For Democrats to stop losing to Trump (and everyone), the party needs to unleash these young television spokespersons on the national airwaves.
Last week on Capitol Hill, Donald Trump read a long speech from a teleprompter to a joint session of Congress. Everyone was impressed. Democrats responded to the speech with Governor Steve Beshear broadcasting from what appeared to be the scene of his own death panel.
No one was impressed.
In fact, Democrats everywhere continued to be mortified and humiliated by the ineptitude of our party’s inability to do anything compelling in the aftermath of our election night slaughter at the hands of Republicans. Now fundraising emails go out everyday to a donor base that has seen Democrats only lose for nearly a decade. The question Democratic donors everywhere are asking is, What are we paying you for?
It’s time for Democrats to show a nation of progressives increasingly skeptical of the party’s most-basic political competencies that the party is ready and willing to immediately pick daily fights with Trump and his agenda. The quickest (and most-obvious) way to do this is to stop conceding every day’s news cycle to Trump’s messaging machine, which grows stronger every day. Thankfully, there is hope in the party’s new TV faces that have risen from the rubble of last year’s election. Here are some of those faces, in no particular order.
Zac Petkanas, Democratic National Committee
Last month, I argued right here in The Huffington Post that Democrats should take the fight against Trump to the airwaves on the Fox News Channel. A week later, the Democratic National Committee stepped up to the plate on Tucker Carlson Tonight with Zac Petkanas, Director of the party’s famed “Trump War Room”.
It was an incredible segment, as you can see above. Petkanas literally called Trump coward persecuting transgendered people, then backed it up with a barrage of facts and opinions. Petkanas was mostly emotionless (smart move) and incredibly focused and informed. He had to be to take on an up-and-coming rockstar of Fox News primetime like Tucker Carlson head-to-head.
I applaud Petkanas and the DNC for finally having the sand to take the tough segment and fight back with firepower terminology like “right-wing pseudo-science”. At one point Petkanas brilliantly questioning Tucker on his strange obsession with promoting trans-gendered bathroom bans.
By the end of the segment, a star was born. The conversation was combative-enough that Tucker seemed to enjoy having Petkanas as a guest. It’s not clear the feeling is mutual from the Democrat, but I enjoyed the show. Petkanas did a great job. I hope he goes back on Fox News soon.
Nayyera Haq, Former Obama White House Official
Nayyera Haq is the real deal. She is a veteran of public affairs campaigns on Capitol Hill, State Department, Treasury Department, and most-recently, a senior advisor to President Obama on national security and economic policy. The wealth of information she has to share about the failings of the Trump administration and the challenges ahead for America is both nuanced and rare.
Nayyera is also a Muslim of Pakistani descent and has worked with the National Security, which makes her a booker’s dream on issues as wide-ranging as the un-American travel ban; to macro-economic analyses of market trends and tax policies; to the surging new women’s movement and what it means for America.
Nayyera’s understanding of domestic and international current affairs give her the versatility to consistently make great political TV without stooping to the level of the Trump-era of broadcasting. She has the ability to teach audiences about the day’s news from a position of authority and compassion.
Erika Andiola, Our Revolution
No one fights harder for the progressive cause of dignity and equality for immigrant Americans than Erika Andiola. When President Obama betrayed Hispanics by promising relief on the campaign trail and instead deporting millions of undocumented immigrants when he got to the Oval Office, Erika became the undocumented and unafraid scourge of his administration.
As part of the DRM Action Group, Andiola organized the heckling of the President, First Lady, and many more within the administration. At the time, many progressive hypocrites deemed her tactics counter-productive. This didn’t stop Erika and her team who understand better than anyone the terror a presidency can inflict on immigrant communities.
Andiola is vocal and fearless. She is also bilingual, which gives her the versatility sorely missing from the Democratic Party’s roster of spokespersons since Luis Miranda stepped down as DNC’s Communications Director last year. In English and Spanish, Andiola is Donald Trump’s worst nightmare.
Luis Miranda, Former Obama White House Official
Last election, I booked 82 Democrats across three broadcast mediums — television, radio, and podcasts. That said, Luis Miranda is the party's best talking head. He's the only Democratic spokesperson who is both not afraid of Hannity and can keep Chris Matthews on-topic. Miranda, like Andiola, also speaks Spanish better than Marco Rubio, which is a big deal with for a party losing Hispanic voters to, of all people, Donald Trump.
