How Tom Perez plans to keep Democrats united

At a Monitor Breakfast, the DNC chair said every 2020 Democratic presidential candidate has pledged to support the eventual nominee – despite the melange of personalities and ideologies remaining.

Timmy Broderick/The Christian Science Monitor
Tom Perez, chairman of the Democratic National Committee, praised party unity and candidate quality for their recent electoral success at a Monitor Breakfast event on Nov. 6, 2019 at the St. Regis Hotel in Washington.

Like last year, the timing of our Monitor Breakfast on Wednesday with Democratic National Committee Chair Tom Perez was spot on. The night before, his party had flipped control of the Virginia legislature, completing the state’s “blue conversion.” And in deep-red Kentucky, a Democrat looked set to unseat the unpopular Republican governor in a close race.

What party leader, after all, doesn’t love to revel in a little success? A year ago, Mr. Perez was basking in the new reality of a Democratic majority in the House. But like last year, we reporters seated around the breakfast table didn’t let the chairman rest on his laurels. The 2020 election cycle is upon us, and keeping the party united will be a big challenge.

For now, the Trump impeachment inquiry helps the party, with most Democrats on board. But a big question looms: When the presidential nominee is clear, will the also-rans fall in behind her or him in lockstep?

Mr. Perez says all the Democratic candidates confirmed a unity pledge last week – including Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, who has faced suspicions she might run as an independent.

“Every candidate running for president understands that this is not about them,” Mr. Perez told us.

In the spirit of humorist Will Rogers – who once famously said, “I am not a member of any organized political party. I am a Democrat.” – I wrote after the breakfast about the party’s unity challenge.

The Hill newspaper zeroed in on the strange Gabbard story. Our reporter friends from regional newspapers mined local angles on Texas and New Jersey.

The C-SPAN video of our breakfast can be viewed here.

About 45 minutes into our breakfast, Mr. Perez connected his political life to his role coaching youth basketball for the past 14 years. Was the Democratic presidential field too large? Nonsense, he suggested.

“I've never met a basketball coach who came to me and said, ‘Tom, I've got a problem, I've got too much depth on my team,’” he said. “We've got a remarkable amount of depth in this field.”

Our next breakfast will be Nov. 21, featuring Mr. Perez’s counterpart, Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel. Not only are we happy for the political balance, we also love the Monitor history involved. Ms. McDaniel’s grandfather was former Michigan Gov. George Romney, who appeared at several Monitor breakfasts. And her uncle is Utah Sen. Mitt Romney, another breakfast alum.

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