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With Republicans In Charge, Democrats Plan To Redefine Their Mission

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With Republicans In Charge, Democrats Plan To Redefine Their Mission

Politics

With Republicans In Charge, Democrats Plan To Redefine Their Mission

With Republicans In Charge, Democrats Plan To Redefine Their Mission

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  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/517679304/517679995" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

Newly elected DNC Chair Thomas Perez — shown here in June 2016 as the secretary of the Labor Department under President Obama — says Democrats need a "50-state strategy" to defeat Republicans at all levels of government. Pete Marovich/Getty Images hide caption

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Pete Marovich/Getty Images

Newly elected DNC Chair Thomas Perez — shown here in June 2016 as the secretary of the Labor Department under President Obama — says Democrats need a "50-state strategy" to defeat Republicans at all levels of government.

Pete Marovich/Getty Images

When President Trump delivers his speech at the Capitol on Tuesday, he'll be looking out at a GOP-controlled Congress. It's now new DNC Chairman Tom Perez's job to coordinate the opposition to change that dynamic.

The former labor secretary was elected on Saturday in Atlanta.

Perez tells NPR's Steve Inskeep that Democrats have a lot of work to do.

"We need a 50-state strategy plus the territories, and that's what we talked about down in Atlanta last week, making sure that we redefine our mission as a Democratic Party so that we're not simply electing the president, but we're also working to elect people from the from the school board to the Senate across the nation," he says.


Interview Highlights

On whether a 50-state strategy has a realistic way of competing in red states

Well, absolutely. You look at what happened in Kansas. Donald Trump won by 14 points, and [Democrats] picked up 14 seats in the state legislature because there's radical social engineering going on by Gov. Brownback. [Editor's note: Democrats in Kansas netted 12, not 14 seats in the Legislature.] In Alaska, for instance, the House of Representatives flipped Democratic. When we invest in these states and when we have an "every ZIP code strategy," we can succeed because our values and our message, I think, it resonates with the American people. We are the party that fights for Medicare. We're the party that fights for Social Security. We're the party that fights for good wages and we have to communicate that.

On opposing a president who says he wants to preserve Medicare and Social Security

Well, that budget will not allow him to preserve Medicare and Social Security. He talks the talk but they don't walk the walk. He's talked the talk of "I'm going to help the little guy" and ... one of the first things he does on Jan. 20 is to take executive action to make it harder for first-time homeowners to buy a home. A few days later he's making it harder for people to save for retirement. We implemented an overtime rule at the Department of Labor, and he's seeking to roll that back. So he talks the talk, but the reality is he's not draining the swamp. He's filling it with billionaires.

On whether Democrats in Congress will work with Republicans on an Affordable Care Act replacement

The reality is the Republicans don't have ... a replacement. This is a repeal, and when you repeal, what you're saying to people like Ward, who I met — a long haul truck driver who in 2015, March 1, got his coverage, on March 15 got his liver transplant. And when I asked him "What do you want to do now, Ward, that you have your life back?" He said, "I want to work again." That's what the Affordable Care Act has done. It has been a lifesaver for people. And when you are trying to repeal something that has created access to health insurance for so many people, that makes no sense. And that's why we're fighting against it.

Correction Feb. 28, 2017

An earlier version of this Web story incorrectly identified the seats picked up in the Kansas state Legislature as moderate Republicans, not Democrats. Also, during the conversation, DNC Chair Tom Perez said Democrats netted 14 seats in the Kansas Legislature. In fact, the correct number is 12.