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Defeating Trumpism Is A Longer Term Challenge, DNC Chair Perez Says

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

The 2020 election did not produce the blue wave Democrats wanted. The party lost more than half a dozen seats in the House. In the Senate, Republicans are poised to retain control.

NOEL KING, HOST:

And that has huge implications for President-elect Biden's agenda, his Cabinet picks, his judicial nominees. Our co-host Steve talked to Tom Perez, the chair of the Democratic National Committee. And Perez says he will not dwell on missed opportunities. He'd rather focus on Biden's accomplishment.

TOM PEREZ: Well, this was a historic, decisive victory. And then when you put the broader context, Steve - where were we in 2017, where are we now? We had 15 governors in 2017. We have 24 now. We didn't have the House of Representatives, and we have Speaker Pelosi now. We're always disappointed when we lose seats. When you look at the six or seven seats that we've lost, they were all in very red territories.

STEVE INSKEEP, BYLINE: Let me follow up on what you said there. You're absolutely correct to describe Joe Biden's win as significant and his popular vote margin to be substantial. And yet, it does appear that on the Republican side, there was something north of 70 million votes. Is the country sending you something of a mixed message here?

PEREZ: Well, I often said when I was out on the campaign stump, Steve, that our goals are to defeat Trump and to defeat Trumpism. Defeating Trump required 270 electoral votes or more, and we succeeded in that. Defeating Trumpism is a longer-term challenge because Trumpism predates Trump. And I would argue that Trumpism and some of the underlying challenges there in some small - no small measure may date back 400 years, and we need to understand that. And I can think of no better person to lead that challenge than the president-elect. He is a uniter.

INSKEEP: What is the strategy for Democrats in these upcoming Georgia runoff races, which could decide control of the Senate? Biden has a very narrow lead with a recount coming is perhaps the best way to put it. But it's a state that has been more conservative than others. What's your strategy?

PEREZ: To expand the electorate. And Stacey Abrams has led that effort dating back to her race for governor in 2018. You look at the number of first-time voters in Georgia in 2020. It's a remarkable fusion coalition. We are organizing all over that state, making sure that people register to vote. And you can bet your bottom dollar that we will continue to do that.

INSKEEP: Let me ask about the future of the Democratic Party. The disappointments in the House of Representatives have sparked a lively debate, one lawmaker blaming defund the police and the socialism label for hurting Democrats, Jim Clyburn of South Carolina saying people in different districts need to run different campaigns, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, democratic socialist, pushing back on that. What do you make of all that?

PEREZ: Well, we are a Democratic Party that is a big tent, and I welcome that. And I look at the platform of the Democratic Party, and it reflects, I think, the bold level of inclusion across America. It's a platform that stands for the notion that every person matters, that we should trust science over fiction, that we can expand access to health care, that health care should be a right for all, not a privilege for a few. And this was the platform that won for Joe Biden. It's a very ambitious platform. It's a bold platform. It's a platform that we can all embrace as Democrats.

And the discussions that we're having now - again, the challenges were born out of our success in 2018. We won so many seats in areas that were beet-red districts. And so it was going to be difficult when Donald Trump was on the ballot to sustain some of those victories because you had people coming out in force. Again, I think it's really important to look at the broader context of where we are now electorally versus where we were at the end of 2016.

INSKEEP: Tom Perez, chairman of the Democratic National Committee. Mr. Chairman, it's always a pleasure talking with you. Thank you.

PEREZ: Thank you, Steve. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.