The DNC chair debate comes to GW

Between the protest signs, port-a-potties, Secret Service guards, and intense advisory emails, it's safe to say that GW is preparing for the inauguration in a thorough and intimidating manner. However, an inauguration swearing-in, parade, concert, ball, and women’s rights march are not enough, so the DNC Chair debate hosted by The Huffington Post was held Wednesday, Jan. 18 in the School of Media and Public Affairs.

Unlike the primary and presidential debates, there was definitely more unity than vengeance on this stage. There were no he said/she said or “gotcha” questions. The candidates all agreed for a good, clean fight.

The contenders for DNC chair are:

1. Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.)

2. Sec. of Labor Tom Perez

3. Idaho Democratic Party Executive Director Sally Boynton Brown

4. New Hampshire Democratic Party Chairman Ray Buckley

5. South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg

6. South Carolina Democratic Party Chairman Jaime Harrison

7. Fox News analyst and activist Jehmu Greene

Over the winter break an email was sent out advertising the event to GW students, which allowed us to apply to attend via lottery system. I was one of the lucky ones to receive a golden ticket.

I showed up a little earlier than intended, which landed me in the front row of the Jack Morton Auditorium. While waiting for doors to open, I chatted with some very intelligent freshmen as DNC officials and campaign staffers rushed in and out of the auditorium. Staff members of Greene, Buckley, and Buttigeg handed out propaganda and attempted to court our support.

Confused about the voting process?

In this particular state of American politics (aka the Democratic Party lost the presidential election) the DNC chair is chosen by an election that is preluded by months-long campaigns. In contrast, if the president were a Democrat, then he/she would appoint a DNC chair of whom DNC members would follow-suit by voting for. The election will take place the weekend of Feb. 24 by the approximate 447 members of the DNC.

Some notable people in the crowd included Howard Dean, former DNC Chair and 2004 democratic presidential candidate, Bill Press, political insider and media commentator, and Ilyse Hogue, NARAL Pro-Choice America president.

Debate moderators: Lydia Polgreen, Huffington Post editor-in-chief and Ryan Grim, Huffington Post Washington bureau chief

Debate moderators: Lydia Polgreen, Huffington Post editor-in-chief and Ryan Grim, Huffington Post Washington bureau chief

The debate spanned almost two hours and in that timeframe themes of discussion were the looming Trump era, restructure of the Democratic Party, super delegate debate, grassroots organization, voter suppression, campaign finance reform, progressive agenda, validity of caucuses, voter turnout, and Trump’s appointments. Audience questions were asked by some undergraduate and graduate students, Hogue, and Twitter user, @Patriotsfan1057.

Here are some notable quotes of the night:

As we prepare for a Trump presidency and Republican insurgent Congress:

Perez: “When people feel included people get things done...This is a 'where were ya moment.'”

A rising star in the party

Buttigieg: “I am a church-going, anti-gun collecting, millennial, red state Episcopalian, left-handed mayor who's a war veteran. I just don't fit into categories comfortably."

Mishaps of the DNC:

Brown: “The biggest mistake the DNC made...was not having an overarching identity message.”

How the Democratic Party can improve:

Harrison: “We sort of got drunk off of the fact that we were able to elect Barack Obama in 2008 and again in 2012...We needed to focus on state parties.”

Difficulty of Democrats in the South:

Buckley: “If Jesus Christ came back and ran in some of these districts he could not win if ran as a Democrat.”

Navigating the media:

Greene: “As democrats we need to stop falling for these gotcha questions when the media wants to divide us in this way...we need to stop taking the bait.”

The Progressive vs. Freedom Caucus:

Ellison: “I think the progressive caucus is going to have even more important work to do...The Freedom caucus actually turns on other elements of the Republican caucus. These people shut down the government for 16 days.”

The only gossip-esque moments of the debate were when Ellison rebuked the critiques of Harrison by the Huffington Post and a discussion about charges of Ellison being an anti-Semite. When the moderators asked about the DNC swaying the primary, Brown spoke on behalf of everyone and refused to answer.

The DNC chair debate was a nice break from the madness happening in the political sphere (aka the area I can see from my bedroom window). The candidates emphasized messages of unity, mobilization, and family in their efforts to sway opinions. I think it can be argued that there will be no bad blood between the winner and losers. This #OnlyatGW moment is just one historic event happening this week.

Originally published by Courtney Buble on on 1.19.17.

CampusBrandon Bish