities, my brothers and sisters without hope. How do we make sure that they’re a part of the American fabric?”
He said that building relationships between people of different backgrounds is key, and described his plans to recruit and organize 1200 organizers in seven key states to build those relationships. Organizing is key, he said. “A good organizer is a force mobilizer.”
He spoke about increasing voter turnout, especially with young people, who he said mostly stayed home during the 2016 election. Perez left the packed Shapiro Campus Center theater with the message of putting hope on the ballot. “When hope is on the ballot we do well,” he said, and encouraged audience members to never make a decision, or a vote, out of fear.