Some have asked, “Are you supporting Jaime Harrison for DNC Chair simply because he is from South Carolina?” My answer is always the same: absolutely not. I have always maintained that in politics you can best tell what a person will do by taking a look at what he or she has done. Along with several of my colleagues who have worked with Jaime for over eight years and seen what he has done, I am supporting Jaime because he has the background and temperament, experiences and energy, and vision and focus to rebuild the Democratic Party.
“Black lives matter” is much more than a slogan to Jaime. Born to an unwed 16-year-old mother and raised by his grandparents, Jaime is securely grounded and firmly connected to family and community. He knows what it is to overcome adversity and fulfill the American dream, graduating from Yale University and Georgetown Law.
Jaime has spent the last four years as Chair of the State Democratic Party in a deeply red state. He has adroitly navigated some thorny issues while breaking fundraising records and initiating impressive party-building activities. Two weekends ago, I participated in the first meeting of the 2017 James E. Clyburn Political Fellows, an initiative started under Jaime’s leadership to identify, recruit, and train young people as candidates for public office. This year’s class is even larger and more diverse than the inaugural class, with an impressive total of 47 future candidates, campaign managers, and party leaders.
In addition to the fellowship program, a few of Jaime’s significant accomplishments as State Chair and Vice Chair include:
· Spearheading highly successful Jefferson-Jackson Dinners, including one featuring Vice President Biden as the keynote speaker. In the midst of these efforts, Jaime burnished his leadership chops by successfully negotiating a pretty controversial name change for the annual dinner.
· Holding a successful “First in the South” Democratic primary in February 2016. During the campaign, Jaime oversaw an official presidential debate and First in the South Dinner in Charleston. He far exceeded expectations by also holding a presidential forum at Winthrop University in Rock Hill, featuring all Democratic candidates. It was Jaime who negotiated with the candidates and MSNBC to put on an extraordinary event hosted by Rachel Maddow, and it was his decision to reach out and invite all of the other Southern State Parties to participate.
· Creating the John Spratt Issues Conference, which brings together Democrats from across the state annually for issue and advocacy training. No one is more skilled at connecting politics and policy than my friend John Spratt, and I am pleased but not surprised that he is supporting Jaime for DNC Chair. Jaime understands what is at stake in these political fights.
· Instituting South Carolina Democrats Care, which facilitates community service projects throughout the state. On Inauguration Day, Democrats Care organized a Statewide Day of Service, enabling Democrats throughout South Carolina to tutor kids, feed the homeless, collect supplies, and donate to community organizations. Jaime knows that Democrats need to do a better job showing all communities that we’re fighting for them. With Democrats out of power for the next two years, Jaime will make sure we find other ways to improve people’s lives.
· Establishing issue-oriented caucuses within the party, including the Education, Labor, LGBTQ, Faith, Veterans, Environmental, and Rural Caucuses. Even in red states like South Carolina, we have people fighting for progressive values on every issue, and Jaime has helped our State Party harness that energy. This sort of coordination will be essential as the DNC leads the resistance against Donald Trump and his rubber-stamp Republican Congress.
Losing the way we lost last November is extremely frustrating. Like many of you, I have done an inordinate amount of reflecting and second-guessing. I spent the last four days of the campaign in Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Wisconsin, and it was on the first leg of those stops where things felt flat. At Lincoln University, a historically black university in Oxford, Pennsylvania, fewer than 25 students turned out for a campus-wide GOTV rally. In Wisconsin the day before the election, I saw more “high-fiving” than phone banking.
A few days after the election, I sent a letter to my Congressional colleagues in which I shared with them the following Aristotle quote: “Anyone can become angry—that is easy. But to be angry with the right person, to the right degree, at the right time, for the right purpose, and in the right way—this is not easy.” I am convinced that Jaime is the best person to appropriately channel our anger so that we can retool, reconnect, and revive.
The job of the next DNC Chair will not be easy, but we should not do anything to make that job any harder. There is still much work to do to rebuild the vibrancy of our party, and I believe that we must choose a vibrant leader who knows how to build. I have always maintained that we all are but the “sum total of our experiences.” Jaime’s experiences make him an ideal choice to Chair the DNC.
James E. Clyburn