On the night Hillary Clinton lost the 2016 presidential election, Amanda Litman (WCAS ‘12) broke down in front of her apartment complex. As a Clinton campaign aid, Litman fought for years for progressive causes, and she felt that Clinton’s loss dealt progressivism a huge blow.
Litman, along with New York Times political correspondent Jonathan Martin, looked back at the post-election period and at the state of the Democratic Party in the lead up to the 2018 midterm elections in a discussion hosted by the Contemporary Thought Speakers Series (CTSS) Thursday. Associate Professor Laurel Harbridge-Yong moderated the event.
Litman is the co-founder of Run for Something, an organization that helps support and recruit young, diverse progressives. Run for Something most recently supported candidates in the New Jersey and Virginia primary elections last November. More than half of the candidates the organization supported ended up winning their respective elections, spurring Litman to continue her work in smaller, more local elections.
“[There was a] lack of focus on local politics, even though local politicians are the literal building blocks of a political party,” Litman said, referring to the 2016 presidential election.
Martin, who has been with the Times for five years, emphasized that younger voters and activists could play a role in Democratic Party leadership during the next electoral cycle.
“If you look at today's leadership in the Democratic Party, [the leaders] are mostly over the age of 50 and in some cases over 70,” Martin said. “There has been this odd paradox with a Democratic party since the Obama years that has been powered by younger voters, but at the same time the leadership of the party is getting older and older. There will be a fascinating power dynamic next year.”
Democrats also just need more people to show up, Litman said.
“More candidates running for office means more voter contact, which means more voters,” Litman said. “This is a really good thing for the Democrats. When more people vote, Democrats win.”
Martin and Litman rounded out the talk by discussing reporting during the age of Trump.
“It's the best but also the most challenging time to be a reporter,” Martin said. “We are in the business of news, and news is like a gusher, every hour, every week. There are days when the front page of my paper [has] 6-7 stories on the front page, and every headline except one is Trump-related.”
Weinberg sophomore Dillon Saks, who attended the discussion, said the speakers represented two different sides of the Democratic Party.
“I think Amanda is part of an organization that is trying to recruit progressive candidates, [and was] trying to use tonight as a platform to say how united the party was on issues that are important on a local level,” Saks said. “Jonathan is someone who is constantly having to deal with the Trump administration, and having to deal with the news stories that are coming on a pretty rapid basis. He is more skeptical surrounding the unity of the Democratic Party.”