In primetime, Miranda opens the segment with his strongest talking point, then rebuts Republican messages with disruptive questions and smiling condescension. Democrats need Miranda on every show he’s available to do. Plus, as you can see above, Miranda is the only Democrat to run circles around Sean Spicer when he was his counterpart at the Republican National Committee.
Peter Buttigieg, Mayor of South Bend, Indiana
Peter’s candidacy was the best thing about the race for the chairmanship of the Democratic National Committee. Some compared him to a young Obama; others to a young Kennedy. Party insiders chose Tom Perez instead, but even David Axelrod agreed that the gay, war veteran is one of the brightest new star on the national stage for Democrats
Like Symone Sanders (below), Mayor Peter is a rare natural spokesperson on television who can give as good as he gets in any broadcast circus of political partisanship. Granted, he’s surely seen worse situations than a town hall debate or even a Trump presidency, having service in uniform in the war in Afghanistan.
Now that the DNC chair is decided and Tom Perez is in charge, a quick, easy fix to the party’s communications woes is to reach out to Mayor Peter and unleash him in primetime. He would have been an excellent and obvious choice to deliver the party’s response to Trump’s speech last week.
Mayor Peter’s got the polish for network and the folksy combativeness for cable. In primetime network and cable, Mayor Peter is Trump’s worst nightmare.
Cindy Nava, New Mexico Democrats
Last month, former DNC fellow Cindy Nava made her cable news debut in primetime on the Fox News Channel. The show was The First 100 Days with Martha MacCallum. The venue was a town hall packed with Americans skeptical about immigrants and some outright hostile.
Cindy kept her poise, answered Martha’s questions, and won hearts in the town hall audience, both onsite and those tuning in from around the country. Last year, it took a lot of courage for Cindy to come out in the Washington Post as the first undocumented person to serve as a DNC fellow. It took even more to conquer the her cable news debut in primetime.
As Cindy continues to rise as a voice for Latina Democrats who will someday be voters, it’s important the party continue to embrace Cindy like family. As Democrats and Americans, we have an obligation to have their backs, as President Obama once said, “simply because it’s the right thing to do.”
Symone Sanders, Priorities USA
Formerly a spokesperson for Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton, Symone may be the only media operative to emerge from Democratic Party politics during the last election cycle as a legit national TV star. It didn’t take long after November’s election for CNN to snatch her up as one of the network’s political contributors. Last month, Symone became an advisor to one of the top progressive attack shops at Priorities USA.
The bottom line is that audiences and industry insiders agree: Symone continues to have the sharpest instincts and most-brilliant personality of any new Democrat on television. As CNN becomes (necessarily) more-oppositional to Trump, Democrats should get Symone anything she needs to optimize her on-air opposition across all mediums.
Jessica Deloach, Arkansas Democrats
Jessica Deloach dominates as a lone millennial Democrat in her Arkansas media market, which is largely conservative. She’s done literally hundreds of segments, making her probably the most-seasoned millennial Democrat in American broadcast punditry.
During the election, Jessica wasn’t afraid to remind conservative audiences in no uncertain terms that Donald Trump is a hypocrite. Now that Trump is president, the party should elevate her to serve as a national surrogates.
Consider: With all of the time Jessica has put into developing her easy-going but firm on-sir style, she would be a perfect for the party to develop as a regular on Fox News and other conservative broadcast outlets where Democrats don’t typically book party spokespersons and surrogates. Jessica knows how to communicate with these audiences better than any young Democrat on the airwaves because she’s been broadcasting to them throughout her entire career.
Jaime Harrison, South Carolina Democrats
With his decision not to run again as chair of the South Carolina Democratic Party, Jaime Harrison assured Craig Melvin last week on MSNBC that he’s not done with politics:
“I’m not leaving. This is about creating a country where our children can live in a world who isn’t attacking the media, attacking the judiciary, causing fear for immigrant families and transgendered kids. That’s what I’m going to fight for each and every day. It’s what I’ve been fighting for my entire life.”
Well-regarded by political media insiders, Jaime has poise on-camera and -off. With his chairmanship in the rearview, he is an obvious television surrogate for the party to continue to develop to drive messaging on progressive issues for national audiences.